Flamed-out Richmond retail brand Circuit City may be coming back to life for the third time.
According to twice.com, New York retail mavens from New York have bought the brand, domain and other trademarks from Systemax, which bought Circuit City after it went bankrupt and out of business in 2008 and 2009.
Ronny Schmoel and Albert Liniado hope to revive Circuit City as a kind of very small box retailer that would sell computer gear, drones, smartphones and the like. Its stores would be no larger than about 4,000 square feet.
They hope to launch in June and build from 5,000 to 10,000 outlets.
It’s a bold move that raises some obvious questions.
The first is whether Circuit City’s brand name is so tarnished by bad service in its latter years that customers will shun it. Here’s part of a report I did for Style back in 2008:
“For months, big box electronics retailer Circuit City Stores teetered on like a chronic drunk, swaying from one bad decision to another. The firm slit its wrists by cashiering 3,400 top sales executives, leased bad store sites, and stubbornly played a weak catch-up game with its superior competitor, Best Buy. It hasn't turned a profit in two years.”
The second problem is that the new concept sounds remarkably like that of Radio Shack, whose gadget-selling strategy hasn’t been a screaming success. Scores of stores have been shuttered as people get their USB cables and stuff online.
But brands can come back, in one form or another. One is Sharper Image, the flash tech retailer that went belly up. Products using its name are still sold through other outlets.
Personally, I hope Howard Johnson’s comes back (I think there are two restaurants left). When I took lengthy road trips as a child, I would love to stop there and order a cheeseburger, a side order of fried clams and a coffee milkshake.
If Circuit City gets three lives, well, just maybe.