Buzz buzz: First things first. Those rumors about Biz Buzz moving to Sundays are true. Beginning Sunday, readers will find a much-expanded Biz Buzz column and a business section filled with relevant local news, along with state and national news of interest. It’s a return to tradition. Biz Buzz began 17 years ago as a Sunday column.
Retail retreating: Galveston County and the Clear Lake area continue to feel the fallout as national chains shutter stores at a dizzying pace. Industry observes have various theories, but mostly point to the simple fact that the nation is “over-stored” at a time when more people shop online. Whatever the reason, longtime retailers with familiar names are fading fast from the local landscape.
Short circuit: When RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, most of the local stores survived the bloodletting as the Fort Worth-based electronics retailer closed 2,400 stores. This time, it’s a different story. RadioShack in late March said it was closing 200 stores and would evaluate its options for the remaining 1,300 as it again announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Of those remaining locations, Sprint Corp. said it would turn “several hundred” of them into Sprint-only stores, but declined to give a specific number, The Associated Press reported.
In 2015, hedge fund Standard General LP acquired the RadioShack brand for $26.2 million, essentially saving it. The acquisition allowed Standard General to rebuild and rebrand stores around a streamlined inventory to be sold alongside Sprint Corp. wireless products.
The local RadioShack casualties include the 4714 Seawall Blvd. store in Galveston; the 2920 Interstate 45 store in League City; and the 3533 Palmer Highway store in Texas City, which already has been transformed into a Sprint store in keeping with RadioShack’s latest survival strategy.
The La Marque store closed in the 2015 Chapter 11 reorganization. Employees answering phones at the Galveston store said the shop would remain open, but on Wednesday an “Everything Must Go” sign was fluttering in the wind.
The RadioShack in Kemah remained open Wednesday and employees there said it wasn’t among the closures. Officials at the corporate office, where the Texas Workforce Commission reported 150 layoffs are planned, did not return phone calls. RadioShack was once a place consumers would shop for batteries or obscure electronic parts. But the retailer over the years lost ground to online sites, including Amazon.com.
Out of step: Meanwhile, Payless ShoeSource said Tuesday it had filed for bankruptcy and would immediately close 400 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico, including the one at 2600 FM 1764 in La Marque. The fate of stores in Galveston and League City weren’t immediately available.
Payless, which has 4,400 stores in 30 countries and employs nearly 22,000 people, has been in talks with its lenders for months over a restructuring plan, according to reports.
Noodle negativity: The national trend to cut stores hit again, this time on the restaurant scene when Noodles & Company, 19325 I-45 in the Clear Lake area, closed.
The restaurant chain, known for international noodle and pasta dishes, announced in February it would close restaurants that weren’t meeting revenue expectations.
The Broomfield, Colo.-based company planned to close 55 underperforming locations in the first and second quarters of 2017 to “eliminate the negative cash flow of these restaurants and improve overall performance.”
Noodles & Company said the restaurants are all company-owned and many of them opened in the past two or three years in markets where the restaurant isn’t as well known.
Bye-bye bebe: Retail shop bebe in Baybrook Mall is among all 200 stores the women’s clothing chain will close across the United States as it shifts all its business online, the company reported late last month.
Bebe primarily operates in malls. It had no significant debt, but had lost about $200 million over the past four years, according to news service Bloomberg.
Still standing: Meanwhile, major department stores Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney have all announced stores closures this year, but none so far in this area.
Coming Sunday: The need for more space drives a car dealer to snap up a sizable League City parcel; new retailers and restaurants flock to the island’s downtown and there’s more news about a long-neglected building in Galveston.