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Major retail chains that no longer exist

  • Major retail chains that no longer exist

    At the start of 2020, many of America's beloved major retailers announced that they'd be closing their stores—Papyrus, Macy's, Pier 1 Imports, JCPenney—the list goes on. It's a pattern we've seen in retail history, time and time again. It starts with chains downsizing, attempting to manage their debt and restructuring. Some are able to recover. Many, however, end up filing for bankruptcy and/or getting bought out, and eventually folding.

    It's a cycle we're familiar with. The economy improves and the market becomes saturated with choice. When the economy slows, dips, and dives, very few are able to survive. With each cycle, stores that we thought would always be around, stores that defined our childhoods, even our parents' childhoods, fizzle, fade, and become stuff of retail history. Some of these brands are iconic, like Tower Records, Thom McAn and Kids “R” Us.

    Stacker, through a variety of sources, took a close look at the various major retail chains that no longer exist. For many of these chains, they were leading the pack at one point in history. Many of these stores even paved the way for their competitors, who eventually overtook them. Blockbuster, for example, was the largest video retailer in the entire world and was valued at $3 billion at its height. Now there’s only one left on the planet, in Bend, Oregon.

    Other chains simply couldn't keep up with the rise of e-commerce sites like Amazon. Sharper Image, for example, was once the only place where tech-lovers could flock to play with high-end and niche gadgets. That is, until Amazon started selling similar products online.

    While it's all part of evolution and Darwinian economics, the sad reality is that when these stores die, part of our memories go with them. Still, it's a lesson that most businesses have to learn: Adapt with the times or be lost forever. Are you ready to see the top 50 major retailers that no longer exist? Keep reading to see if your favorites made the list.

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  • Ames

    - Category: department store
    - Year founded: 1958
    - Year defunct: 2002
    - Lifetime: 44 years

    Before there was Walmart (four years before, to be exact), there was Ames. The discount retailer used to specialize in everything from apparel and electronics to housewares, patio furniture, jewelry and beyond. After 44 years of business, the corporation filed for bankruptcy, closing 327 stores and leaving 21,500 employees without jobs.

  • Anchor Blue

    - Category: clothing
    - Year founded: 1972
    - Year defunct: 2011
    - Lifetime: 39 years

    Anchor Blue, a teen clothing chain that launched in 1972, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after 39 years of being in business. At the time it closed, there were 117 stores, the majority of which were in California. However, at its height, the chain had more than 300 stores in the United States. Sadly, the retailer could not survive the economic downturn in 2009 and by 2011 decided to fold.

  • Blockbuster

    - Category: video rental
    - Year founded: 1985
    - Year defunct: 2014
    - Lifetime: 29 years

    Founded in 1985, Blockbuster was once the entertainment giant of the world, with more than 65 million registered customers and more than 9,000 stores in the United States alone. At its peak, it was valued at $3 billion. But the rise of streaming services like Netflix began to eat away at its profits, and Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy with more than $900 million in debt.

  • Borders

    - Category: bookstore
    - Year founded: 1978
    - Year defunct: 2011
    - Lifetime: 33 years

    Back in 2011, Borders—a books and music megastore—had to close its 400 stores around the country when the company was liquidated. Unfortunately, much of Borders' stock was CDs and DVDs, at the critical tipping point when everyone was starting to go digital. Borders also failed to develop an online store, while other retailers like Barnes & Noble moved into the online space. The last year Borders actually made a profit was 2006. By 2011 it filed for bankruptcy.

  • Builders Square

    - Category: home improvement
    - Year founded: 1970
    - Year defunct: 1999
    - Lifetime: 29 years

    When Home Depot and Menards came into the picture, the sun was setting on Builders Square, one of the original large scale home improvement stores. In 2011, they filed for Chapter 11 and liquidated their remaining 117 stores. Builders Square had been struggling for a few years prior and was sold off by Kmart in 1997. Still, the company failed to turn a profit and eventually shut its doors.

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  • Chess King

    - Category: clothing
    - Year founded: 1968
    - Year defunct: 1995
    - Lifetime: 27 years

    From 1968 to the mid-1980s, Chess King was, well, the king of young menswear. The company, founded by traveling salesmen from Thom McAn, had more than 500 locations around the country at its height. In the mid-1990s, the company began to struggle and eventually had to file for bankruptcy in 1995.

  • Circuit City

    - Category: electronics
    - Year founded: 1949
    - Year defunct: 2009
    - Lifetime: 60 years

    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Circuit City was on top of the electronics game. They helped to pioneer the big box concept, making a one-stop shop for everything from televisions and stereos to refrigerators and automobiles (which spun off into CarMax). At its height, Circuit City had 1,520 stores across the United States and Canada. But in the 1990s, all began to change. CBS News' analysis attributed this to stores becoming too big, and therefore too impersonal, as well as the fact that it stopped paying commissions to its sales team. When the financial crisis struck, Circuit City began closing stories and laying off its employees, and eventually closed due to bankruptcy.

  • CompUSA

    - Category: electronics
    - Year founded: 1984
    - Year defunct: 2012
    - Lifetime: 28 years

    CompUSA, a consumer electronics retailer, went out of business back in 2007 after prices dropped on its most lucrative product, personal computers. With the rise of stores like Best Buy, CompUSA struggled to make ends meet. They eventually filed for bankruptcy and sold their 103 stores. That is, until they made a brief comeback with a revamped sales approach, which also failed. They officially went out of business in 2012.

  • Crazy Eddie

    - Category: electronics
    - Year founded: 1971
    - Year defunct: 2012
    - Lifetime: 41 years

    Old school New Yorkers will remember the tale of Crazy Eddie quite well (the commercial alone is legendary). What started as an electronics storefront in Brooklyn grew to become the largest commercial electronics store in the New York metropolitan area, in addition to 43 stores up and down the Eastern Seaboard. But mostly what New Yorkers remember is how it all came crashing down when Eddie Antar, the founder, was discovered to be skimming money and manipulating the stock market. He fled the country to Israel and was later extradited to the U.S., where he served seven years in prison.

  • Crown Books

    - Category: bookstore
    - Year founded: 1977
    - Year defunct: 2001
    - Lifetime: 24 years

    Crown Books, a book retailer known for its deep discounts, came onto the scene in Maryland in 1977, and subsequently began to expand all over the country. Over the years, due to the death of its parent company and family drama between the owners, Crown Books went through a series of bankruptcies and was completely out of business by 2001.

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