Borders Closing and Other Stores Bested by the Internet
Image courtesy of Dave Dugdale via learningdslrvideo.com
After trying in vain to find a buyer, the struggling Borders Books has announced that it will be closing. The former bookstore chain will close the roughly 400 retail stores still in operation and some 11,000 people will lose their jobs.
Although competition from rival Barnes and Noble played a part, a larger hurdle that Borders was ultimately unable to overcome was competition from huge online retailers like Amazon, specifically in the world of e-readers. Borders isn’t the only brick-and-mortar store whose business model eventually rendered them irrelevant in the Internet age. Here are some other stores that you may remember, fondly or otherwise, that have been bested by online competition.
Video Rental: Blockbuster, Hollywood Video
Remember the days of renting a DVD or VHS from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, and rushing to return it before the due date? It was quite the First World Problem (link contains some NSFW language). Netflix, which lets you keep rented DVDs for an unlimited amount of time without late fees, became the preferred alternative to brick-and-mortar video rental stores in the mid-2000s. In light of Netflix’s recent price hike, some people prefer various Netflix alternatives, like Amazon Prime Instant and Hulu Plus (sadly, still no one seems to care much about Blockbuster’s Total Access service). But whichever online/ DVD-by-mail service you prefer, I bet you’ll agree that they’re all preferable to the 3-day-rental-or-$4-fine model of the pre-Netflix days.
Music: Tower Records, Wherehouse
Giant music chains have gone the way of the price-gouging dinosaur, thanks largely to the widespread availability of cheap or free music on the Internet. Tower Records filed for bankruptcy in 2006, though their website has been bought by another entity and continues to operate. Wherehouse Music has closed its retail shops, and their website is now owned by Trans World Entertainment. Though some people lament the death of the brick-and-mortar music store, I can’t feel too sorry for the enormous chains in question, many of which maintained or raised the price of CDs even when their production costs dropped dramatically. I liked browsing Tower Records as much as the next teenager, but I didn’t like the $17 price tags on most of their CDs.
Consumer Electronics: Circuit City
Circuit City closed its last brick-and-mortar stores in 2009, after many years in the business of being the most miserable store in the mall. The company had faced hard times for about a year, laying off some 17% of its employees and later filing for bankruptcy in 2008. Their financial difficulty was likely due to competition from online retailers like Amazon, whose electronics prices are about 1/10th of what Circuit City‘s were and don’t come with salespeople who are contractually obligated to upsell you with useless items. For the last time, gold-plated HDMI cables are no better than their $2 non-gold counterparts!
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that print media sales have declined significantly in the developed world since the Internet began offering more content than you could ever hope for, much of it for free. As you might imagine, many newsstands have closed in recent years, as there is simply very little market for print media anymore – and fewer publications to sell in the first place. Newspaper Death Watch has an ongoing tally of local newspapers that have closed down since 2007, as well as a list of “works-in-progress”: former print newspapers whose model is now an online/ print hybrid, or online-only.
What do you think of Borders closing its doors? Will you miss it, or are you glad to see it go?