There is a good chance you have seen the commercials announcing the final days of consumer electronics retail chain Circuit City. The store's demise marks the second national retailer to permanently shutter its doors in the past few months (the other being Mervyn's). This is not a huge surprise given that we are in an economic tailspin at the moment. Moreover, many experts have predicted these two chains are likely the first of many that will be calling it quits in the coming year. As bad as this news is for our economy and especially for the thousands of employees and their families affected by this, I'm just not a sense of emptiness. I know it's wrong. I should be at least thinking about these families, many of whom face unknown futures. But instead all I can think of is how I felt no kinship to either brand.
I doubt many of you did either.
Whether we like to admit or not, there are some brands which do trigger deep within us. Somehow the stories and myths they create resonate and we identify in some level. Even after they're long gone, we continue share stories and memories and we actually feel a sense of loss - even if only momentarily - at their undoing.
It's not that other mass-market retailers such as Walmart are such exciting bastions of shopping wonder. In fact Walmart has been heavily criticized for helping to dismantle Main Street America. However, mentioning the Walmart name likely evokes an opinion of some kind.
In the case of Circuit City and Mervyn's, I doubt there's much sense of loss beyond soon-to-be ex-employees and landlords left with vacant parcels. Neither store had anything special which made it stand out in the vast retail marketplace. There was no mythic founder, ala Sam Walton or a beloved architectural landmark such as Marshall Field's on State Street in Chicago. No, these two retailers were about as vanilla as you could get. Beyond colors and logo, was the difference between Circuit City and Best Buy that discernible? What about Mervyn's and Kohl's? If anything these stores quite possibly reflected the over- retailing of America.
Sadly, I do not recall either Mervyn's or Circuit City ever eliciting much passion. Their closings do not signal the end of an era, rather the only memory they offer is a chance to get something for the almost price of nothing.
Well, I gotta scoot...