Hello, Amazon! All six of the remaining Virgin Megastores in the US will be shutting down by summer:
After nearly two decades of rocking the music world with a mix of brash stunts and splashy CD releases, the remaining six Virgin Megastores in the United States will shut their doors this summer in another blow to recorded music.
The hipster shops received their branding from billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson and remained profitable, but the real estate firms that own the U.S. chain determined they could command higher rent from new tenants.
“I’ve been pushing back a little bit on the notion that this is just another casualty of the music industry,” said Simon Wright, the chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group Inc.
The two stores in New York, at Times Square and Union Square, were both profitable, but not as profitable as the planned new tenants, a Forever 21 or –gah — a CVS? Yet another case of greedy real estate developers chipping away at the fabric of life as it was once lived.
We can’t speak for the other US Virgin locations — San Francisco, Denver, Orlando, and Hollywood — but this means that in Manhattan, the only remaining big places to buy a CD or DVD will be B&N and Borders — and we wouldn’t count on the last named being around much longer either. By our reckoning, the last freestanding music store in Manhattan is Other Music on 4th Street, which got its start as a small, quirky indie alternative to then-giant Tower across the street. Turns out the quirky place is the one where riffling through the racks is possible.
While online shopping, piracy, and Netflix made leaving your house to gather electronic entertainment unfashionable, we still find all of this horrifically sad. Don’t misunderstand — we only buy a few physical CDs a year, but it was always exciting to go to the Virgin store and see all of the physical world of pop culture laid out in front of you, from giant posters for the latest American Idol grad, to the new Home Improvement boxed sets, to comics and books and…stuff. The actual proximity of clashing visions and ideas was — and is — exciting and inspiring, far more so than displays of more skanky clothes to meet guys in.
Maybe we’re just overoptimistic, or nuts, or something, but we totally see the best comics shops — like Forbidden Planet, just a few steps down from Union Square Virgin — as the new record stores, the cool place where you went once a week to get your fix, look “cool” and check out trends. The audiences are far smaller, to be sure, but in the current retail environment, size doesn’t really matter.
It’s youth cultural shift of a seismic proportion from even 15 years ago. But perhaps it helps explain why comics shops sales aren’t sliding quite as quickly as the rest of the economy.