As retail brands struggle to maintain relevance and stay afloat—including Toys”R”Us, which just announced a mass closing of its stores—there’s one high-profile retailer that called it quits but is attempting a comeback.
Circuit City, the once-mighty electronics seller which failed to rebound from filing for bankruptcy protection in 2008, is now planning to relaunch as an online-only shopping hub under new ownership.
Attempting a bold comeback from the grave, Circuit City will reopen its doors (if not its stores) on Feb. 15th. What does it need to do differently this time? Everything.
The plan is to relaunch as a website first, then tiptoe back into brick-and-mortar physical locations, with kiosks, boutiques for other retailers and curated showrooms all possible—depending how the comeback plan goes. For now, however, the focus is e-commerce, mobile, technology and omni-channel commerce.
Any new stores will be much smaller than the typical Circuit City superstore of the past, which was about 33,000 square feet. Circuit City also operated smaller electronics-only stores in shopping malls called Circuit City Express.
Attending CES earlier this month, CEO Ronny Shmoel talked up his strategy to revive the brand and said he’s not worried about rival electronics sellers such as Best Buy, Amazon, Target and Walmart.
Circuit City short-circuited during the Great Recession following years of sagging sales. It tried to go online-only after closing its last store in 2008, and finally pulled the plug in 2012. Shmoel, a retail and e-commerce veteran, acquired the brand, domain and associated trademarks from IT supplier Systemax in 2015.
So why is Shmoel convinced he can make a go of it this time? The new Circuit City will enhance the shopping experience with cutting-edge technology, a “dynamic, social-focused e-commerce site” and “unprecedented e-commerce technology offerings.”
Experiential features will include virtual vignettes, search by photo, augmented reality and real-time tech support via video chat. It’s partnering with IBM Watson around smart commerce, incorporating AI and other advanced retail technologies within its platform. It’s also partnering with Skinny IT to provide home installations of products bought online.
Shmoel said he’s got interest from “major retailers” interested in opening Circuit City outlets within their stores. “We could have easily leased a location, put some product in and opened the doors for business,” he told Twice in 2016. “Instead, we are taking our time to get this right.”