Circuit City: Sign Of The Times

Susan Page
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Wednesday - February 04, 2009
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“GOING OUT OF BUSINESS,” the large banner said. It made me gasp, even though the rumors had been circulating for awhile that Circuit City was done - my Circuit City where I dashed into weekly for a USB cable or some other accessory to support my tech addiction.

Sure enough, the cavernous retail space next to Pearlridge Center has begun the sad process of folding up shop. It’s just one more sign of the economic times we’re in.

Walking through the main store to the escalator, I picked up a clue: the vastness of the store. Lease rent commands a big percentage of retail business cost, and Circuit City’s must’ve been enormous. Did it really need a store big enough to hold a rock concert in?

Back in the 1980s business was booming across the country. In 1989, things were so good in my business, I doubled our retail space (at Ala Moana Center!) to take on more customers and add a photo studio. Good economies breed expansion. More staff was hired, more advertising done.

But in about 1992 the recession that hit California earlier hit Hawaii, and business began to slip. In 1993, I sold Susan Page Modeling to focus on another franchise business. The new owner, savvy and forward thinking, cut the space in half - and the business is still around after 24 years.


Being quick to react to slowing sales is one key to surviving, and sometimes thriving, in economic down times. Those who aren’t will sink like a stone, taking employees with them. The bigger the business, the harder it is to react quickly.

Hawaii has enjoyed enormous business growth over the past 20 years, despite some inevitable cyclical economic hiccups. Just look at Waikiki, Waikele and Ko Olina (also Maui and the Big Island). Look at the major retail and hotel chains that continue to invest in Hawaii’s future economic growth.

Remember when Kmart opened on Nimitz in the late ‘80s? It was an event. Perry and Price did a remote KSSK broadcast from the site, and traffic backed up all the way to Alakea. Kmart took a shot at our tiny state, and all the big retail chains took note. Now we have them all.

But did they over-reach and under-plan? Can they ride out the rough seas ahead or were they only good when the good times rolled?

Our economic woes are the culmination of too much debt, too little planning (budgeting) and a society that wants it all - now. This is a private and public sector, family and individual affliction. We see it, want it, charge

it and worry about paying for that 60-inch plasma screen TV after the Super Bowl.

This isn’t how my parents lived. They bought what they could afford, planned for major purchases, and when they died were debt-free and even had a little left for my sister and me.

I don’t buy into the word crisis shrieked at us by our new chief executive, Congress and the media. If you think we’re in crisis, please join me to visit the street children of Nairobi, Kenya, or the child sex slaves in Thailand or the mothers dying of AIDS in Swaziland.

What would an $819 billion bailout do in their world? Save lives, stop disease, feed starving children - millions of them.

I see this economy as Gov. Linda Lingle said in her recent address - a challenge. America has been through critically challenging times throughout her history. Government has tried many methods to manipulate recovery from wars, depression, recession, natural disasters and attacks.

But ultimately the solution lies in the resilience, discipline, generosity and ingenuity of the American individual.

Give Americans room to create without imposing punishing taxes, and eventually the economy will right itself, and they will help their neighbors in need as they always have. It’s the “independence” America’s founders were keen on.

More government isn’t the solution, but the problem. Regulating a greed-obsessed Wall Street is one thing, but over-reacting by growing an already bloated government in the name of a “stimulus package” is pushing us toward socialism.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later, you run out of other peoples’ money.” Further, “When you hold back the successful, you penalize those who need help.”

Finally, Americans, including businesses and government, need to rethink our “credit gone wild” ways. We need to budget, save and plan. It’s common-sense dollars and cents.

The real stimulus to economic recovery? The human need to survive and the hope for a better future.

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