The Curse of Tower Records

Jim Lokay at Channel 5 tweets the Best Buy at Newbury and Mass. Ave. is shut today and will re-open tomorrow only to liquidate its stock.



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    Interesting. This must be

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    Interesting. This must be part of the plan former CEO Brian Dunn put into place before abruptly resigning for personal indescretions.

    The Times has more here.

    Closing a few hundred of

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    Closing a few hundred of their less profitable stores.

    Not yet

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    But it is further signs of the coming death of retail.

    Not all retail is going to die, but with internet retail offering the same exact service for cheaper as the big box stores, we're in the starting wave of that models deaths. Best Buy is just a symptom. Big box book stores have been the hardest hit already.

    If I'd have to wager, we're going to see a revitalization of smaller, service and product focused stores in the next 20 years, where shopping and CS attracts a premium and walk in business. Cheap and semi-quick is going to fall exclusively on internet purchases and overnight deliveries.

    Why bother going to Best Buy and pick out electronics from people who know absolutely nothing of them, that try selling you useless extra overpriced shit, and it costs you more time and money than using the net?

    Stores are going to have to downsize and offer higher quality customer service and product value at reasonable prices to compete. lots of cheap products with a cheap, ignorant staff ain't gonna work anymore. Especially when internet retailers can dump savings on floor staff and physical locations into having better customer service than a box store does!


    The problem with Best Buy is that they know their most profitable customers are the ones who won't bat an eye at things Best Buy loads in for "pure profit," such as optimization (really loading bloatware and crapware) via Geek Squad, scratch protection for games, magazine subscriptions, and ridiculously high "protection plans" for cheap items.

    This is why Best Buy is failing - because of the high pressure to sell "pure profit" items at the expense of customer service. That's why you see people going to an online store, buying items without any pressure at all, and getting said items within a few days.

    You are also correct on customer service - whenever I have a problem with an item online, it's resolved quickly. That's because you have happier CSRs who have been told to make the customer satisfied, not to ambush them, roll their eyes, glance back and forth on their cellphones, and so forth - when they're not trying to upsell you on something.


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    This is why I won't shop at Best Buy anymore. I had a four year service plan on a TV and took it in for repair for the first time on the day the service plan expired. They told me the service plan actually expires the day before the date on the receipt (seriously?), but after I fought with them for a while they agreed to take it. They gave it back to me in the same condition - nothing was improved. I got a followup email from them asking how it was, and I checked the box saying "Unsatisfied" which was supposed to have a representative contact me, but they never did.

    Contrast this with REI. I broke a headphone cable ($50, custom for a snowboard helmet) and brought it in a year after I bought it, explaining that it was an accident but was entirely my fault that it broke. They exchanged it for free, without a receipt.

    I buy everything I can from Amazon rather than Best Buy, but if I can get it at REI, I go there instead, even when it means paying a higher price.

    Not officially, but this is

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    Not officially, but this is the beginning of the end. They simply can't compete.

    I always found it strange

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    I always found it strange that they opened this one a mere 1/4 mile from the one at the landmark center

    walk down Newbury street

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    A lot of shops in the area make you wonder how they can afford the rents.

    I've always chucked 80% of it up to rich spouses and trust fund babies needed something to do with their time.

    Not sure if it's still there, but there was a shop selling plastic beads at one time.

    Actually, it's not locals

    Actually, it's not locals keeping the luxe shops in business, it's overseas visitors. I've heard this time and time again from store clerks. Boston is a bargain for rich foreigners of certain countries when you take into consideration the currency exchange rates, taxes, etc.

    I may be wrong - but didn't

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    I may be wrong - but didn't the Newbury St store open *before* the Landmark one? Seems to me the Landmark store is the newer one. (Or did the Landmark store open when the Newbury space was still Virgin Records?)


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    was there several years before Newbury.


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    The Virgin Megastore was there until the close of 2006, I think. Can't remember when BB at Landmark opened, but I do think it was before that.

    I know they're closing some stores but...

    I always thought that was a particularly bad location for a Best Buy. I think big box stores are made for shopping plazas with parking lots. You need smaller and more specialized shops in that location.. Tower worked while people were still buying music, because of all the young people who were there, and because you can carry tapes, records, CD's, etc on the T without having to organize a delivery.

    Strange location

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    I too thought that was a very strange location for a Best Buy type of box store. I'm trying to search my memory now for what was there on the ground floor before Tower Records. I know that on the floors above was once a recording studio called Newbury Sound.

    And remember that gimmicky thing when it was Tower Records of putting stars in the cement for local music performers like it was some sort of walk of fame, and the performers would show up to hawk their latest CD? I don't know if they few they put there are even still there. What a joke that was.

    It was

    I found a photo in the 1950s MIT archives & lined it up with a comp Googlemaps shot of the Best Buy. Says Kentucky Tavern on a Ballantine Ale & Beer sign.

    Best Buy vs Tower

    A Best Buy without so much as a loading zone seemed pointless.

    Tower also worked in that location because, in the days before cheap, fast, digital music copying, you could get your homework assignment at Berklee, walk across the street, and buy the record.

    I still think the best plan for that building would have been to let Berklee buy it and build the pedestrian air bridge.

    Having Trader Joes move two

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    Having Trader Joes move two blocks to that corner for a bigger space would be nice. With the subway and bus stops right there it would more convenient too.

    Instead of the shoebox TJ's they have on Boylston St?

    Of all the TJ's I go to, the one on Boylston Street gets very cramped on Saturdays, mainly because everyone decides to go food shopping at once. At the Brookline and Cambridge stores, they're much bigger, and even if they do get crowded, I don't seem as claustrophobic waiting in line.

    Moving Trader Joe's to the space BBY is soon to vacate would be great - they could even make it a superstore if they wanted to with two floors.

    Please let it be a TJs with

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    Please let it be a TJs with wine and beer. Or is that asking too much of the NABB?

    And the lines at the Boylston store are long almost all the time. I don't bother unless I happen to be in the immediate neighborhood early on a weekday. Lunchtime, after work, weekends, it's a zoo.

    No booze - TJs has their three already

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    The TJ's in Cambridge, Brookline, and Framingham already have alcohol sales. With the three-location limit statewide, they'd have to move one of the licenses if they wanted to sell alcohol--even assuming they could get past the NIMBY Association of the Back Bay....

    (Whole Foods moved their license from the Prospect St store to River St, but that was within Cambridge and made much more sense; Prospect is a tiny store, much like the Boylston TJ's.)

    Three-license limit is being increased

    This bill, which Governor Patrick signed last year, increased the number of package store licenses that one owner is allowed to hold statewide from 3 to 5. The limit will go up to 7 in 2016, then to 9 in 2020.


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    I'm surprised at all the turnover here, given what a high-visibility storefront it is. You couldn't ask for a location with more foot traffic. Plus, with Jack's Drum Shop and Daddy's Junky Music closing, there's probably more business for guitar strings, drum sticks and cables, no? Maybe those aren't high margin items... Even the building itself is an architectural landmark--Frank Gehry designed it.

    But I suppose Tower/Virgin/Best Buy all had larger problems than location--namely the collapse of retail CD sales and, in Best Buy's case, the ouster of their possibly philandering CEO, the proximity of the Landmark/South Bay stores, and aggressive competition from Amazon.

    Would be nice to see a more stable retailer get in there and do justice to the place. It's a primo spot.

    The building was not designed

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    The building was not designed by Gehry. It was built in the 20s as the Transportation Building. Gehry oversaw the adaptive reuse and exterior rehab in the mid-80s.



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    It used to be two music stores on the first floor, one facing Mass Ave I can't remember the name of, and Wurlitzer Music on the first two or three floors on the Newbury Street side. Then there was Newbury Sound on the 6th floor, a cool recording school back in the day to record your band's tape.


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    Are you thinking of Pamplone's music store? I can't rememeber if it faced the Mass Ave side. I seem to recall an entrance on Newbury Street. I bought a couple of guitars in there over the years.


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    I actually liked Pamplone's a bit better than Wurlitzer and Daddy's. They had a store in Medford also, if I recall. Too bad all of them are now gone. The Guitar Center is to be avoided. Suitable for 15 year old heavy metal teenyboppers.

    I'm not surprised

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    Every time I went into this Best Buy for something common, they didn't have it. One time I checked the in-store inventory, went to get it, and couldn't find it on the shelf. I was apathetically told, "Eh, must have been stolen then. Happens all the time."

    And also, I always thought it was silly that they tried to sell low-quality musical instruments when they were spitting distance from three of the best music schools in the country. I mean, I doubt anyone from Berklee is buying guitar strings there, and I doubt anyone from either Conservatory is buying drumsticks there.

    The main loss of this Best Buy: it was my chosen bathroom before getting on the T at Hynes.

    I've never had a problem with

    I've never had a problem with this Best Buy. Over the years we've bought 2 floor model HDTV's and saved a bundle, picked up a few inexpensive laptops as Xmas gifts, a Wii + games, photo paper, camera case, random cables, and on and on. Sure at times they were out of stock, but we checked online before we went there. It's pretty standard to call and check to see if something is in stock before you get there, right? Maybe you're used to mega mall big box stores like Walmart which have all the space in the world to store loads of inventory? In a city, space is limited. This shouldn't be a surprise. And here's a tip: if you need to pee, there's a public toilet in front of the Copley Square library. Good luck to you!

    Hey other anon, I actually am

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    Hey other anon,

    I actually am used to shopping at the Landmark Center location, as I lived in the Fenway for many years.

    My complaint was actually about the online checking. I did check online, only to find that the merchandise had been stolen from the store. I always ended up heading over to Landmark Center anyway, which is why this store was unnecessary.

    But thanks for assuming that since I thought this particular Best Buy was a substandard location, I'm from the suburbs. Obviously, in your sad little world, criticizing a Best Buy is akin to insulting an entire city. To be so sensitive to criticism of a chain store, you must be an employee. (Or now former employee, because your store was substandard and got shut down.)

    Virgin Records

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    I loved the Virgin Records store that was there.

    Not sure what would work in that location, and who knows what kind of rent they are looking for. The offices on the upper floors were converted to condos in 2006. Not sure who owns the retail space now.

    I was in one of the units a few times, beautifully done and wonderful views.

    "HD" radio is a sham

    If they did the L band instead, people may have actually bought digital radio and they would have freed up even more spectrum for other uses.

    Anyone who believes digital is automatically better quality is a sucker. Digital means digital. It doesn't mean high-res / lossless or no compression..

    An argument for hybrid digital HD radio. At Best Buy? Or where?

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    For radio listeners how would the L band how would the L band work in practice?... For example a) getting a radio?... b) finding local stations?...

    Compare an argument for hybrid digital HD radio

    and David Pogue

    I stopped shopping there... soon as I had to argue with magazine companies. They were sending me things tied to my purchases at the Newbury St. Best Buy. "But sir, it's a free trial." Apparently they didn't understand how big the library on Boylston is, and how free it also is to use.

    Im really surprised theyre

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    Im really surprised theyre closing this one. Even if its not profitable, the location is more of an ad, simply being on such a well known street for high end stores.

    As for the chain itself, Best Buy is morphing into an appliance store. Im in California right now, and last year they completely redid a Best Buy here. 40% of the store is appliances (high end fridges and stoves and such). CDs and DVds get a tiny little corner in the far back. Cell phone section also grew a lot.

    I knew it was a matter of time

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    The escalators have been out of service for months, and there was never any sign that they were going to be fixed. That was a clear indication of the priority that location had for the chain.

    Not that this would happen

    But what about the area colleges turning the first floor into a performance space for their students? I would support a space to listen to live non electric music. Maybe some jazz or classical student concerts.

    Is this needed?

    Is this actually needed? The area colleges already have performance spaces for their students - for example, Berklee has Cafe 939, around the corner on Boylston Street (in addition to a variety of other performance spaces), and the New England Conservatory has half a dozen recitals per evening, at Jordan Hall and elsewhere. Check the schools' websites - there are tons of opportunities for you to listen to jazz or classical student concerts.