Circuit City to Liquidate Remaining Stores

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It's a sad day for electronics shoppers: Circuit City, the second-largest retailer of consumer electronics, has announced it is forced to close all its remaining 567 U.S. stores and sell all its merchandise. The closing also leaves 34,000 Circuit City employees out of a job.

The company entered bankruptcy protection in November 2008, and needed a healthy shopping season-and an infusion of funds-in order to continue going. Neither happened, and today it filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Circuit City. Circuit City says it will begin a sale of its merchandise starting Saturday lasting through March 31.

While I'd been hoping that Circuit City could pull it out, in spite of the weak economy, I'd been on a Circuit City deathwatch now since last week's CES. There, I'd heard scuttlebutt from vendors saying that Circuit City only had money enough to last through January 15. If the company hadn't found a buyer, or a refinancing deal of some sort to keep it going, that would be the end of them. Today came the news that retailer had no more options, and it would be liquidating its remaining 567 U.S. stores (it closed 155 stores in November; no word yet on the fate of the 765 stores in Canada).

As a careful shopper, I lament Circuit City's passing for multiple reasons. Granted, I often found the chain's in-store selection lacking and haphazard. But, just as often, I found better deals-and better service--at Circuit than I did at Best Buy. Circuit never played fast with its pricing-the price online was the price in the store (my experiences with Best Buy's dual-pricing practices have frankly strongly prejudiced me against shopping there for most items).

A good shopper values choice, and Circuit City offered just that-a strong alternative to that other big box electronics retailer, Best Buy. Without Circuit in the mix, we consumers have one fewer option. And that one fewer option will likely translate into less competition. I won't be surprised to see Circuit City's death not only impact what electronics models we consumers have in-store access to, but also what prices we pay.

Circuit City will have plenty of company in the annals of consumer electronics sales. It joins the ranks of national chains like CompUSA, Computer City, and Egghead, and regional chains like Tweeter, The Wiz, and Incredible Universe-all of which are among the electronics chains that have died in the past two decades.

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