Warner Bros. Studio Store Chain To Close
We're going to shop at Montgomery Wards instead!
We had been hearing rumors that the America Online (AOL) purchase of Time/Warner was really that; a purchase and not a merger.
Gerald Levin, CEO of Time/Warner had, for years, successfully engineered all sorts of deals to keep himself in power. Levin was the master of the entertainment merger. He used mergers whenever Time/Warner was losing money and/or when the stock was undervalued. His most famous merger was with Turner Broadcasting which left Levin in control and made Time/Warner a stronger company.
When news of the AOL buyout broke out many of the titans in the entertainment industry wondered if it really was a buyout or if this was some new scheme by Gerald Levin to, once again, takeover a successful company and somehow end up in control?
The way we found out was through our not-too-secret underground mole, Goddez Jade/Krissy, who masquerades as an employee at the Del Amo mall (in Torrance, California) location of a Warner Bros. Studio Store (WBSS). (What's with her 2 identities? Maybe she's Krissy by daytime & Goddez Jade by night?)
Krissy warned us, "I am sure that many have heard the rumors about WBSS closing down, well for the most part they weren't true. Then the AOL Time Warner merger (AOL take over is a better description) went through and someone at AOL said that the whole WBSS chain had to go! Hence in a matter of months we will no longer exist! We are not supposed to be telling the public this yet, because we know very little. All I know so far is that we have 30 days to see if there is a buyer who wants to buy the chain, when that 30 days is over, and if there is no buyer, we are history!"
Ahhh! There's nothing like reading the first hand reports of an operative out in the field!
This has all turned out to be true. It is a takeover by AOL. (Even Ted Turner seems to be in the process of being removed from his beloved networks!) And although the store chain has made some money in the past, it came down to whether or not AOL thought it needed to own physical locations to sell licensed products. In other words, the question was, do you need to own the stores to sell your Scooby Doo lunch boxes & Powerpuff Girl T-shirts or is it safer to have other stores sell them for you?
AOL, which is not used to the physical world, said no! And is closing down the chain. Time/Warner, by contrast, has owned hundreds of theater locations (Mann Theaters), parts of theme parks, movie studios, Time & CNN news bureaus throughout the world, etc. Warners has had experience in real estate, AOL has not.
It didn't help that industry analysts suggested that consumers have been over-saturated with character merchandise. Like the Izod design (overexposed in the 80s), Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, et al. are available everywhere and are now considered, "out."
AOL did try to find a buyer for the chain but there was little interest. There have been mixed signals about which way the American economy is going but there is only one opinion which matters to a chain like WBSS. Consumer confidence is definitely on a downturn and sales are down in every major consumer segment. This is no time to buy a chain that is dependent upon discretionary purchases.
So Krissie's report that, "It is rumored that most of the stores will remain open until their leases run out," seems to be exactly what's happening! Watch your local store for developments!
Warner Bros. Studio Store employees shouldn't feel so bad; when the Disney Store sales started to slump the Walt Disney Co., they too, tried to find a buyer (Sears) but couldn't agree on a price.
Speaking of the Disney Stores, they are going to hell! Their management is shocked that you don't want to purchase still yet another Mickey Mouse themed shirt or Winnie The Pooh pajamas. There must be something wrong with you! So Disney has embarked on a death march by having fewer per store employees, allowing more shoplifting and spending millions (!) to gut their fantasy theme look for more of a "The Gap" design. (Why do we think that this is a really bad idea?)
Meanwhile, Krissie laments, "So it seems that all our effort and hopes of WBSS being more Sailor Moon fan friendly has been in vain..." and "... I will be sure to update you when I have gained more knowledge of the situation. But like I said, Odds are we are history."
We here around the clubhouse kind of think that 2 other chains might step up to the bat to takeover where WBSS leaves off. We've always liked the Suncoast chain (it's got a good look, sells what we want and sometimes carries stuff we didn't expect) and we've been watching this new upstart, Wizards Of The Coast.
Wizards was started by some bored kids up in Seattle, Washington where it drizzles all day and there's nothing to do but play Collectible Card Games (CCG). (Hasbro bought the company but the founders still run it.) Some of their locations are VERY impressive. The University location in Seattle is 2 stories with a gothic castle interior. Arcade games are on the main floor with some serious CCG going on in the dungeon (basement). Wizards mostly carries games and some tapes but if they ever got serious about anime--watch out!
And where will Krissy end up? Maybe working alongside some new Sales Associates by the names of Gerald Levin or Ted Turner! (Nahhh! We're sure she'd get them fired on the spot!)