Recession Watch: Bye bye, Virgin UPDATED

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We’ve reported on this before, but one of the few remaining Virgin Megastores is to close soon, since designer clothes are more profitable than CDs, DVDs and graphic novels:

Last June, a Vornado executive told Reuters that the store would shut down in the first quarter of 2009. The decision to close the store appears related to real estate and the value connected to the location. That executive was quoted as saying that Virgin pays only $54 per square-foot when the market rent in the area is about $700 a square foot.

So, while the store, which does an estimated $55 million in annual volume, is profitable to the tune of $6 million, according to sources, the space would be even more profitable for its owner with a higher rent tenant. Vornado bought the 180,000 square foot retail component of the Bertelsmann building, which houses the Times Square store, in 2006, and will lease the space to Century 21, according to reports.


With Times Square closing, there are only five Virgin stores in the US, and the Union SQuare outlet is the last big music store in Manhattan. The Virgin Megastores were early adopters of graphic novels, and one of the first bookstores to rack them in quantities alongside other books. While the number of comics sold at these five remaining stores may be negligible, symbolically, it’s yet another sad day at retail.

No wonder Marvel is putting its money back into the direct market.

And a word to the wise: you may find fewer people than you think are still willing to pay $60 for a tank top and $400 for a blouse.

Actually, as reported in the NY Times, the space is going over to Forever 21, a cheap, trendy clothing store. Blechhhhhhhh.

Comments

  1. I may have mentioned this the last time you reported on it, but the Times Square Virgin store is where I fled to after attempting to get Harry Potter 7 at the Union Square B&N. Instead of crushing hysteria, there was pleasant music, available cafe seats and four people in line. Times Square will never serve that function again, for a wide variety of reasons.

  2. Century 21 the real estate company or Century 21 the department store? Non-NYers may be confused (heck, I’m confused, and I work here.)

  3. From what I’ve seen at the Virgin Stores, they had a Direct Market account (they participated in at least one Free Comic Book Day event).

    The Times Square store is HUGE. On the cafe level is the entrance to a multiplex movie theater which is located below the store. So that’s four levels of retail. Century 21 will be a good fit for the tourist crowd which predominates Times Square, and will help C21 recover from the reduced traffic at their Ground Zero location.

  4. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m almost positive there was a corrected report saying it’s going to be a Forever 21, not a Century 21.

  5. James Moar says:

    As for the British Virgin Megastores, they changed their name to Zavvi about 18 months ago. Now they’re in administration (UK equivalent of Chapter 11) and running what looks for all the world like a closing-down sale.

  6. The Beat says:

    Evie: Oh well, never mind.

    Yyyyyyyech. Just yech yech yech.

    I hope the Union Square store stays open just as a theme park.

  7. 10 years ago there were two Virgin Megastores near where I lived. One of them closed several years ago, but the other stuck around. Sadly, when I popped in there for Christmas shopping, they had just started the store-closing-everything-must-go sale.

  8. At least this means in future I will no longer go to the wrong Virgin. Yes, genius that I am, my brother said to meet him at the Union Square Virgin and I went and stood outside the Times Square one wondering where the hell the was. I blame NYCC for frazelling my brain.

    (Side note: he later ignored my advice and got lost in Green-Wood cemetary, so I figure that makes us about even in the stupid stakes.)

  9. I love the Times Square store. Open till a million o’clock with DJs on the weekend for Pure Tourist Mayhem. They also have great comics, figures, and awesome import CDs which sometime went on sale. They also have the absolute shadiest men’s bathroom/meth lab I have ever seen in my entire life. And I’m from Cleveland.

  10. Close the Times Square store??

    But where else in the hell am I going to get my Mike Oldfield fix?

    ~

    Coat

  11. Trish M. says:

    The Union Square location is not going to be around much longer, unless all those reports I’ve read on Curbed.com & Racked.com for many months are now false.

  12. michael says:

    the only good thing about the Times Sqaure location was that it had free facilities for a restroom when needed.

    & may the real estate powers that be in New York go down in flames…(not actual, symbolic)

  13. Pedro Bouça says:

    The only Virgin Megastore I would miss is the one in Paris-Champs Elysées. Insane as it may seem for a tourist hotspot like Paris, the darn city simply closes down about 8 p.m. and you can’t buy a graphic novel ANYWHERE except on that store after that time.

    I’ve been in Paris for work reasons a few times and that place was the only one where I could get my french comics fix after work hours. If it ever closes down, it will be sorely missed!

    Best,
    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

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