The Retail Giants That Disappeared

This story originally appeared on CNBC

Retail may be the second-oldest profession, but that doesn't mean all retailers have eternal staying power. While the 2008 financial crisis wiped out more than a dozen major retailers, others have been casualties to the ecommerce boom.

Behemoths, Wal-Mart and Target have also wiped out a number of others unable to compete with the pricing power and general reach of big-box stores.

As CNBC looks forward to the next 25 years in retail, we've pulled together a list of just some of retailers that have disappeared over the last 25 years. Bring on the nostalgia.

Circuit City

Six decades after opening its first store in Richmond, Virginia, Circuit City turned off the lights.

The electronics retailer had thwarted off unsolicited buyout offers, and then considered a deal with Blockbuster, before ultimately falling under the weight of slowing consumer spending on electronics and its shriveling market share, to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2008.

At the time of the filing, Circuit City had more than 700 stores in 55 markets. By early 2009, the company liquidated $3.4 billion in assets and closed its doors for the last time.


Once a top-of-mind retailer for computing-related purchases, CompUSA lost its hold on the market and was forced to wind down its retail operation in late 2007.

At the time, the retailer was owned by a Mexican holding company, U.S. Commercial Corp., which was majority-owned by Carlos Slim, Latin America's wealthiest man. Slim plowed about $2 billion into the ailing computing retailer, but it wasn't enough to combat competition from big-box rivals Best Buy and Wal-Mart Stores.

Restructuring firm Gordon Brothers Group bought the chain's assets and shuttered its remaining 103 stores.

The brand was briefly revived when Systemax purchased it in 2008, and operated it as an online and catalog business until 2012, when the CompUSA brand was dropped and consolidated under Systemax's TigerDirect brand and website.


Streaming killed the video star.

Blockbuster Video had a relatively quick ascent to dominance, and an equally quick fall. The video rental chain went public in 1986, just a year after its founding, and by 2002 had a market value of $5 billion.

Between 2003 and 2005 the video rental chain lost nearly three-quarters of its market share, according to Yahoo Finance calculations. Analysts attributed the chain's downfall to competitors that didn't charge late fees, such as Netflix and Redbox.

Activist investor Carl Icahn waged a successful proxy battle in 2005 but was never successful in his push to save the company.

Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2010.

DISH Network bought Blockbuster for $320 million in bankruptcy auction proceedings, eventually closing all remaining locations. It still offers Blockbuster @Home streaming services for subscribers.


The nation's second-largest book seller by store count waved the white flag in 2011, 40 years after its first store opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Borders was late to embrace the online shift and failed in its diversification efforts into toys and games.

In 2000, the retailer hired Merrill Lynch to help explore strategic options from recapitalization to leveraged buyouts or mergers, ultimately striking a deal with—the company that largely contributed to the store's demise. Through the deal, Amazon managed the online sales for Borders.

Despite activist investor Bill Ackman's attempts at a merger with also-faltering rival Barnes & Noble, the book retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2011 and eventually closed all 640 stores.

Tower Records

Tower Records was an icon for music lovers who flocked to its extensive collection of music and music magazines. But 46 years after opening the first location in Sacramento, California, the music retailer closed its U.S. stores in 2006.

Experts point to a number of factors for Tower Records' demise. Big-box stores began to sell CDs for less, and CD sales slowed as digital music offerings such as Napster became mainstream.

Tower Records' parent company MTS Inc. began a debt restructuring of Tower Records in 2003 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004.

Tower Records closed its remaining 89 locations in 2006, after a second bankruptcy filing, but still lives online.

KB Toys

Even toys were no match for the financial crisis, with 86-year-old KB Toys adding its name to the list of retail bankruptcy victims of 2008.

The Chapter 11 filing came three years after private equity firm Prentice Capital Management bought it out of bankruptcy. While KB Toys was the leading mall-based toy retailer with $480 million in sales when it filed for Chapter 11, it only represented a small percentage of the overall U.S. toy market, which racked up $21.64 billion in sales in 2008, according to The NPD Group.

Larger competitors with better pricing power, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon, made it hard for KB to compete. According to the bankruptcy filing, KB Toys owed between $100 and $500 million to creditors, and had total assets in the same range. In August 2009, competitor Toys R Us acquired the KB Toys brand, trademarks and intellectual property rights.

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Courtney Reagan

Written By

Courtney Reagan is CNBC's Retail Reporter. In 2011, Reagan was named general assignment reporter for CNBC's Business Day programming. She also contributes to NBC's "TODAY," NBC's "Nightly News with Brian Williams" and "Nightly Business Report" on public television.