Alan Wurtzel on why Circuit City went bust

The Circuit City store logo is displayed outside of one of the retailer's stores on November 10, 2008 in Berwyn, Illinois.

There's a new book out this morning that sheds light on the downfall of a company that was a household name all across this country: Circuit City.  The electronics retailer was founded by Samuel Wurtzel back in 1949 and went bust in 2009. Alan Wurtzel, son of the founder, details the transformation of the company over the years in his new book, “Good to Great to Gone: The 60 Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City”.

The bankruptcy was “like a losing a child,” says Wurtzel, who ran Circuit City for 13 years before retiring in 1986. “The reason I wanted to write this book was to find out what happened to my child – why did it die.”

According to Wurtzel, the company declined due to the rise of Best Buy and other similar retailers in the 1990’s and a lack of strategic planning in the years that followed. Thus, when the recession of 2008 hit, “the cupboard was bare -- Circuit City had no cash in the bank -- and nobody wanted to come rescue the company,” says Wurtzel.

Since the company’s founding, the retail landscape for consumer electronics has undergone a massive transformation. “When we started people never owned a TV before – this was a major family purchase, similar to buying a car today,” says Wurtzel. In those days, sales people and a showroom floor were an essential piece of the business. Today, says Wurtzel, most people own several TV’s, purchasing is more routine, and most consumers buy online “without ever talking to anybody.”

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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