Tower Records’ Troubles

In what is likely the beginning of many such bankruptcy restructurings, word tonight is that Tower Records is (again) on the verge of filing for Chapter 11 protection. The company, which pioneered the music megastore concept, is in deep trouble.

The cause? Explanations vary, from the bite taken out by Borders et al., to troubles competing with companies like Wal-mart. All of that is likely true, but the most compelling explanation is the most obvious one: digital downloads. Towers is getting pounded by people downloading music, rather than buying it in stores.

My local Towers used to be a fairly convivial place, with benches for reading and a laid-back atmosphere. No longer. The benches are all gone, and the place is now half-full of DVDs instead of music. The trouble is DVD retail volumes are nowhere near the volume of music CDs in their heyday, so the clock began ticking with the changeover.

As a side note, the store beside Tower Records here is Good Guys, and it is a mortuary lately. Sales people are drifting about listlessly, and customers are scarce on the ground. It could be the location, but I have a feeling that web sites like Pricegrabber are taking a chunk out of bricks-and-mortar electronics retailers.