Circuit City logoCircuit City Stores, Inc. (Pink Sheets: CCTYQ) was an American retailer in brand-name consumer electronics, personal computers, entertainment software, and (until 2000) large appliances. The company opened its first store in 1949 and liquidated its final American retail stores in 2009 following a bankruptcy filing and subsequent failure to find a buyer. As part of its bankruptcy, the company sold its Canadian subsidiary, InterTAN (which operates as "The Source"), to Bell Canada.
The "Circuit City" brand is now owned by Systemax, which uses the brand to sell electronics as an online retailer. On May 11, 2009, Systemax bought the brand, trademark and e-commerce business at an auction from Circuit City Stores, Inc. Systemax had earlier acquired CompUSA and TigerDirect which now operate as online retailers. Systemax in April 2009 signed a stalking horse agreement for $6.5 million which is an initial offer for a bankrupt company's assets.
At the time of liquidation, Circuit City was the second largest U.S. electronics retailer, after Best Buy. There were 567 Circuit City Superstores nationwide, ranging in size from 15,000 to 45,000 square feet (1400 to 4000 m²), when the company announced total liquidation. An additional 155 stores were closed when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2008 with the intent of continuing operations. However, attributing its ultimate demise to the lack of consumer spending and overall economic downturn during the late 2000s recession, Circuit City began liquidation of its remaining stores on January 16, 2009, and they were all closed on or before March 8, 2009.
A small staff remains on hand at corporate headquarters to complete the company's business, including the termination of its many leases, and the sale of its company-owned real estate and Canadian subsidiary.
Samuel S. Wurtzel studied accounting and got the idea to open a television store while on vacation. Abraham L. Hecht joined Wurtzel as a partner. Both founders, Hecht and Wurtzel, died in 1985.
In 1932, Samuel S. Wurtzel opened the first Wards Company retail store in Richmond, Virginia, at 705 West Broad Street. (Wards Company and Circuit City are completely unrelated to the other former retailer that went out of business in the 2000s, Montgomery Ward.) The name "Wards" was actually an acronym of the founder's last initial and the initials of members of his family (W = Wurtzel; A = Alan; R = Ruth; D = David; S = Sam). Wards was the first retailer to sell color televisions in Richmond, Virginia.
By 1959, Wards Company operated four television and home appliance stores in Richmond. The company continued to grow and acquired stores in other locations including Albany, New York; Mobile, Alabama; Washington, DC; and Costa Mesa, California. During the 1970s and early 1980s it also sold mail-order under the name Dixie Hifi, advertising in the hifi magazines of the day. In Richmond, Wards experimented with several retail formats including smaller mall outlets branded "Sight-n-Sound" and "Circuit City". Sight-n-Sound and Circuit City stores were replaced by the Circuit City Superstore format.