Closing the loop: Circuit City's liquidation

I was surprised by the amount of email and talkbacks I received about the Circuit City liquidation sale. Most readers touched on the same theme: High prices, poor service and expectations that Circuit City failed to meet.

I was surprised by the amount of email and talkbacks I received about the Circuit City liquidation sale. Most readers touched on the same theme: High prices, poor service and expectations that Circuit City failed to meet.

For those keeping score at home, Circuit City said it will liquidate on Friday. On Saturday, I stopped by my local store only to be disappointed with the discounts. Circuit City couldn't have been serious about liquidating its inventory.

In the various responses I received about Circuit City one thing became real clear: The retailer lost customers for various reasons way before the proverbial you know what hit the fan.

Here's a look at a few of the responses from the inbox:

Beware the liquidation discounts. One reader wrote:

I don't believe that the prices will get much better on that stuff at Circuit City.  I live near Concord, CA .. this store and the brand new store that opened in Pittsburg, CA about 15 miles away were already closed .. I watched the prices and I never saw the prices go down to a reasonable discount .. and this was days before Christmas.   I believe that whoever is running this liquidation sale is keeping prices up so they can snatch the stuff cheap at the very end, then sell it elsewhere at the same price over time.

I was watching a 46" Sony LCD that never got below the price I could find it at Costco ... you have to wonder why that is.   Yes, it was the same model.

And:

What you have said is 100% right on it. most was just a 10% mark off. No good. And the parking was a mess. Like you said, just sit tight. It will go way down.

And:

Comp USA did the same when they liquidated.  The discounts were minimal and one could find the same items online for less. Avoid!

On pricing expectations (people want a deal always), one reader wrote:

If Circuit City didn't have higher prices than Best Buy and even Sears, they might still be in business.  The local store had high priced crap in an ugly environment.

And from a talkback:

Online stores have a significant edge over brick and mortar stores when it comes to price. I didn't see a sale all year that was better than I could get online. 15% discounts are not enough when your talking about almost half off at the average online store.

On poor service (and high fees):

IMHO what killed CC (Circuit City) was restocking fees. I myself never purchased major items there and I have a friend who stopped shopping CC after taking a $135 hit on a poorly performing laptop. He subsequently purchased 3 HDTVs and an expensive digital camera from BB (Best Buy) and never shopped CC again. Why take the risk when BB and Wally give you as much as 30 days to determine if a product performs as expected? I don't know if HDTV return policies are so generous, but just about everything else is. It would be nice to hear your thoughts on this as I have yet to see restocking fees mentioned anywhere as a factor in CC's demise.

And finally don't forget the people--say what you will about Circuit City but 30,000 people or so just lost their jobs:

From a talkback:

I wasn't going to bother, but saw the sign that said 30% off. Figured I might pick up another netbook to give away. 10% off was not compelling, and several notebooks were excluded because they were already "on sale". $850-$50 instant rebate type of deal.

I didn't stick around to look at the minutia of the deals since the vulture mentality was in full swing and you have to feel for the workers.

And.

As somebody who has worked at a store while it was being liquidated, I can tell you that the vulture mentality of people totally disgusts me. People couldn't give a $#!+ about us while we were actually in operation, but the moment those UGLY black and yellow "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!" AND ""EVERYTHING MUST GO!" signs get hung, we're packed to the brim! And for what?! Our everyday prices were better than what they were selling things for during the liquidation. I completely despise consumers' attitudes during going out of business sales, which is why I refuse to shop them.

Other comments boiled down to this: Circuit City had too much debt, perhaps not enough customer focus and brutal competition with Best Buy and online retailers like Amazon.

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