Circuit City plans comeback with smaller stores, relaunched website

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Remember Circuit City, the medium-sized electronics store with the red plug storefront? It’s coming back, according to CEO Ronny Schmoel, who announced the news in Las Vegas at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. That’s where money expert Clark Howard and team are finding the latest and coolest tech for consumers.

Circuit City is being revitalized with a social-focused website and new and smaller stores featuring mobile, tech and multi-platform electronics, according to tech site, which was among the first to report the news. Circuit City teased a comeback on its website on January 4.

Circuit City is back: New focus is on smaller stores, e-commerce website

At its height more than a decade ago, Circuit City had more than 700 stores and was the #2 electronics retailer behind Best Buy. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2008 in the midst of the economic downturn known as the Great Recession. Four months later, the stores were shut for good and the company liquidated.

Starting as a single TV store in 1949 in Richmond, Virginia, the company that would become known as Circuit City quickly expanded in urban centers through the years. Its approach of acquiring failing electronics stores and rebranding them proved to be a highly successful strategy. In the mid-1970s, the company began building 40,00-square-foot “Ward’s Loading Dock” stores designed after the old loading areas at Montgomery Ward department stores, according to the book “Vault Guide to the Top Retail Employers.”

By the mid-aughts, Circuit City had nearly $2 billion in inventory and 18 million square feet of retail space nationwide. But in addition to the downturn and changes afoot in the retail industry, including the customers’ gradual retreat from brick-and-mortar stores, Circuit City fell on hard times. In March 2009, the company announced that it was shutting down and closing its more than 560 stores around the country.

Now under new management, the company seeks to make an impact in a more tech-savvy world. Circuit City will relaunch its website on February 15 and open kiosks in retail settings to lure customers, according to Twice. The company hopes the store-within-a-store model will help it build partnerships, as well.

Will the new & improved Circuit City have an impact?

Circuit City rejoins the electronics field when consumers are increasingly using their devices to make purchases and interact with brands. It also has to contend with the elephant in the room — — which began to assert its dominance in the electronics market almost as soon as Circuit City went under. But if Circuit City can deliver on its promise of “experiential” interaction with customers, including tech support via video chat and innovative search features on its website, then it may have a shot.

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