One-Time Retail Giant Short-Circuited

The last of the Circuit City stores closed on Sunday. Like many bargain-hunters, I visited the remaining Circuit City store in our area recently in hopes of finding a bargain. I didn’t find anything that I had to have nor did the environment of the store leave me in the mood to shop. The faces of the employees working the liquidation phase of the once-proud electronics giant showed the despair that many Americans are feeling right now–either having lost a job or knowing that they will soon.

I will always remember Circuit City as one of the companies profiled in Jim Collins’ excellent book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t”. In his book, Collins identifies 11 companies that produced ordinary returns to investors for a 15-year period (the “good”) then transformed to “greatness” over the next 15-year period. After compiling the data, Collins and his team closely studied these standout companies to identify the factors that made then “great”. Collins’ study took place from 1965-1995 and his book was first published in 2001. After achieving greatness, Circuit City failed to take seriously the threat of rival Best Buy and when the economy began to tank, so, too, did the 60-year-old company. A little more than a decade after achieving greatness, Circuit City is gone, another 34,000 people are out of work, and we have another reminder of how fleeting greatness can be.

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  1. I used to shop at Circuit City over Best Buy frequently because, at least where I live, their service was always better. Maybe Best Buy improved their training procedures, because I felt that changed in the last year or two. I used to live in Virginia and at times Circuit City seemed as ubiquitous as McDonald’s. It’s a shame to see all those lost jobs.

    March 10, 2009
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  2. JasonKarpf said:

    Jim Collins points out that Good to Great companies cannot rest on their laurels. Just as Circuit City outmanuevered and outmarketed smaller competitors during their heyday, Best Buy did the same to them. Ultimately, I agree with Peter. There can be no gloating or fingerpointing when considering the lost jobs and the death of a once-admired brand.

    March 12, 2009
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