Monday, November 03, 2008

Twin Titans of CE Have Fallen

Alas, the world of Consumer Electronics suffered yet more bad news this week. First, Circuit City surrendered to the inevitable in the first of what is sure to be a long series of death throes by closing 155 stores. This was long overdue, and is a direct response to the increasing dominance of Best Buy and Amazon. I'm amazed it took so long; I actually think they would be best served by closing these monster stores and go for the old Circuit City Express formats in suburban malls. As it is, the real estate costs will kill them in no time.

The second is more sinister, and sad: Tweeter Etc. was purchased by a liquidator. Why this is sinister: they told all the company employees last week that they were shutting the distribution center, and arranging to have all shipments sent directly to the stores, saving them $12 million. This was received with, to say it nicely, some skepticism. Sure enough, they made a backroom deal to liquidate the stores, and got out of town before the pitchforks could come out, or the torches lit. Sleazy.

Why this is sad: Tweeter was based in Canton, MA. I bought my first real stereo from them, a sexy, sleek 1980's black Mitsubishi all in one. It also started my lifelong love of the deal: the stereo sold for months as $1,099, but I was able to get a floor model for under $300. I had that stereo for over 20 years, and it never failed to impress me. It was so far ahead of its time, it made Bang & Olufsen look like dinosaurs. At the time, growing up in MA, you had only places like Service Merchandise or Lechmere to satisfy your CE jonesing; when Tweeter emerged, it was like the rules of CE retail completely changed: instead of harsh lights and horrible salespeople, you had a studio-like atmosphere, with relaxed enthusiasts to guide you through the hi-fi decision. Such a sad way for it all to end.

Looks like a sad CE Xmas ahead, but a good one for deal-finders and Best Buy stockholders.

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