EEC: Documentary Studies

The shifting landscape of American retail

The Econ Extra Credit Team May 13, 2021
Heard on:

This month’s documentary selection, “The Last Blockbuster,” tells the story of how once-popular Blockbuster video stores faded into retail history (and became fixtures of Gen X nostalgia). But Blockbuster is only one of many such chains that reached the height of their popularity in the 1990s and have since reduced their footprint, declared bankruptcy or shuttered altogether. Think: Hot Topic, The Limited, Lucky Brand, Aeropostale and the like.

This week, Marketplace’s David Brancaccio spoke with Soma Biswas, a reporter covering corporate bankruptcies for The Wall Street Journal, about a common theme that has emerged among retail brands trying to stay alive. “Many of them have been bought by private-equity firms,” Biswas explained. Under rising pressure from e-commerce competitors, however, those private-equity owners haven’t always been able to sustain the brands they snap up. “It certainly contributed to quite a few retailers filing for bankruptcy or even liquidating and disappearing,” Biswas said.

From chain retailers to hobby shops and other specialty sellers, the storefronts of America have undergone dramatic change in recent times. “Marketplace Morning Report” is exploring the shifting economic landscape of the last decade in a series called “Vanishing America.” We hope you’ll tune in.

Don’t forget: We want to hear from you about this month’s documentary! Email us your thoughts and reactions to “The Last Blockbuster” at extracredit@marketplace.org. Later this month, we’ll feature some of your responses.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.