Tag Archives | Circuit City

The Press Releases of the Damned!

The Press Releases of the Damned

In the land of the press release, all news isn’t good news–it’s fantastic news. Every product is revolutionary. Each corporate merger is historic. Even layoffs are masterstrokes that will turn around troubled companies. When the stuff announced in press releases hits the real world, the results can be surprising, disappointing, and occasionally catastrophic. Yet the releases remain available in online archives, remorselessly documenting the initial irrational exuberance.

Herewith, seven press releases that turned out to be less than prophetic–all in excerpted form for the sake of brevity, and all annotated with the facts as they actually transpired in the days, weeks, months, and years after the releases hit the wire.


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Systemax Scoops Up another Big Brand in Circuit City

Circuit CityThought you heard the last of Circuit City? Think again.

Systemax completed the acquisition of the rights to the name on May 19, and relaunched circuitcity.com over the holiday weekend. Old customers will begin receive e-mails from the new owners beginning June 9, although they are being given until that time to choose to opt out.

All assets were sold to Systemax for $14 million USD, plus “a share of future revenue generated utilizing those assets over a 30-month period,” a minimum of $3 million USD according to the press release announcing the new site launch.

CircuitCity.com had a message on it for quite awhile promising some new version of the site, although it wasn’t very clear how it would return. The new version seems not much different from the old — it retains the old color scheme and general layout, although it does seem to have a TigerDirect like feel.

It’s new overlords will not honor warranties or service products from the old Circuit City, it should be noted. Regardless, it is moving on with a new mantra for the brand: “Lower Prices, Wider Selection, Faster Shipping, World Class Service!”

(No solace to the 30,000 employees left go, eh?)

Systemax is certainly on a roll — it now owns the two biggest retail names in electronics next to Best Buy: Circuit City as well as CompUSA. The company bought the latter brand last year for about $30 million USD and began reopening select retail locations two months ago.

It appears we won’t see any reopenings of Circuit Citys in the near future, however Systemax is making a smart move in using a very familiar brand name to lure customers in. Yes, it essentially is a reskinned Tiger Direct/CompUSA, but who cares if you’re their shareholders right? Money is money.


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5Words for April 15th, 2009

5wordsMy taxes? Filed. Whew! You?

More about Zune HD. Maybe.

eBay: we’re spinning off Skype.

Net neutrality? Now now, please!

Amazon.com: a third of e-commerce.

AT&T wants more iPhone exclusivity.

Microsoft patches up Office holes.

Philips: Two dimensions are enough.

I’m afraid to use ATMs.

Miss Circuit City? Just wait.


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"Whatever Happened to…?"

Whatever Happened To?

Old computer products, like old soldiers, never die. They stay on the market–even though they haven’t been updated in eons. Or their names get slapped on new products–available only outside the U.S. Or obsessive fans refuse to accept that they’re obsolete–long after the rest of the world has moved on.

For this story–which I hereby dedicate to Richard Lamparski, whose “Whatever Became of…?” books I loved as a kid–I checked in on the whereabouts of 25 famous technology products, dating back to the 1970s. Some are specific hardware and software classics; some are services that once had millions of subscribers; some are entire categories of stuff that were once omnipresent. I focused on items that remain extant–if “extant” means that they remain for sale, in one way or another–and didn’t address products that, while no longer blockbusters, retain a reasonably robust U.S. presence (such as AOL and WordPerfect).

If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that some products are still with us at all–and will be saddened by the fates of others. Hey, they may all be inanimate objects, but they meant a lot to some of us back in the day.

Click on to continue–or, if you’re in a hurry, use the links below to skip ahead to a particular section.

Hardware Holdouts
More Hardware Holdouts
Software Survivors
Sites, Services, and Stores

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The Last Will and Testament of Circuit City

Last Will and Testament of Circuit CityFor Circuit City, it passed for good news: On Friday, a press release trumpeted the “record shopper turnout” at the failed retailer’s going-out-of-business sale and said that the liquidation proceedings were ahead of schedule. All U.S. stores are therefore closing forever as of tomorrow. And so I made what will almost certainly be my last visit ever to my local Circuit City today, six days after I found it had been reduced to selling used cleaning supplies.  Back on Monday, it still stocked some factory-fresh consumer electronics products, too–albeit at discounts too low to send anyone into a shopping frenzy. Today, with 24 hours to go, very little worth buying at any price was still available…

After the jump, a final set of fuzzy iPhone photos from the scene of the sale. I wonder how long it’ll take the landlord to fill the space, and what will replace Circuit City there–and in the 566 other storefronts that the chain’s failure leaves without a tenant?

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Circuit City To Close Down March 8th

The Tragic Last Days of Circuit CityAll remaining Circuit City stores still open will shut down on March 8, the company said on Friday. While a few stores blew through inventory rather quickly, some still have a decent amount remaining (including mine, which had a lot of TVs and computers left). Liquidators originally planned to shut everything down by the end of this month or so, but the company has blown through the $1.7 billion in inventory rather quickly.

Thanks bad economy. Seems the only way people will buy anything these days is if it is discounted so much that nobody’s making any money.


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The Tragic Last Days of Circuit City

The Tragic Last Days of Circuit CityLiquidation: It’s an ugly word for the ugly process of shutting down a retailer by selling off stuff little by little until there’s nothing left that anyone’s going to buy at any price. And my most recent visit to my local branch of the soon-to-be-defunct Circuit City in the Bay Area was…ugly. Literally. The place, which says it’s down to its final week of business, was in gloomy disarray–one part rummage sale, one part junk closet, and barely recognizable as the splashy consumer-electronics merchant that has been around for sixty years. And the bargains still weren’t exciting enough to attract more than a trickle of shoppers. After the jump, a bunch of photos I snapped with my iPhone.

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Can’t Anyone Do Tech Retailing Right?

Circuit City ClosingThese are strange times for the retailing of computers and other technology products. Some of the most venerable and best-known names in the business are going out of business, or severely contracting: Sixty-year-old Circuit City is much of the way through the liquidation sale that will end with the closure of all its U.S. stores, a year after CompUSA nearly died before being acquired by TigerDirect and retreating to the U.S. southeast. That leaves Best Buy as the sole nationwide, full-service retail outfit focused on the selling of a wide variety of consumer electronics products. (I’m counting RadioShack as being something less than a full-service retailer, given the limited floor space of its outlets and its emphasis on accessories, cables, and other odds n’ ends.)

And yet Microsoft has just announced plans to open its own stores and help other sellers promote Microsoft products, presumably inspired in part by the phenomenal, unexpected success of the Apple Stores. You gotta think, however, that the company isn’t diving into technology retailing because the market is booming so much as because it’s so anemic. My guess is that Microsoft figures that the computer merchants of America are doing a mediocre job of explaining its products, and that it must therefore step in and try to get it right. Just like Apple did when it decided to play storekeeper a few years ago.

On some level, it would have been more startling if CompUSA and Circuit City had thrived than if they’d fallen on hard times. The history of consumer-electronics retailing in America is pock-marked with once-famous names that were forced to call it quits. And even though the currently dismal state of the economy may have dealt Circuit City may have dealt Circuit City its death blow, I can’t help but come back to one depressing thought: Circuit City collapsed because it didn’t do enough to earn the loyalty of busy, intelligent shoppers. And neither did the majority of electronics retailers that have ever existed. Their failure to do so inevitably led to their failure, period.

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Circuit City Under Siege

Circuit CityThey’re the grim reapers of failing retail chains, except they brandish going-out-of-business signs instead of scythes. And they were surrounding the Circuit City a couple of miles from my house today, which, like the rest of the company’s 500+ U.S. stores, is liqidating its stock as the company goes out of business. When I drove up to the store, I was startled to find a long line of customers waiting to get in, snaking all the way to the Sports Authority next door–maybe the longest such line I’ve ever seen that wasn’t at a store with a fresh batch of iPhones or Wiis. (I sure never saw lines like it when CompUSA, Good Guys, and other defunct chains held their liquidation sales–but perhaps today’s economic climate is leaving shoppers obsessed with finding bargains.)

I joined the line, and got the impression that other folks had joined it in part because they saw a line and figured it was worth joining. (Or at least the woman behind me seemed unclear on the concept–she asked what was going on in the store, and why were were all queuing up.)

A CNet reporter said he found “pandemonium” inside a Southern California Circuit City; this one, just to the south of San Francisco, was relatively sedate inside. Actually, there were fewer people in line to buy stuff than I usually see at Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon. The store felt downright lonely, in part because it was full of staffers who knew they were about to be unemployed, tables of open-box merchandise, items scattered in the aisles, and TVs forlornly playing a video loop arguing that you should buy a TV from Circuit City because of its great post-purchase service.

It was easy to tell why so few people were filling their carts with gear: The deals to be had were far from spectacular. The signs outside promised “Up to 30% OFF,” but a more direct claim would have been something along the lines of “Most hardware 10 percent off, software 20 percent off, and good luck if you find anything in the store that’s 30 percent off.” If your goal was to get the best possible price, you could probably beat even Circuit City’s liquidation prices without trying very hard by going online. Which is presumably one reason why Circuit City was forced into bankruptcy in the first place.

If Circuit City’s liquidation follows the usual pattern, the discounts will get larger as the shelves grow barer, and within a few weeks the stores will be left with items that you don’t want to buy even at 80 percent off. After the jump, some bad iPhone photos from my visit, which left me melancholy about the death of the 60-year-old merchant even though I was never a big fan in the first place.

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Circuit City Closes Up Shop Once and For All

Circuit CityIt’s hardly surprising, but now it’s official: Troubled consumer-electronics merchant Circuit City has failed to find a buyer and will therefore be liquidating all its stores. It’s lousy news for its more than 30,000 employees, its stockholders, and anyone who was a fan of the chain, which started with a single store six decades ago.

Even if the U.S. economy was in better shape, the odds were against the company–and, for that matter, anyone else who tries to operate a big chain of electronics stores. Far more of them have folded over the years than have ever been viable businesses. Running successful retail stores is by definition really hard, and the intense price competition among gadget sellers makes squeezing out a profit incredibly tough.

Even so, Circuit City’s death strikes me as largely self-inflicted: For too long, its stores were joyless places with limited selections, uncompetitive prices, and mediocre customer service. It even had an organized program to fire staffers who were experienced enough to know what they were doing and replace them with clueless, low-clost newbies.

With Circuit City’s imminent disappearance, the country is really left with only one nationwide full-service electronics chain, Best Buy. It’s long played Gallant to Circuit City’s Goofus, and should ride out the recession in decent shape. Other electronics purveyors are specialists (RadioShack), generalists with an electronics department (Wal-Mart, Target), regional (Fry’s, the current incarnation of CompUSA), or willfully limited in number of locations (Micro Center). Or, of course, completely virtual (Amazon.com, Buy.com, etc., etc., etc.).

Among the reasons I wish that Circuit City had made it is this: It would be a lot better for consumers if there were at least two strong national chains competing to win customers through broad product selection, low prices, and decent service. Best Buy has enough competition and challenges on other fronts that I don’t expect it to grow too fat and happy, but it no longer has to worry about its most direct rival.

Of course, if Best Buy’s management is smart–and it is–it’ll continue to run scared. Jim Collins’ business bestseller, Good to Great–published in 2001–lavishes praise on Circuit City as one of the country’s best-run companies of any sort. It took Circuit City only eight years to go from glory to death. Bottom line: Best Buy could be dead in a decade too, if it doesn’t make its customers happy…


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