Sales At Big-Box, Chain Stores Even Lousier Than Expected

Oct 24th, 2007 // 7 Comments

towercrop.jpgThey may be the only places to buy an album in person in many a far-flung locale, but CD sales at big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target have plunged 17% from last year, while sales at chain stores like FYE and, uh … FYE plummeted 24%. The latter decline can be explained in at least some part by the demise of Tower Records last year, but the picture still isn’t a pretty one.

According to sources, there are a few key reasons for the mass merchants’ decline. A key issue is the lower number of titles being stocked. For example, Wal-Mart, the nation’s leading music retailer, is said to have reduced by about 15% the number of unique titles it carries. After this Christmas season, Wal-Mart is expected to reduce even more the number of titles it stocks. Another reason is that 2007 has not had the kind of mainstream hits that sell well at mass merchants. After its huge 2006 (driven by Carrie Underwood and Rascall Flats), country music has had an especially weak 2007. Country album sales are down 26% so far this year. Since mass merchants represent a huge share of country sales, that’s another reason why mass merchants sales are so far down.

National chains’ woes are well documented. Tower Records is out of business and Virgin Megastore has a new ownership and continues to lag. Trans World’s same stores music sales decreased 19% in Q2 and the company plans to close around 80 stores by the end of 2007.

It’s doubtful that Carrie Underwood’s new album Carnival Ride, which has projected first-week sales totals in the 400,000 range, will really help make up that differential in country music, especially if it doesn’t have legs; as a point of comparison, the Rascal Flatts record has sold 882,000 copies in its first three weeks on the chart, where last year’s Me & Me Gang had sold 1.239 million copies after three weeks on shelves.

Anyway, with the cuts at Wal-Mart and Trans World (which owns FYE), and the sort of ominous fact that Virgin Megastore was bought by a consortium that includes the landlords for its way-undervalued New York City stores, the likelihood of these numbers only looking worse next year is pretty high.

Mass Merchant And Chain Sales Plummet in 2007 [Coolfer]


  1. Hallux Valgus

    well everything should get back to mid nineties health now that Oink is gone, right? *ducks and hides*

  2. Maura Johnston

    @Big Money, No Whammies: i was waiting for someone to posit that ;)

  3. ghostyhead

    Is there any precedent anywhere for an industry to be in a freefall that’s this bad and actually rebound?

  4. Rob Murphy

    @Big Money, No Whammies: @maura: []

    Although I understand my lame joke may have been disqualified for stupidly getting a bit-rate wrong…it should have been “320 kbps”, maybe even with a “VBR” thrown in for good measure…

  5. Adam Bernard

    @ghostyhead: Alcohol during the prohibition years?

  6. Bob Loblaw

    @ghostyhead: Jim Cramer has been going on and on about a revival in the steam-powered zepellin sector.

  7. BRATMix

    I live in L.A.

    If I want a new CD, I am more or less going to find it (read: Amoeba).

    What annoys me is the number of people who live elsewhere, who want to buy CD’s, and just can’t find them.

    Example: An artist I work for (desperately trying to hold back the urge to plug plug plug) had a CD come out on Tuesday. For two days now, I have been getting flooded with emails from fans, pissed off that they can’t just go to Best Buy or Wal-Mart, and buy the CD (most have resorted to Amazon, out of sheer desperation).

    People still want CD’s. I see the sales figures. The least purchased version of the new album by (the artist) is “download”. It just seems impossible now to find a store that will stock CD’s.

    Don’t even get me started on the crap that is Best Buy. New Release Day: Come buy the new titles (note: we only bothered to order 2 copies). Oh? We don’t have your CD? Well, while you are here, wanna buy a ‘fridge?


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