A&B Sound closes last Island store
Posted 01 September 2008 - 10:16 PM
Millstream Village outlet had been open a short time
Published: Monday, September 01, 2008
Music retailer A&B Sound abruptly closed its last store on Vancouver Island on Saturday, marking the end of an era for a once-mighty B.C. retail icon.
The company's Langford store at the Millstream Village shopping centre sat locked and shuttered yesterday.
Staff at the nearby Tom Lee Music and Valhalla Pure Outfitters said the large A&B Sound sign was removed during the long weekend and the store closed without fanfare Saturday. The Langford location opened in December, selling CDs, DVDs, stereo equipment, car audio and home-theatre systems.
The Langford site was one of only five remaining A&B Sound stores in Western Canada, following the closure of the downtown Victoria and Nanaimo locations earlier this year. Three stores in the Vancouver area remained open yesterday, with another in Edmonton.
Langford store manager Austin Mayo would not comment to the Times Colonist when reached by phone yesterday. He said past media reports that suggested the beleaguered company was on the verge of collapse had hurt business.
"I don't have to explain to people what happened," he said, adding only that he felt employees and customers had been treated fairly with the closure. A company representative could not be reached for comment.
Millstream Village had removed the A&B Sound logo from its retail displays yesterday. Sitings Realty Ltd., which handles leasing for the shopping complex, expressed little surprise at the closure.
"That's news to me they closed, but not unexpected," said president Stephen A. Knight. "In our industry, I don't think there was a feeling of longevity to A&B Sound with the closings they've had recently."
The closing of the Langford store comes 11 days after electronic retail giant Best Buy announced it would open two stores in Greater Victoria in direct competition.
But the company's future had been shaky for years.
At its peak, A&B Sound operated 21 stores throughout Western Canada. But intense competition from large retail outlets like Wal-Mart, combined with lacklustre music sales as Internet downloading flourished, led the company to file for court protection from creditors in 2005.
The Steiner family, which founded the company in 1959, sold it to Richmond-based computer manufacturer Seanix Technology in 2005. Then Seanix began closing stores.
A&B Sound closed its 30-year-old downtown Victoria store in April and offered the 16 employees jobs in the new Langford location. The company also closed stores in Kelowna, Delta and Langley. In July, it shuttered its 20-year-old Nanaimo location, a windowless purple building in the city's downtown that attracted lineups down the street for its Boxing Day sales.
Two Vancouver stores were given the axe in mid-August, prompting predictions of doom from experts. "I think they're done," retail analyst David Ian Gray told the Vancouver Sun Aug. 13. "They had to close stores, for sure, but they're getting to a point where their brand is lost, and I just don't see them being able to restart."
Gray said A&B Sound was unable to differentiate itself from mainstream stores or offer people a compelling reason to shop there in the era of Internet music downloads.
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