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Major retail chains that no longer exist

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Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

Major retail chains that no longer exist

At the start of 2020, many of America's beloved major retailers announced that they'd be closing their stores—Papyrus, Macy's, Pier 1 Imports, JCPenney—the list goes on. It's a pattern we've seen in retail history, time and time again. It starts with chains downsizing, attempting to manage their debt and restructuring. Some are able to recover. Many, however, end up filing for bankruptcy and/or getting bought out, and eventually folding.

It's a cycle we're familiar with. The economy improves and the market becomes saturated with choice. When the economy slows, dips, and dives, very few are able to survive. With each cycle, stores that we thought would always be around, stores that defined our childhoods, even our parents' childhoods, fizzle, fade, and become stuff of retail history. Some of these brands are iconic, like Tower Records, Thom McAn and Kids “R” Us.

Stacker, through a variety of sources, took a close look at the various major retail chains that no longer exist. For many of these chains, they were leading the pack at one point in history. Many of these stores even paved the way for their competitors, who eventually overtook them. Blockbuster, for example, was the largest video retailer in the entire world and was valued at $3 billion at its height. Now there’s only one left on the planet, in Bend, Oregon.

Other chains simply couldn't keep up with the rise of e-commerce sites like Amazon. Sharper Image, for example, was once the only place where tech-lovers could flock to play with high-end and niche gadgets. That is, until Amazon started selling similar products online.

While it's all part of evolution and Darwinian economics, the sad reality is that when these stores die, part of our memories go with them. Still, it's a lesson that most businesses have to learn: Adapt with the times or be lost forever. Are you ready to see the top 50 major retailers that no longer exist? Keep reading to see if your favorites made the list.

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Anthony92931 // Wikimedia Commons

Ames

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1958
- Year defunct: 2002
- Lifetime: 44 years

Before there was Walmart (four years before, to be exact), there was Ames. The discount retailer used to specialize in everything from apparel and electronics to housewares, patio furniture, jewelry and beyond. After 44 years of business, the corporation filed for bankruptcy, closing 327 stores and leaving 21,500 employees without jobs.

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Monorail Orange // Wikimedia Commons

Anchor Blue

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1972
- Year defunct: 2011
- Lifetime: 39 years

Anchor Blue, a teen clothing chain that launched in 1972, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after 39 years of being in business. At the time it closed, there were 117 stores, the majority of which were in California. However, at its height, the chain had more than 300 stores in the United States. Sadly, the retailer could not survive the economic downturn in 2009 and by 2011 decided to fold.

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Pat Greenhouse/TheBoston Globe // Getty Images

Blockbuster

- Category: video rental
- Year founded: 1985
- Year defunct: 2014
- Lifetime: 29 years

Founded in 1985, Blockbuster was once the entertainment giant of the world, with more than 65 million registered customers and more than 9,000 stores in the United States alone. At its peak, it was valued at $3 billion. But the rise of streaming services like Netflix began to eat away at its profits, and Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy with more than $900 million in debt.

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BrokenSphere // Wikimedia Commons

Borders

- Category: bookstore
- Year founded: 1978
- Year defunct: 2011
- Lifetime: 33 years

Back in 2011, Borders—a books and music megastore—had to close its 400 stores around the country when the company was liquidated. Unfortunately, much of Borders' stock was CDs and DVDs, at the critical tipping point when everyone was starting to go digital. Borders also failed to develop an online store, while other retailers like Barnes & Noble moved into the online space. The last year Borders actually made a profit was 2006. By 2011 it filed for bankruptcy.

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Builders Square

- Category: home improvement
- Year founded: 1970
- Year defunct: 1999
- Lifetime: 29 years

When Home Depot and Menards came into the picture, the sun was setting on Builders Square, one of the original large scale home improvement stores. In 2011, they filed for Chapter 11 and liquidated their remaining 117 stores. Builders Square had been struggling for a few years prior and was sold off by Kmart in 1997. Still, the company failed to turn a profit and eventually shut its doors.

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Chess King

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1968
- Year defunct: 1995
- Lifetime: 27 years

From 1968 to the mid-1980s, Chess King was, well, the king of young menswear. The company, founded by traveling salesmen from Thom McAn, had more than 500 locations around the country at its height. In the mid-1990s, the company began to struggle and eventually had to file for bankruptcy in 1995.

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Jonesdr77 // Wikimedia Commons

Circuit City

- Category: electronics
- Year founded: 1949
- Year defunct: 2009
- Lifetime: 60 years

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Circuit City was on top of the electronics game. They helped to pioneer the big box concept, making a one-stop shop for everything from televisions and stereos to refrigerators and automobiles (which spun off into CarMax). At its height, Circuit City had 1,520 stores across the United States and Canada. But in the 1990s, all began to change. CBS News' analysis attributed this to stores becoming too big, and therefore too impersonal, as well as the fact that it stopped paying commissions to its sales team. When the financial crisis struck, Circuit City began closing stories and laying off its employees, and eventually closed due to bankruptcy.

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BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune // Getty Images

CompUSA

- Category: electronics
- Year founded: 1984
- Year defunct: 2012
- Lifetime: 28 years

CompUSA, a consumer electronics retailer, went out of business back in 2007 after prices dropped on its most lucrative product, personal computers. With the rise of stores like Best Buy, CompUSA struggled to make ends meet. They eventually filed for bankruptcy and sold their 103 stores. That is, until they made a brief comeback with a revamped sales approach, which also failed. They officially went out of business in 2012.

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Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Crazy Eddie

- Category: electronics
- Year founded: 1971
- Year defunct: 2012
- Lifetime: 41 years

Old school New Yorkers will remember the tale of Crazy Eddie quite well (the commercial alone is legendary). What started as an electronics storefront in Brooklyn grew to become the largest commercial electronics store in the New York metropolitan area, in addition to 43 stores up and down the Eastern Seaboard. But mostly what New Yorkers remember is how it all came crashing down when Eddie Antar, the founder, was discovered to be skimming money and manipulating the stock market. He fled the country to Israel and was later extradited to the U.S., where he served seven years in prison.

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Raymond Shobe // Flickr

Crown Books

- Category: bookstore
- Year founded: 1977
- Year defunct: 2001
- Lifetime: 24 years

Crown Books, a book retailer known for its deep discounts, came onto the scene in Maryland in 1977, and subsequently began to expand all over the country. Over the years, due to the death of its parent company and family drama between the owners, Crown Books went through a series of bankruptcies and was completely out of business by 2001.

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Mike Mozart // Flickr

Delia's

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1993
- Year defunct: 2014
- Lifetime: 21 years

Women in their 30s today still remember Delia's, the teen fashion chain that had 95 stores in malls across America. But as fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21, and Zara became more popular, Delia's began to struggle. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2014: They had not turned a profit since early 2011.

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Retaildesigner // Wikipedia

Dominick's

- Category: grocery store
- Year founded: 1918
- Year defunct: 2013
- Lifetime: 95 years

Chicagoans remember Dominick's, a real-life example of the American Dream. Founded by Dominick DiMatteo more than 100 years ago, the grocery store chain became a beloved icon of the Chicago area. It was purchased by Safeway in 1998. At the time there were 116 stores and $2.6 billion in sales. Eventually Dominick's began to lose customers because it failed to adapt to shifts in the industry, and lost customers because they didn’t see value in the prices of its goods. Customers started fleeing to competitors, and eventually operational costs were too high to maintain.

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Mike Mozart // Flickr

Dressbarn

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1962
- Year defunct: 2019
- Lifetime: 57 years

2019 was a tough time for U.S. retailers. In fact, CNN reports that last year 5,994 retail stores across the country closed, among them Dressbarn. Dressbarn had 650 stores all over America. Declining sales and customers were responsible for the closure. The parent company, Ascena Retail Group, owns Ann Taylor and Loft, which remain open.

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Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

E. J. Korvette

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1948
- Year defunct: 1980
- Lifetime: 32 years

E. J. Korvette was a revolutionary kind of store for its time. The deep-discount store began in New York in the 1950s. Its founder, Eugene Ferkauf, figured out exactly what America needed for their changing post-war mentality: a no-frills variety store that sold things on the cheap. It was the kind of place where you could find almost anything, as long as you didn't mind digging through disorganized shelves. What you walked away with were prices almost 40% lower than other stores. Unfortunately the chain spread itself too thin and had to close in 1980.

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Michael Brown // Getty Images

Eckerd's

- Category: drug store
- Year founded: 1898
- Year defunct: 2007
- Lifetime: 109 years

For more than 100 years, Eckerd's was much more than a household name. It started in 1898 in Erie, Pennsylvania, when J. Milton Eckerd opened his first store. Over time the empire had more than 2,000 stores in 20 states. In 2007, Rite-Aid Corporation acquired Eckerd's and converted them to Rite-Aids in the quest to be the country's largest drug store, competing with Walgreens and CVS.

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Frank's Nursery & Crafts

- Category: home decor and craft stores
- Year founded: 1957
- Year defunct: 2004
- Lifetime: 47 years

Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, one of the country's largest lawn and garden retailers, was founded in 1957 in Detroit. The store stocked its shelves with live plants, fertilizers, and garden tools. But a weakening economy took its toll on the chain, which at the time of its closing operated 169 stores in 14 states. It filed for bankruptcy in 2004 after listing $141 million in debt and failure to find a loan to bail it out.

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Friedman's

- Category: jewelry
- Year founded: 1920
- Year defunct: 2008
- Lifetime: 88 years

The Oklahoma jewelry chain Friedman's Jewelers was founded in 1920, and remained a family-run business until 1990. They had 20 stores across the state. But for a few years before closing, the company had experienced financial instability and government issues, including a slew of civil lawsuits. Friedman's filed for Chapter 11 in 2005.

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Michael N. Todaro/Golfsmith // Getty Images

Golfsmith

- Category: sports
- Year founded: 1967
- Year defunct: 2016
- Lifetime: 49 years

Once the largest golf retailer in the country (and the world), Golfsmith International filed for bankruptcy due to a multi-million dollar mountain of debt. At the time of filing Chapter 11, the chain had 109 stores in the United States.

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Annexxation // Wikimedia Commons

Gottschalks

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1904
- Year defunct: 2009
- Lifetime: 105 years

One of the biggest department store chains in America, Gottschalks ended its 105-year legacy with a court-ordered liquidation. Founded by Emil Gottschalk, a German immigrant in 1904, Gottschalks had 58 department stores in the western U.S. When it folded, the company had somewhere between $100 million and $500 million in debt and up to 25,000 creditors.

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Handy Andy Home Improvement Center

- Category: home improvement
- Year founded: 1947
- Year defunct: 1996
- Lifetime: 49 years

Today the industry is ruled by home-improvement giants like Home Depot and Lowe's. But before these two household names came to be, there was Handy Andy Home Improvement Center. Founded as the Arrow Lumber Company in 1947 (by a man not named Andy), the midwestern company filed for bankruptcy in 1995 as it was being outpaced by the mega home improvement stores that we know today.

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Mark Peterson/Corbis // Getty Images

Herman's World of Sporting Goods

- Category: sports
- Year founded: 1916
- Year defunct: 1996
- Lifetime: 80 years

Before there was Dick's Sporting Goods or Footlocker, there was Herman's Sporting Goods, one of the largest chains of sporting goods stores in America. Herman's had more than 75 years in operation, with 259 stores across 35 states, the original being in New York. Sadly, the New York stores were the first to go when Herman's no longer could keep up with the debt held by its parent company. It filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and closed completely in 1996.

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Patrick Feller // Flickr

Hollywood Video

- Category: video rental
- Year founded: 1988
- Year defunct: 2010
- Lifetime: 22 years

Hollywood Video was yet another Netflix casualty. Falling victim to loss of customers thanks to the rise of DVDs through the mail and streaming sites, Hollywood Video closed its 1,900 remaining stores in 2010. The company reported debts between $500 million and $1 billion at the time it made the decision.

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Bettmann // Getty Images

Hudson's

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1881
- Year defunct: 2001
- Lifetime: 120 years

The J.L. Hudson Company, aka Hudson's, was a Detroit legend. Opened in 1911 by Joseph Lowthian Hudson, the iconic Detroit department store was an anchor for the then-thriving city. At the time it was the second-biggest department store in America, second only to Macy's in New York. At the time, Hudson's was also the tallest department store in the world. Over the years, however, Detroit's population began to dwindle as the economy of the city declined. As the people faded away, so did Hudson's. The store closed in January 1983 after 102 years in business. The building stood empty until 1998 when it was demolished, ending an era for Detroit.

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MarkBuckawicki // Wikimedia Commons

Just for Feet

- Category: shoes
- Year founded: 1977
- Year defunct: 2004
- Lifetime: 27 years

Just For Feet was one of the original superstores in America. Founded by Harold Ruttenberg, the first store opened in 1988 in Birmingham, Alabama, bringing a massive selection of athletic shoes at deeply-discounted prices. The brand began to expand like wildfire. Just for Feet was named America’s sixth-fastest-growing company by Fortune magazine in 1997. In 1999, Ruttenberg scored an enviable time slot for a Super Bowl ad, but the commercial that ran was so culturally and racially insensitive that it spiraled into a host of image issues for Just for Feet. The company was forced to file for Chapter 11, and its assets were sold in 2000.

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Cbaile19 // Wikimedia Commons

Kaufmann's

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1871
- Year defunct: 2006
- Lifetime: 135 years

Kaufmann's Department Store, an icon of historic Pittsburgh, was founded in 1871 by Jason and Isaac Kaufmann, two brothers who had emigrated from Germany. The business grew quickly and acquired several adjacent addresses. Over the years, the building received many interior touches and updates, many of which are icons themselves, like the Kaufmann clock and the grand staircase. This building remained the flagship, as other branches popped up in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York area. In 2006, the brand and regional branches were purchased by and converted into Macy's.

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Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register // Getty Images

KB Toys

- Category: toys
- Year founded: 1922
- Year defunct: 2009
- Lifetime: 87 years

From 1922 to 2009, KB Toys was the reigning toy store across America, with more than 1,300 stores across the country. Eventually, however, the company could not keep up with competitor Toys "R" Us, which acquired KB Toys' website, trademarks and intellectual property rights. There was talk of a KB Toys revival after Toys "R" Us went out of business, but that has yet to come to fruition.

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Sheila Fitzgerald // Shutterstock

Kids R Us

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1983
- Year defunct: 2004
- Lifetime: 21 years

In 1983, Kids R Us opened as an offshoot to Toys “R” Us. The company sold children's clothing at discount prices. The company was open for 20 years, with 146 stores. It closed in 2004 following prolonged disappointing sales.

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Ildar Sagdejev // Wikimedia Commons

Linens 'n Things

- Category: housewares and accessories
- Year founded: 1975
- Year defunct: 2008
- Lifetime: 33 years

Linens 'n Things was a popular niche retailer that sold household items. At its height, it had 589 stores all over the country. Its demise was caused by a variety of things, including a decline in housing sales, higher prices for goods made in China, and the burden of paying $650 million in debt. By 2008, the company had filed a reorganization plan, but was forced to have a liquidation sale.

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group // Getty Images

Marshall Field’s

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1852
- Year defunct: 2006
- Lifetime: 154 years

Marshall Field's, whose flagship was in Chicago, was an icon for the Windy City. Founded in 1868, the original store on State Street was once the largest in the world. The brand expanded and added more department stores all over the country. Eventually, through a series of sales to various other retailers, the then-parent company of Marshall Field's, the May Company, was acquired by Federated Department Stores, Inc., the operator of Macy's, and Marshall Field’s became part of that empire.

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Merry-Go-Round

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1968
- Year defunct: 1996
- Lifetime: 28 years

Merry-Go-Round, the flagship brand of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises, was one of the more popular fashion brands in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, the company purchased the Chess King chain in 1993, which doubled its size. But after being one of the leaders in fashion for a few decades, a few false moves started to put it on the decline—namely, the company bet on styles that just weren't popular with teens at the time. Eventually they were forced to file for Chapter 11 and began to liquidate assets in 1996.

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Jerry Cleveland/The Denver Post // Getty Images

Mervyn's

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1949
- Year defunct: 2009
- Lifetime: 60 years

What started as a single department store in San Lorenzo, California, erupted into a West Coast empire. Selling work pants and school clothes, the department store was frequented by middle-class families. At its peak, Mervyn's had 300 stores in 16 states. Eventually, owner Mervin Morris sold the name to Dayton Hudson, which is where the downfall began. The new owner wasn't able to keep up with the changing economic times, and finally had to declare bankruptcy in 2008.

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Noodle Kidoodle

- Category: toys
- Year founded: 1931
- Year defunct: 2000
- Lifetime: 69 years

Noodle Kidoodle was a chain of toy stores that sold educational toys for kids. Their slogan was "Kids learn best when they're having fun!" But in 2000, a competitor, Zany Brainy, which was owned by Toys “R” Us, acquired Noodle Kidoodle, which ultimately led to Zany Brainy's bankruptcy and the end of both chains.

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Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine // Wikimedia Commons

Payless ShoeSource

- Category: shoes
- Year founded: 1956
- Year defunct: 2019
- Lifetime: 63 years

Payless ShoeSource was one of the top retailers for discount shoes. They had more than 3,500 stores in 40 different countries. The company filed for Chapter 11 in 2017, which resulted in the shuttering of 673 stores. In 2019, the company announced that it would close its 2,100 stores in the United States, as well as shut down its e-commerce site.

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Michael Ochs Archives // Getty Images

Sam Goody

- Category: music
- Year founded: 1951
- Year defunct: 2006
- Lifetime: 55 years

Everyone's favorite record (and later CD) stores started in Manhattan in the 1940s. Later, this shop became the flagship store in a booming empire of record and CD stores across the country. In fact, the flagship location accounted for 7% of the nation's sales in 33 ⅓ rpm records in 1955. Eventually owner Sam Goody sold the business to the American Can Company, but stayed on as a consultant for a few years. The company was sold several more times. Ultimately, all of the Sam Goody locations were transformed into FYE stores.

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David Jennings/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera // Getty Images

Sharper Image

- Category: electronics
- Year founded: 1977
- Year defunct: 2008
- Lifetime: 31 years

What happened to the Sharper Image? In a word: Apple. But it's a little more complicated than that. First it was Best Buy and Amazon, which started stocking the same high-end, cutting-edge products that previously could only be found in stores like Sharper Image. But once Apple became the new cool kid on the block for techies, Sharper Image's days were numbered. Investors bought the company, but in 2008, they declared bankruptcy.

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Daniel Ramirez // Wikimedia Commons

Sports Authority

- Category: sports
- Year founded: 1928
- Year defunct: 2016
- Lifetime: 88 years

Sports Authority, one of the largest sports retailers in the country, was known for its deep discounts. In 2006, the peak year for the retailer, the company was purchased by a hedge fund. But mounting debt forced the company to call it quits in 2016 after filing for bankruptcy. The company was unable to make a deal with its creditors and lenders, and was forced to sell all its assets.

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Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times // Getty Images

Sports Chalet

- Category: sports
- Year founded: 1959
- Year defunct: 2016
- Lifetime: 57 years

Yet another sports retail chain to bite the dust in 2016, Sport Chalet shuttered 47 stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The chain started in 1959 with one tennis and ski shop. Over time it developed into one of the larger regional chains that specialized in everything, even scuba training and certification. In 2014, the chain had more than $50 million in debt. It was bought by Vestis Retail Group. Two years later, the chain met its demise.

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Nick22aku // Wikimedia Commons

Steve & Barry's

- Category: casual clothing
- Year founded: 1985
- Year defunct: 2009
- Lifetime: 24 years

The economic recession was a tough time for retailers in America. In 2008, yet another clothing chain, Steve & Barry's, was forced to shut down. The company was known for its substantially low prices. After filing for bankruptcy and being sold to investment firms for $168 million, the new owners also filed for bankruptcy, and a plan was put in motion to liquidate its 173 stores.

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Phillip Pessar // Flickr

The Limited

- Category: clothing
- Year founded: 1957
- Year defunct: 2017
- Lifetime: 60 years

When it came to women's casual clothing and workwear, The Limited was one of those at the top, with more than 750 stores all over the U.S. The Limited also acquired Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch, and launched the wildly popular teen store, Limited Too. But with the rise of e-commerce sites and fast fashion brands, stores like The Limited struggled. Eventually it had to close its remaining 250 stores, lay off its workers and file for bankruptcy.

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Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

Thom McAn

- Category: shoes
- Year founded: 1922
- Year defunct: 1996
- Lifetime: 74 years

It was once “America's shoe store.” For 74 years, Thom McAn was a favorite for reasonably priced footwear. In fact, when it was founded in 1922, it was designed as a place to sell nice shoes for $3. But with the rise of shopping malls and trendier stores, Thom McAn's numbers dwindled. A restructuring plan had the brand change the name of remaining stores to Footaction, while the rest folded.

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Chris Walter/Wire Image // Getty Images

Tower Records

- Category: music
- Year founded: 1960
- Year defunct: 2006
- Lifetime: 46 years

For many across America, their youth was defined by Tower Records. The legendary music store was the trailblazer of the industry, paving the way for others to follow. There were chains all over the country, and each one was curated by the staff that worked there. Their collections were highly localized, and packed with passion. But with the rise of online music and discount chains like Best Buy, Tower's prices were undercut and sales began to suffer. The record chain lost money 13 quarters in a row. In 2006, they declared bankruptcy for the second time.

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Ildar Sagdejev // Wikimedia Commons

Tweeter

- Category: electronics
- Year founded: 1972
- Year defunct: 2008
- Lifetime: 36 years

Tweeter was a consumer electronics retailer founded in 1972 and known for its TVs, radios, home theater systems and more. It was also the company that held the naming rights to the concert venue the Tweeter Center, which is now the Xfinity Center. With the presence of electronics and bargain retailers like Best Buy and Walmart, Tweeter's profits began to suffer. By June 2007, it filed for bankruptcy, and by 2008, all of its stores were closed.

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Dave Walker // Flickr

Virgin Megastores

- Category: entertainment
- Year founded: 1992
- Year defunct: 2007
- Lifetime: 15 years

The first Virgin Megastore opened in the 1970s in London. It was because of Virgin Megastore that Richard Branson became a household name, and thus the Virgin brand was born. Come 2005, it was reported that the music retailer had lost almost $340 million in the previous two years, and was only staying afloat due to loans. Branson sold the chain in 2007. In 2009, the final Megastores in operation, in New York and San Francisco, folded.

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Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

W.T. Grant

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1906
- Year defunct: 1976
- Lifetime: 70 years

Baby boomers will surely remember the bright yellow signage of W.T. Grant Co. The 25-cent store chain started in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1906. Founder W.T. Grant started the business with only $1,000. By 1972, there were 1,200 stores across the country. Sadly, three years later the company went bankrupt.

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Tim Boyle // Getty Images

Waldenbooks

- Category: book
- Year founded: 1933
- Year defunct: 2011
- Lifetime: 78 years

Waldenbooks originally opened in 1933 as a lending library, to boost morale following the Great Depression. Founders Lawrence W. Holt and Melvin T. Kafka would lend books out for 3 cents a day, which would provide people with cheap entertainment without having to commit to the cost of purchasing. In the 1950s, when paperbacks came out, it was so cheap to actually sell books that the pair converted their rental libraries into retail outlets. Eventually sales started to stagnate and decline with the rise of other book retailers. Borders purchased the company, but eventually Waldenbooks had to close as a way for Borders to save itself.

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Evan Agostini/Liaison // Getty Images

Warner Bros. Studio Store

- Category: film and comic merchandise
- Year founded: 1991
- Year defunct: 2005
- Lifetime: 14 years

In 1991, Warner Bros., the popular film studio, opened a series of retail stores selling everything from Looney Tunes to DC Comics merchandise. By 1997, there were more than 100 locations, including a three-story building at 1 Times Square. A few years later, AOL Time merged with Warner, and as part of the agreement, the chain was put up for sale. Stores started closing. On September 11, 2001, the Warner Brothers Studio Store at the World Trade Center was destroyed, along with the Towers. Other stores started closing rapidly. The last one shuttered on December 31, 2001.

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Mike Willis // Flickr

Western Auto

- Category: automotive
- Year founded: 1909
- Year defunct: 2003
- Lifetime: 94 years

Western Auto, officially Western Auto Supply Company, was a chain of car parts and accessories. Later it would sell firearms, bicycles and more. It started in 1909 as a mail-order business in Kansas City, founded by George Pepperdine (of Pepperdine University fame). Ultimately, there were about 1,200 company-owned stores across the United States, as well as more than 4,000 private franchises. Later, Western Auto went through a series of sales to other companies, one of them being Sears. By 2006, the brand was officially out of business.

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Wickes Furniture

- Category: furniture store
- Year founded: 1971
- Year defunct: 2008
- Lifetime: 37 years

Wickes Furniture was once the go-to spot for decorating the entire home. Founded in 1971, with its first showroom in Minnesota, the company eventually grew to operate 43 stores in the western and midwestern U.S. But come 2008, furniture companies were hit hard, as the nation was going through the housing crisis. A slower housing market and the economic turndown meant people weren’t buying as many homes, and certainly weren’t refurnishing them. In February 2008, a group of liquidators bought Wickes’ inventory. More than $75 million of furniture was liquidated.

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Martin Forstenzer // Getty Images

Woolworth's

- Category: department store
- Year founded: 1879
- Year defunct: 1997
- Lifetime: 118 years

Remember the original five-and-dime stores? Well, they basically started with Woolworth’s. Selling factory-made goods at remarkably low rates, Woolworth’s was the first brand to expand internationally, with more than 5,000 stores around the world. In the mid 1920s, there was a store opening every 17 days. After World War II, growth slowed due to the rise of competitors. As quickly as Woolworths accelerated, by the 1970s stores started shutting down in batches. Eventually, competition from discount retailers forced Woolworth to close its variety stores in 1997.

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Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times // Getty Images

Zany Brainy

- Category: children's educational toys
- Year founded: 1991
- Year defunct: 2001
- Lifetime: 10 years

When it came to smart entertainment for kids, Zany Brainy was one of the industry leaders in educational toys. At its peak, there were 184 stores in 34 states. In 2000, they were so ahead of the pack that they bought out rival toy chain Noodle Kidoodle in a $35 million deal. But this ultimately led to its demise. The acquisition of Noodle's 60 stores in a weakening toy market created a situation that was unsustainable for Zany Brainy, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

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