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Circuit City: 2009 Going Out of Business Liquidation Sales, History, and Trivia

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Circuit City Closes Stores To Improve Finances
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News

Founders and Key CEOs of Circuit City:

Samuel S. Wurtzel studied accounting and got the idea to open a television store while on vacation. He opened "Wards" in Richmond, VA in 1949.

Abraham L. Hecht joined Wurtzel as a partner. Ten years later Wurtzel and Hecht had four stores in Richmond, and an annual sales of $1 million.

Both founders, Hecht and Wurtzel, died in 1985.

Philip Schoonover is considered to be the CEO that led Circuit City to its demise because under his leadership, veteran employees were replaced with 3,400 lower paid, inexperienced employees. In 2008 Schoonover was high on the retail CEO compensation list, with $6.5 million in pay.

Circuit City Stores History:

The company started in 1949 as “Wards.” Its first public stock offering was in 1961. The first store sold only televisions, with a no-haggle policy.

In 1977 the “Circuit City” concept was born in Washington, D.C. as a 6,000 square foot store, with an in-store service department. Sales were $2 billion in 1990.

In 2007, the company laid off its experienced commissioned in-store sales employees and replaced them with new hourly employees.

Circuit city filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on November 10, 2008. On January 15, 2009, the company announced its liquidation, and closed all stores on March 8, 2009.

Circuit City Facts & Trivia:

The name, "Ward's," was an acronym derived from Samuel's family, Wurtzel, Alan, Ruth, David, and Samuel.

In 1962 Circuit City offered a revolutionary service plan which included the free loan of a television to customers when their set couldn’t be repaired by a technician in their home.

Based on the company's original "no haggle pricing" philosophy, CarMax was created in 1996 as a subsidiary company of Circuit City, and then it was spun off as a separate company in 2002. CarMax is hoping to reach a $10 billion revenue goal in 2010, and was #31 on the 2009 Fortune "Best Companies to Work For" list.

Charity and Community Involvement:

For more than 40 years, Circuit City Foundation provided cash donations, gifts in kind, and volunteer manpower to a variety of charities in the communities where their stores were operating. Circuit City's community involvement included:
  • Sponsored Image Makers, the Boys & Girls Club national photography contest
  • Donated $1 million to the American Red Cross after hurricane Katrina
  • Provided employee volunteer support to United Way and Habitat for Humanity
  • Established the Associate Relief Fund to assist employees in times of crisis
  • Created "Firedog Across America" program to reward volunteer firefighters

Circuit City's Sports Marketing, NASCAR sponsorship, and Super Bowl Promotions:

Circuit City hired Franklin Burchfield in 1996 to create a sports marketing department.

In 1996 and 1997 Circuit City was a NASCAR Busch Series racing sponsor for the #8 Ford driven by Hut Stricklin.

In 2006 and 2007, Circuit City co-sponsored the NASCAR race at Ricmond International Raceway with FUNAI.

A survey conducted by Circuit City in 2008 concluded that the Super Bowl is the favorite televised sporting event in America.

In 2008 Circuit City hosted a Super Bowl XLIII Sweepstakes. Prizes included a trip for two to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay and 28 flat panel television sets with home theater systems.

Circuit City's Award-winning E-commerce Website:

After launching its e-commerce website in 1999, Circuit City instituted many best practices, and was recognized for online excellence in many ways. Circuit City's online achievements included:
  • Received BizRate's "Circle of Excellence" award several times
  • Took the lead in multi-channel integration with online ordering and 15-minute in-store pickup in 2003.
  • Provided live chat employees and real-time store inventory checks as part of its exceptional online customer satisfaction in 2003.
  • Vividence market research firm ranked circuit city.com as one of the top three websites for customer satisfaction in 2004.

Circuit City's Branded In-Store Technical Service, Firedog:

In December, 2005, Circuit City began an in-store, in-home, and online technical support service, which they branded as "Firedog." The logo symbol chosen pictured a dog jumping through a hoop. CEO Philip Schoover said the dog was chosen because of the "best friend" connotation, and symbolized the company's desire for Firedog technicians to be your best friend.

The hoop in the logo symbol was meant to convey the message that Firedog employees would jump through hoops for their customers.

The year that Firedog was created was also the year of the Fire Dog, according to the Chinese Calendar.

Circuit City's Slogans for Advertising, Marketing, and Recruiting:

Circuit City advertising slogans included:
  • "Circuit City, We're With You"
  • "Imagine That"
Although Firedog was barely more than three years old, it had many different advertising slogans, including:
  • "Have no fear, Firedog is here."
  • "Teaching old technology new tricks."
  • "It takes a special breed to be a Firedog."
  • "We make technology's tail wag."
  • "Make your computer obey."
  • "Unleash your technology."
  • "Your surround sound hound."
  • "Discover a new breed of technology service"
  • "Helps you turn life on"
  • "Because your home theater doesn't come house broken"
  • "Call and we'll come running."

2009 Circuit City Stores Going Out of Busingss Inventory Liquidation Sales:

On January 16, 2009, Circuit City announced its banktuptcy, ending a 60-year retailing history. Circuit City then began the process of hosting going out of business sales, liquidating its inventory, and laying off its employees at stores in the following states:

76 - CA
54 - TX
50 - FL
30 - NY
30 - PA
22 - VA
20 - IL
20 - NC
19 - MA
17 - MI
17 - NJ
17 - OH
15 - CO
15 - MD
12 - TN
12 - WA
10 - CT
10 - SC
9 - IN
9 - LA
9 - MN
8 - MO
7 - AL
7 - NH
7 - OR
7 - WI
6 - GA
5 - UT
5 - NV
4 - KY
4 - MS
4 - OK
4 - WV
3 - AR
3 - AZ
3 - DE
3 - ME
3 - PR
2 - ID
2 - NM
1 - HI
1 - KS
1 - NE
1 - RI
1 - WY

Circuit City Values and Mission Statement:

On its corporate website, Circuit City outlined the mission statement that purportedly guided the company's decisions and actions.

"To make sure that we are all working in the same direction, each of us must live and breathe Circuit City's values and use them as a guidepost for our actions and decisions."

To further clarify that mission to all of its employees, the company outlined its corproate values in detail.

"Respect

Our Associates are our greatest assets. We expect every Associate to demonstrate that they respect and value others for their efforts, their knowledge, and the diversity that they bring.

Teach

We are a product of our experiences and those around us can benefit from our lessons learned. Pass on to others what you value and learn.

Engage

What's in it for you? We foster an environment of engagement where associates are invested and involved in the future of the company. What you do matters.

Simplify

Use your fresh perspective to look, ask, and learn. We never stop looking at the way we approach our business and ways to simplify processes.

Maintain the highest integrity

We expect all of our associates to maintain the highest of ethical standards. Our integrity must never be compromised. Integrity is the foundation onto which all other values are placed."
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