Here is the link to the New York Times story with photos about the
closing of the last Virgin Megastores in the U.S. -- the last large
record store in NYC.
(stitch these two lines together if necessary)
Leah and I were in the Union Square neighborhood a couple of weeks ago
and stopped in to see the ruins. Even then there was nothing much
worthwhile left to buy. The article mentions the shocking statistic
that album sales dropped 45% between 2000 and 2008, but that the Times
Square store's sales were still over $50 million annually, but that when
the Virgin chain was sold in 2007 to two real estate companies, the
stores were more valuable to their buyers for their real estate value.
The article doesn't mention it, but that the Tower chain had also been
bought for its liquidation value, and they would not consider allowing a
few of the stores to be bought by a group intending to keep them
The article states about Virgin: "Its first American store was opened in
1992 in Los Angeles, and it set itself apart from rivals by developing a
clublike atmosphere with booming sound systems and by offering steep
discounts." I have often said that the too-loud playing of really
offensive "music" was literally scaring away more paying customers than
it was attracting, especially in tourist heavy Times Square Broadway.
By 2005 even the industry gurus were noting that while the kids had
stopped buying physical media, old fogies like me were still buying the
actual artifacts. But by blasting obscenity-laden crap, er, rap, it
would repel those who might have come in and bought a ton of classical,
easy listening, jazz, classic rock, DVDs, and especial Broadway Show
Music. I watched tourists move away from the open front of the store as
they walked by. Occasionally even I decided not to venture in to run
the gauntlet to get downstairs to the lower floors where the Broadway,
classic rock, nostalgia, jazz, and classical sections were. The
Broadway Show section should have been in the upper front level, and
they should have been blaring out the South Pacific revival, or whatever
show was playing in the Marquee theatre across the street. Certainly a
high percentage of the heavy foot traffic past that store were tourists,
and a large percentage of them were there to attend a show. These
people still buy CDs. Kids don't.
As for discounts, I noticed that the prices there at Tower and Virgin
were no longer bargains in recent years, but as the article said, they
originally had been. For example, a few years ago I just happened to be
in the Colony store a few blocks Northwest on Broadway when the new CD
of the just-opened "The Producers" was hand-delivered by the distributor
salesman. They immediately put it up on the front counter at a high
price like $21.95. (The Colony is famous for its high prices.) A
little while later I stuffed some tissues in my ears and ventured into
Virgin and saw a display near the down escalator selling "The Producers"
at something like $14.95. But going into that store for a bargain was
like the challenges in that worthless TV show "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me
Out Of Here!"
But cost-cutting and mistaken emphasis in the youth culture resulted in
a staff that was never older than 23 with a resultant misunderstanding
of potential paying customers and under-stocking of the departments
these customers would be interested in.
Mike (I've bought 18 CDs in the past 3 weeks--none at retail) Biel
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