As Sports Authority knuckles under, I am taking pause to reflect on the 10 biggest Retail BK’s of all time, as written in this article from Fortune: Fortune Article Link
In order of assets at time of BK:
Circuit City, Linens & Things, General Atlantic & Pacific Tea (A&P),Radio Shack, Blockbuster, Borders, Sports Authority, Sbarro, Friedman’s, Brookstone.
Ruling out Sbarro, as it really is a restaurant chain and not a traditional retailer, and Friedman’s, which is a jewelry store that I am simply not familiar with, what stands out to me is these were ALL very top or near-top of their category businesses at one point.
Circuit City was very similar to Best Buy in product and pricing. Linens&Things was sort of a small version of Bed Bath and Beyond (less Beyond, more Bed)
A&P was not just a large grocer: They had 16,000 stores in 1930– and were the largest retailer in the WORLD. (and 150+year history)
Radio Shack? Was a premier player in the PC market at the beginning- remember the TRS-80? Then you are old also. Founded in 1921, so managed to survive a few wars the Depression, and every other world-changing event for nearly a century.
Blockbuster didn’t invent the movie rental concept- but they certainly made it simple, accessible, and EVERYWHERE.
Borders? Put it next to a B&N and heck if I knew which was which.
Brookstone was the store that was FUN in the mall!
So what did these stores fail in while their rivals are still alive? Obviously a lot of reasons but the one that struck me as likely (in hindsight) was failing to adapt-or-die.
If Blockbuster had opened an online delivery, maybe they’d be Netflix.
If Radio Shack and Circuit City had figured out whatever it was that made Best Buy work, and opened enough online presence to compete with Amazon? Maybe a different story.
Radio Shack alone could have been a MONSTER- Introducing a home PC in 1977, for $600? About the same time as that other computer maker startup, and that one turned out OK in the end.
What did B&N do better than Borders? I don’t know, but clearly neither did Borders. I think they were both late to the online book situation, but obviously B&N survived. Adapted.
And A&P? Well that’s the scariest of all. How do you completely own a market and lose the entire company in a few decades? Obviously competition changed. The landscape changed. Bad decisions must have been made. But to have that kind of economy of scale and lose it is just a terrifying prospect for a lot of today’s market leaders.
If you don’t remember what got you there, it is hard to stay there, I think. 16,000 stores, 85 years ago. That’s over 4000 more than Walmart has today. In 30 years, will a change in landscape not only over-through Walmart, but literally end them? Hard to fathom… but I bet A&P management in 1930 felt the same invincibility.
So today, lets all say a retail prayer for the staff of Sports Authority who likely lost a lot of jobs, and hope they can come through the other side leaner, smarter, stronger, and better able to compete. We are all retail brothers.
Note: Brookstone emerged from BK in 2014 and has continued operations, which is a joy for anyone who is at the mall and wants a chair massage!
Plan, execute, and analyze. Repeat. And never stop. Never.
-That Planning Guy