Feb 27 2017

Why FYE In Wolfchase Closed – My Thoughts

This article is more for the interest of local people who were fans of this particular FYE store, moreso than the average reader, but I still thought it worth publishing here for what it’s worth in the long run. While I do know people who were involved in the store, everything I propose here in this article is my own opinion based on what I was made aware of, and some educated guesses based on the nature of media these days. This isn’t discussing corporate decision, but simply the reasons that a store might be slated for closure when such wouldn’t seem at first glance to be necessary.

Let’s try to figure out the details you may not have thought about with regard to one simple question: Why did the Wolfchase FYE close? Everyone seemed rather surprised to see that it was closing after all these years, and everyone asked “why is it closing” when it was discussed, so it’s not a trivial question – people really do want to know.

Of note, this article has gotten positive feedback from former FYE employees, with me being told I was quite accurate in this, within what I could know. (This is of course being written after the publication of this article).

I have learned that many FYE stores are closing or have already closed recently, so it seems the owners of FYE, Trans World Entertainment, are downsizing this portion of their business. I’m  certain many of the points I bring up in this article will apply company wide, but I still state that these opinions are only for the particular Wolfchase store and not for the entire company, and again, are only my thoughts based on what I know and what I can guess.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

1: Wolfchase Mall itself:

From what I was able to gather, rent at Wolfchase is steadily going up. Shoppers may notice stores moving locations, from upstairs to downstairs, and away from anchor stores to more central locations; this isn’t just a random change, this is intentionally done by stores when slots become open to get cheaper rent.

I heard that FYE was planning on moving to another location, but since one could not be secured, they opted to just close the store down completely. Again, this is just a rumor, but it is still a plausible idea. Regardless, the cost of renting a space in the mall has increased over the years, and eventually it has become too high to be profitable for a store like FYE.

This would be the most critical reason, and the other issues I point out feed back into this heavily. If you have to “blame” a company for this (if it means that much to you), then you can blame Simon Property Group, the owners and operators of Wolfchase Galleria.

2: Low profit margins on the products sold:

While prices on things sold at FYE were generally high, which you may now be able to guess was to cover the high cost of mall rent, the profit margins on the products are actually quite small. See, clothing stores, as an example, get goods at next to nothing in cost, then sell them for a massive profit – CD’s, DVD’s, and all the collectables they sold cost much more per unit to buy, so only a small fraction of the sales cost is raw profit. The end result is that the store must sell much more stuff to be able to actually make their money back and be able to pay the bills, employee wages, etc, as well as report some money back into the parent company. It’s a hell of a hard battle, especially when fighting against…

3: Online Streaming / Piracy, and online shopping:

Digital content distribution, no matter how you look at it, is taking a bite out of the physical media scene. It’s so much more convenient to just download or stream a movie or music than it is to buy the CD or DVD. Still, people do purchase physical media, many preferring it, so it isn’t a total loss, but still, it’s a much different scene than it was 20 years ago, with digital piracy providing an additional hit to all media fronts. That isn’t the only piracy that’s causing an issue though.

One can also add online shopping to this, as it gives people a much cheaper option to buy given items. This is thanks to the minimal overhead that a website and warehouse can have compared to a physical store. They can afford to sell things at super low prices, but to do so you lose out on the experience, which is what made FYE what it was to us locally.

4: Theft:

A universal problem for commerce is theft, and Wolfchase has been getting very bad about this recently. The area, sadly, is going downhill, and of course that includes higher theft rates. This is money walking out of the store, and I shouldn’t have to explain how this impacts things. It may not be too grand an issue when you look at raw numbers, but it can be just enough to hurt a store profit wise, and make it just not worth keeping that location open.

Yes, theft happens constantly. This is a fact of life, but people seem to treat it as so common that it doesn’t affect stores. It does, more than you would know sometimes.

5: Over a year of poor management:

The Wolfchase FYE store used to be one of the best places to hang out, and enjoy yourself. Sure it was a store but the workers there made you feel welcome, and wanted you to enjoy your time even if you didn’t necessarily buy anything – they knew you would come back when you could and get something that you did want, if you found it. A management change a few years ago, however, resulted in the place becoming, honestly, quite hostile – reports of people complaining about the store manager basically stalking them, making them feel uneasy, of associates asking “are you going to buy something” implying people were wasting space in the store, or worse, trying to steal, and just a generally unfriendly nature. Would you like to be treated like a suspected criminal as you shopped at a place you did every week? Didn’t think so.

This alienates regular customers, the lifeblood of a store. Once people decide not to go to a store they shopped at regularly, over time, the impact on profit shows, and it’s damn hard to win back former customers.

Anime Days, as mentioned in the previous article, all but disappeared during this time, and when they did happen few people showed up and many in the staff were quite rude to those who did, me included.

None of these people were there as of the store closing, however – the staff changed to quite the great group of people, but it was too little too late – things had already seemed to go too far downhill. It was too late for the “happy” atmosphere the store once had to be recovered.

So, what does it all mean?

Oddly, I don’t have any way to properly conclude this article. These 5 main issues are what, I think, directly drove the store to close. Again, people acted quite surprised to hear that it was closing, and inquired as to why, so clearly the store mattered to people, but oddly, it didn’t seem to matter enough. High product costs, high mall rent, a changing media ecosystem, and the failure of the “friendly” nature of the store seemed to compound and in the end, combined with the parent company deciding to close down many locations, put this store on the chopping block.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it should go without mention that the cost of items in the store was a side effect of the cost of doing business in the mall, and not them charging too much just because they wanted to. A common statement when a store like this closes is they would have stayed in business if their stuff wasn’t so expensive: no, as stated above, the store would go out of business faster that way! They have to cover the cost of location rent, employees, utilities, and other expenses you or I wouldn’t even think of.

As of today, February 27th, the store had ceased to be – postal service paperwork was turned in which redirected any remaining mail for the store to another location, and the last merchandise and equipment was shipped back to the parent company for whatever will happen to it.

The above reasons could affect any store, and certainly have before, and will again – such are, with variation, usually the normal key reasons that a place simply can’t stay open. It’s the nature of retail, the rough end of such.

That’s the end of that. It’s funny how a simple music store meant so much to so many people, but the way the store was, and the time many people spent there over the 15+ years it was the there made it special, at least to a certain group of people.

It is what it is though, still just, in the long run, a footnote; another store closing in what might as well be a dying mall.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.xadara.com/why-fye-in-wolfchase-closed-my-thoughts/

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