The mood at a local Bernie’s store was grim this afternoon, a day after the 15-store chain filed a bankruptcy claim. A young salesman at the Orange, CT store naturally didn’t want to talk to a blogger, but after a while told us, “November was good, but it was slow in December. We just didn’t have enough traffic in the store.”
A store department head, 17 years with the company, said the closing was more about profits and competing with Best Buy. “We had a very good November, but these big box stores don’t know they’re here to make a profit. That’s why every few years one goes down. All they’re trying to do is kill the little guys and they killed themselves,” he said referring to Circuit City.
You could see his frustration trying to sell against Best Buy, which he singled out as the main culprit—“not Wal-Mart or Sears.” Bernie’s sold a 46-inch Sony XBR with an audio system and Blu-Ray player over the holidays at a package price of $2,199—the every-day price of the TV alone at Bernie’s a couple of months beforehand. Best Buy was selling it for $1,899, he said.
We also spoke to Jo-di’s Sound Center, a local car AV retailer who had only praise for the family-owned Bernie’s, which had been in business for 63 years. Jo-di’s general manager Jodi O’Connor said, “It was such a good regional establishment—a family run business that had such a nice, wonderful story. It was heartbreaking. When I heard it this morning I was blown away.”
She noted that Lowe’s and Home Depot competed against Bernie’s in appliances. “How many places do you need? We’re all just fighting for the few amount of dollars being spent.”
The good news for some lucky employees at Bernie’s is Jo-di’s is looking to hire some salespeople, said O’Connor. Opportunity knocks…