When in doubt, blame the economy! That seems to be the lesson to be learned to the announcement of legendary local retailer C-Mart closing it’s doors for good this morning.
Discount stores benefit when the economy slows down and 2008 has been no different. Surely C-Mart, the 33-year-old mecca for bargain hunters, has weathered worse than the recent downturn. So what’s the real story?
From the Baltimore Sun article:
But during the past year, facing higher gasoline and food prices along with tighter credit, shoppers stopped coming, the retailer’s owners said yesterday. As home sales declined, so did the need for shoppers to buy furniture, which made up more than 50 percent of C-Mart’s revenue.
Soon, sales at the 33-year-old retailer declined and it was forced to lay off some employees. New owners, who recently came on board with visions of aggressively expanding the retail operation, put on hold a plan to start an e-commerce division of the store. And with no sign of a reprieve in the economy anytime soon, the owners decided shutting down was the only answer.
They plan to close for good Oct. 14.
As a dedicated C-Mart shopper, I followed the store from its Forest Hill location to Joppa. The new C-Mart had the same or even better bargains. Shuman said the store failed because shoppers cut back on purchases of designer clothing, but as Shuman should know, the brands were not all high end – you could find no-name merchandise as easily as those Manolo Blahniks (those are shoes, in case you’ve never seen “Sex in the City”).
What changed was the addition of furniture; lots and lots of furniture. More like they attached the old C-Mart to a furniture store. And while national furniture sales have been flat so far this year, a lot of the stuff at C-Mart was odd in more ways than one. Pieces were unmatched (who shops for one night table?) and some of it was just plain weird. I don’t care how much it’s discounted, a hot pink sofa shaped like a lima bean is no bargain. And how many people have room for a canopy bed the size of a studio apartment? I wouldn’t have taken some of that stuff off their hands if they paid me.
In some extremely rarified circles, cutting edge furniture at discount prices might work, I’m thinking about the Bel Air in California maybe, not so much Bel Air, Maryland. And while lots of people will grab a designer handbag at a reasonable price, few people buy odd pieces furniture. Fewer still want furniture that’s just odd. The folks who tried to take C-Mart in a new direction didn’t understand that. I’m truly sorry to see C-Mart go. But I don’t think it was “the economy, stupid”. I think it was just stupid.
What are your memories of C-Mart? I can remember the long drive (for us) up to Forest Hill before every school year to check on the shoe selection, as well as every winter looking for snow boots. I also remember all the ugly clothes that no one in their right mind would pay full price for, but at 70-percent off, why not?
So what do you think went wrong? Was it truly the economy, or more the decision to move to Joppa and bring it high-priced furniture and semi-discounted prices? Maybe it was growing to0 fast without modernizing? The opening of the Landover store?
I think the fact that they tried to sell top notch furniture in this area was ridiculous. Even at half off, who would buy a $5000 couch? Seriously…
And whomever spends more then $100 on a purse needs to go to consumer credit class. Please! It… is…a…pocket…book.
I do remember driving up from Baltimore County, all the way up route 1 to go check out the boots/shoes and jackets. And yes, there was always some very scary clothes to root through on the racks. But there were always some good finds as well.
I never liked the new store after they moved, too expensive and some seriously ugly ornate furniture- reminded me of a funeral home.
Living in J-towne, it seemed the parking lot was always pretty packed. But it wasn’t the locals there from what I saw. Or anyone I knew.
I went to the store maybe once or twice a year to check things out and bought limited stuff. Their furniture was nice to look at but expensive.
The store itself needed to be gutted out and cleaned.
The end of CMart started when they left Bel Air. Their second mistake was to limit their print advertising to The Examiner and then in random locations at random times. Their website was taken down months ago with a notation that it was being retooled and would reappear bigger and better but it never did. The third mistake was as Molly and Kendra pointed out – large, expensive and usually ugly furniture. Really! Who bought that stuff?
I loved CMart when it was in Bel Air and my kids have fond memories of Christmas gifts with CMart price tags still attached so that I could brag about the good deals and my fiscal frugality. Their selection was wonderful and affordable then. They lost their way, their reputation and their business. Too, too bad!
vietnam vet says
kendra please’ they were selling ”Gucci” hand bag’s.what is surpriseing some of them wound up in C – MART. this company (GUCCI) is very protective of there merchandise.
Must have been some water damage etc. A $100.00 buck’s is cheap. there were several fight’s over the bag’s, from what I under stand
They expanded too much with the furniture in an area where people couldn’t afford it. When C-Mart was in Forest Hill, they had the advantage of a lot of drive by traffic. People were much more inclined to stop by and see if they had anything when they were out or something. When it moved to Joppatowne, not nearly as many shoppers were just stopping in and it became more of a destination shopping experience. They had the advantage in Forest Hill of other stores close by and many more residents who would stop in and be inclined to make a purchase.
I always found great shoes in that store!
The Baltimore Babe says
Yes, the furniture part was a bad idea. Maybe they could have opened up a satellite location with just the furniture only, which would have further insured their business since furniture and clothing move differently as merchandise. Moving to Joppatowne was ok, just a little but further out. I knew something was wrong when the entire store was on 75% clearance in July. You could also chalk it up to the fact that 5 guys owned just two stores.
I agree that it all went downhill when it left Forest Hill, but the final nail in the coffin was when it was sold to people who decided to cater to the ladies coming from Pikesville and Reisterstown instead of to the locals who made it what it once was. I remember after the store moved to Joppatowne, I happened to stop in and there was a whole mess of damaged washers and dryers. There may not have been anything mechanically wrong with them, but they were all dented and scratched and selling for around $300 or so, with no paperwork, no warranties–nothing. I just shook my head in disbelief. Who in their right mind is going to pay that when you can get a brand new one in a box at Best Buy for the same price? Then I went looking for dining room chairs and oh my god, the chairs they had were $700 apiece and they looked like something King Arthur had at the round table. I paid about $700 for my entire 7 piece dining room set back in the day. My favorite “old C-Mart” memory was when I bought my two sons (one of whom is very familiar to everyone who is on this website!!!!!) matchng pairs of Osk Kosh overalls in bright yellow. They had the same pair at Hechts for 75% more. I had to listen to my kids cry for wearing something that horrifyingly putrid, but hey, I got a great deal. Which leads us to the Hechts vs. Macy’s discussion…..
I used to love to be able to go to the Forest Hill store and find $5 levi’s or $10 shoes. But even before they left FH, they started bringing in more designer stuff and weird stuff. The furniture was a bad idea from the start…it was exceptionally ugly or odd.
Sometimes the clothes smelled like smoke because they were rescued from a fire or maybe the shoeboxes were a little crushed or there was an odd water stain
( a flood? you hoped) but you knew there was a back story and that was part of the bargain hunting adventure.
I will also miss those hand written ads that used to run in the newspaper. They added to the feeling that C-Mart was offering you a secret deal that wouldn’t last.
Too bad, it didn’t.
The shut down is not due to the economy at all. i will spend money on a good deal. Not jeans that were 600 bucks now at c-mart for 250. i was super excited about the furniture being there..thinking it was a good time to get a new dresser with more room for all those bargains from Gabriel Bros. Until i noticed that i could either buy my gold glitter jeans for 250 or a new dresser for 800. No thanks. That was the first and last time i went there…about a year ago.
RIP and good riddance.
Hey Blue, got any photos of your little guys in those bright yellow overalls? About Hechts vs Macy’s – I used to think Macy’s was a better store but judging from the one at Harford Mall, not anymore.
Cindy: I’m sure I could dig up some of the photos of the sunshine yellow Osh Kosh’s but I’d be banned for life from this website by one of the founding fathers! I used to dressed in their yellow attire) but this one does nothing for me. I have a gift certificate from last Christmas that I’ve never used because I can’t find anything decent to spend it on.
bye bye c-mart ……. make way for khols … yup u herd it here first …khols is comming to joppatowne
Brad, I hope you are right!
Hmmm…Kohls coming to Joppatowne. What are the odds of Kohls opening up two new stores in Harford County?
If true, does this signify the end of the push to bring a new Kohls to Forest Hill?
i love shopping. i will go to khols and then i will eat at Grill Sensations.
thats what the cordish company (the landlord) is saying