In yet another sign indicating the days of the big-box store model could be numbered, the plug is being pulled on a well-known retail chain that’s been a mainstay in the Midwest for six decades.
On Monday, American TV & Appliance, a 11-location, 60-year-old retail chain based in Madison, Wisc., that sells electronics, furniture, and appliances, announced that is going out of business. All 11 current stores—in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa—will be shut following going-out-of-business sales, and the company’s 989 employees will be out of work.
Given the trends in big box retail over the past decade—electronics retailers in particular—the news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Over that time span, we’ve witnessed the extraordinary rise of Amazon.com and online retailers, the death of Circuit City and other brick-and-mortar electronics specialists, the introduction and rapid expansion of smartphone-enabled “showrooming” by consumers, and continued challenges faced by struggling giants Radio Shack and Best Buy, among others. On the stock market, shares of consumer electronics retail firms Best Buy and hhgregg have tumbled lately after disappointing quarterly results were reported in the sector.
American TV’s closure came after years of struggle—and years of tweaks to the business that apparently couldn’t solve the company’s problems. In 2011, American TV was forced to close all four of its stores in St. Louis. The reason given at the time was that the recession had hit the St. Louis area harder than most of the company, and its stores there were performing badly for years.
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Last March, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, American TV said that its enormous stores—typically well over 100,000 square feet apiece—would stop selling small electronics such as cameras, computers, and car audio systems. A company spokesperson explained that the move to eliminate “categories that are simply very mature or challenged” was necessary to “address the changing retail landscape.” Presumably, this means it was proving impossible for American TV to turn a profit selling smaller gadgets, which is unsurprising given the fierceness of the competition online and in stores for this category of goods.
In a press release, American TV pointed to an “unforgiving” economy over the past five years as a key reason it was “closing our business forever.” The previously mentioned “changing retail landscape” is probably an even bigger reason that the American TV & Appliance is going the way of Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster.