More than anything, 2009 may go down in history books as the year when big brands and chains were forced to declare bankruptcy due to the bad economy. Many closed their doors entirely. Six flags, Eddie Bauer and Chrysler declared bankruptcy this year, just to name a few. Circuit City closed up shop completely. And there are already indications that more will follow suit next year.
When a company goes bankrupt, there is usually a good chance that they will return after enduring some serious restructuring. But once a company is liquidated, it’s usually not such a good bet. The companies on this list were all liquidated and left for dead during the recession, only to make their way back into consumers’ homes by the end of this year. Often, the ownership changed, but the brand lived on. Here are their comeback stories.
Photo Credit: Daquella manera
Linens 'n Things
This store used to be the go-to place for home supplies, but in May of last year, it filed for bankruptcy with the intention that it would only close 100 of its retail stores (out of approximately 500 in total). However, the company had failed to find a buyer by October of that year, and so was forced to liquidate.
That could have been it for the chain, but in February of this year, two liquidators purchased Linens ‘n Things in a joint venture for just $1 million (it was sold for more than $1 billion three years earlier). Two months later, the store re-opened online only, offering heavily discounted goods. In October, Linens ‘n Things items finally returned to the store front, with two small caveats: The store is now in Canada, and it’s not called Linens ‘n Things. Rather, the brand will be on shelves at another chain called Home Outfitters. Yet, the chief executive of Linens ‘n Things referred to this as a “launch pad” for the future success of the company.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons.org
In February of this year, Sharper Image shuttered all of its stores and prepared for liquidation. But last month, the revised SharperImage Web site launched.
While you can no longer lounge freely in their massage chairs or play with futuristic gadgets, the online store does offer a number of hi-tech products for the home. And in lieu of trying out the products yourself in a store, the Web site has YouTube videos that demonstrate how they are used.
The same two companies that purchased Linens ‘n Things, Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brothers partnered with a third company, Bluestar Alliance, and paid $49 million to resurrect the Sharper Image brand. So now, in addition to its online presence, there are plans for Sharper Image goods to be distributed in Best Buy, J.C. Penney and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Photo Credit: dizfunkshinal
Hipsters across the country were in mourning last year when Polaroid announced it was done producing instant cameras and would be shuttering the last of its film manufacturing plants. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy (for the second time in a decade) and was bought up by liquidators. Then, at the beginning of this year, the company debuted a new digital camera that could print pictures instantly, in an attempt to revive their brand.
At the same time, many were delighted to learn that old Polaroid instant cameras would be on sale again starting in the middle of 2010. This plan was not made by company execs, but rather by an independent cult of Polaroid enthusiasts who bought up the last film manufacturing plants and have been working tirelessly to bring the old film technology back to life. It remains to be seen how profitable this plan can be, but for now, hipsters can rest easy.
Photo Credit: ofeverydaylife
At the beginning of this year Circuit City, one of the largest electronics chains, announced it would be liquidated and closed all of its 567 stores. Then, at the end of May, Systemax, a large consumer electronics retailer, bought the rights to the Circuit City brand and announced that the original Circuit City Web site would begin selling products again.
Even though Circuit City is only online now, it has racked up enough profits to help Systemax emerge as a serious competitor to big retail chains like Best Buy. Of course, Systemax also had one other ace in the hole, the next company on our list.
Photo Credit: F33
CompUSA went bankrupt more than two years ago, but was bought out by Systemax at the beginning of last year, for about $30 million. Since then, CompUSA has returned with dozens of stores across the country. The stores are completely remodeled, feature more competitively priced products and in-store Web access that allows users to essentially shop around and compare online while staring at the products in the store.
Amusingly, CompUSA and Circuit City used to be rivals, but now the two companies are working together to make Systemax a big name in electronics (though few people will ever see Systemax’s name on the shelves.)
Photo Credit: qnr
Being a journalist and all, I feel inclined to include at least one publication that has managed to return to shelves after folding. Vibe magazine, founded by Quincy Jones, folded during the summer this year. But less than two months later, the publication was bought by InterMedia Partners, a publishing group.
They announced that Vibe would continue to publish content, mostly online, though there would be print issues released quarterly. Let this serve as some inspiration for all the other ailing magazines and newspapers out there.
Photo Credit: Vibe.com
Bankruptcy isn’t just reserved for retailers. Earlier this year, the Phoenix Coyotes, a hockey team, filed for Chapter 11, catching the NHL off guard. The team was auctioned off and bought by the NHL for $140 million, but the Coyotes are still struggling to find new ownership and a clean future. According to the NHL commissioner, this should happen by the end of the current hockey season.
Photo Credit: xoque