Businesses That You Thought Were Gone, But Aren’t

Some shops and brands are associated with certain eras. Names like Blockbuster, Sears, and AOL likely bring back some nostalgia. But did you know that all of these companies are still alive? Some are dying out, while others are thriving and possibly rebranding. You won’t believe that these businesses are still kicking!

Blockbuster: One Store Remains

The last remaining Blockbuster is in Bend, OR.
ANDREW MARSZAL/AFP via Getty Images
ANDREW MARSZAL/AFP via Getty Images

If you thought that Blockbuster ended when it filed for bankruptcy in 2010, you’re not alone. A sole Blockbuster remains in Bend, Oregon. Despite the global pandemic, this 20-year-old Blockbuster remains as Bend’s main tourist attraction.

At its peak, Blockbuster hosted over 9,000 stores. But after competing with other companies such as Netflix, it gained over $1 billion in debt. The one remaining Blockbuster continued business by starting a drive-by program where customers can pick up and drop off DVDs.

Justice Stores Can Still Be Found Online

A close-up shows the logo of the store Justice.
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You might recognize Justice by its former name, Limited Too. The kids-focused fashion company went bankrupt along with its parent company, Ascena Retail Group, in 2020. As part of the bankruptcy, Justice sold for $90 million.

In 2021, all Justice stores are scheduled to close. You can still shop for its brand on its online shop. It is now owned by Blue Star Alliance, which has no plans to end the brand entirely, which is good news for fans.

Toys “R” Us Is Still Bringing Smiles To Kid’s Faces

A Toys
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Toys “R” Us has had a rocky career. The toy chain faced bankruptcy in 2017, when it closed many of its stores. Then, in 2019, the business relaunched a few pop-up stores in an attempt to revive. But these fell quickly because of the 2020 pandemic.

In 2020, Tru Kids Brand–the owner of Toys “R” Us– ended its partnerships with larger retailers such as Target. At the beginning of 2021, Toys “R” Us closed its last two stores in the US. But the company continues online retail.

Sears Is Hanging On

People exist a Sears store in a mall.
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In the 1980s and ’90s, Sears was one of America’s leading retail chains. Now, people barely hear about it, although it is technically still in business. When Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018, it had 400 stores; by 2019, the number lowered to 182.

Sears survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but just barely. As of February 2021, only 28 Sears stores are left, according to Forbes. The website is still accepting online orders too, which can be seen as a positive sign of things to come.

Celebrities Still Wear Crocs

Multi-colored Crocs hang in a Crocs store in London.
Cate Gillon/Getty Images
Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Crocs first appeared in 2002, and by 2009, news outlets denounced them as a fad. Still, the company produced over 300 million pairs of shoes before closing all manufacturing plants in 2018. When it did so, the company asserted that it wasn’t going anywhere.

Unknown to customers at the time, Crocs aimed to rebrand. The brand released new designs including boots, flats, and slip-on work shoes. According to The Los Angeles Times, celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Drew Barrymore have been seen wearing Crocs in 2020.

You’ll Only See Brookstone At An Airport

The shelves of a Brookstone store feature a monitor with the store logo.
Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Nowadays, you can only shop at Brookstone inside of an airport. The toys and gadgets company went bankrupt in 2014 and 2018, resulting in over 100 stores closing. That same year, the company BlueStar bought Brookstone out of bankruptcy for $72 million.

This purchase is the only reason why Brookstone still lives. Today, only 34 stores remain, and they are all in airports. The company blames deteriorating mall traffic and management turnover for its liquidated stores.

There Are Still Over 1,000 JCPenny Stores

JCPenny signage is seen at a mall.
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While JCPenny still exists in some malls, the chain is rapidly closing its stores. In May 2020, JCPenny filed for bankruptcy. It closed around 150 stores, over 30% of its locations. However, the chain is expected to emerge from bankruptcy in mid-2021.

Today, JCPenny is doing much better than other dying stores. With 1,100 locations in the US, it has the potential to survive. Fans of the brand can also shop for new clothes and other products online.

Blackberry Plans To Make Phones Again

A woman checks out a Blackberry cell phone on display.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Blackberry phones are a relic of the past; in fact, the company has not made cell phones since 2016. But the company is still alive and kicking, having been saved from bankruptcy by Fairfax Financial Holdings in 2013. Today, Blackberry focuses on security. It also acquired the A.I. company Cylance in 2019.

Oddly enough, Blackberry phones might return. In August 2020, the company partnered with OnwardMobility to release new Blackberry phones, presumably sometime in 2021.

AOL, Now Called Aol, Is Still Thriving

An AOL logo is posted in front of the company building.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Although many people have not heard about Aol since 1998, the company is still in business. Aol–which lower-cased its letters in 2009–struggled in 2000 under TimeWarner. Eventually, it split from TimeWarner and started making money off of subscription brands such as broadband.

According to Time, Aol has dominated the digital video advertising market. In 2015, Verizon purchased Aol and began merging it with Yahoo. Aol is doing well, despite not being a household name like it once was.

Kmart Keeps Getting Saved From Bankruptcy

Customers walk out of a Kmart, seen from the storefront.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

In 1994, Kmart was at its peak with 2,486 stores across the globe. But by May 2020, the chain shrank to 34 stores. Kmart has been slowly dying since its first bankruptcy in 2002. Despite its popular $3 sandwiches, Kmart could not compete with other retail chains.

When Walmart became popular in 1990, its prices and products overshadowed Kmart. Throughout the 2000s, owner Eddie Lampert guided the chain through several bankruptcies.

SkyMall No Longer Prints Magazines

The cover and back of a SkyMall magazine is displayed.
The ONE Thing/Pinterest
The ONE Thing/Pinterest

SkyMall is best known for supplying self-named magazines that were offered on airlines. But while the company still exists, it no longer produces magazines. SkyMall now focuses on digital advertising and marketing software.

SkyMall merged with Xhibit in 2013, but only two years later, it went bankrupt. Then, the parent company, C&A Marketing, rebranded the company. SkyMall went online and featured new products, and it is still an online catalog today. It is unlikely that it will ever print magazines again.

Century 21 Almost Shut Down Permanently

A Century 21 store in New York is going out of business.
John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In September 2020, Century 21–an East Coast chain that sells discount designer clothing–planned to shut down. After filing for bankruptcy, it closed 13 stores and laid off 1,400 employees. But in February 2021, plans changed.

According to Fox Business, Century 21 planned to come back in the US and overseas. The family-run business plans to open new stores in New York and South Korea. Time will tell whether these discount designer brands will sell well.

Pier 1 Imports Moved To Online Only Sales

A Pier 1 Imports shore is on a corner.
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The home decor chain Pier 1 has recently closed all of its stores. In February 2020, Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy after 60 years of business. The company initially planned to close half of its stores; but in May, it announced that it would liquidate all remaining stores.

Over 500 Pier 1 stores permanently closed, according to CNN Business. The business still sells products online, but with shoppers turning to Target, Walmart, Amazon, and Etsy, no one knows how long it will last.

Xerox Mainly Tends To Its Current Customers

A sign directs people to Xerox's research center.
Xerox/Getty Images
Xerox/Getty Images

At one time, Xerox was such a large brand that the company name became a verb. And while the company has never gone bankrupt, it has still been struggling. In 2018, Xerox began merging with Fujifilm, and the Los Angeles Times predicted that it would fade into obscurity.

Fortunately, that did not happen. That next year, Xerox had better stock than Google or Amazon. Despite the death of print, Xerox has made 80% of its sales repairing and maintaining printers for its customers.

Why Payless Is Rebranding

A customer buys shoes at a Payless ShoeSource that is going out of business.
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In January 2020, Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy–again. The chain had been on a downward spiral for years beforehand. In 2019, for instance, the bankrupt retailer shut down over 2,500 US stores.

But in August 2020, Payless announced a “comeback.” The chain launched a new name (just Payless), new website, and new logo. It also planned to open hundreds of stores in the US and abroad. If these go well, Payless might return to the public eye.

You’ll Rarely Find A Gymboree

A sign for Gymboree hangs in front of a store.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The kids’ clothing company Gymboree has been in hot water ever since Bain Capital bought it in 2010. The parent company was in debt, which trickled down to Gymboree, causing it to frequently file for bankruptcy. When it filed for bankruptcy in 2019, only 200 stores were left.

Like other failing brands, Gymboree is planning a comeback. Its new parent company, Children’s Place, planned to relaunch new stores in 2020. This went on hold during the pandemic, and Gymboree stores are still a rare sight.

American Apparel Is Only Online Now

An exterior of an American Apparel factory is seen.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Although American Apparel was a national and international hit in the ’80s and ’90s, it has not kept up that success. The clothing store filed for bankruptcy in both 2015 and 2016. In 2017, the Canadian company Gildan Activewear bought it and changed it.

That next year, American Apparel relaunched with new “emerging brands” and a new look. Gilden Activewear tried to revitalize its 100 stores, but eventually, all of them closed. Today, you can only shop American Apparel online.

Nowadays, The Limited Is Barely Its Own Brand

A storefront of The Limited is seen.
Christine Ryan-O’Neill/Pinterest
Christine Ryan-O’Neill/Pinterest

The Limited is a fashion brand that used to run its own stores inside malls. But the brand has been sold to multiple companies and no longer stands on its own. In 2007, Limited Brand sold 75% of its assets to Sun Capital Partners Inc. In 2010, the rest sold to Capital Partners Inc.

Sales continued to sink until 2017 when The Limited shut down all of its stores. The brand went from 750 stores in 2000 to 68 when it ended. You can still find some Limited clothes online, but sold under other partner stores.

RadioShack Still Rocks 400 Stores

A clearance sign is on the front window of a RadioShack store.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In 2014, over 4,300 RadioShack stores operated in North America. But after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2015, most of those locations shut down. Competitor sales and over-production forced the company to take loans that they could not pay back.

Today, around 400 RadioShack stores remain open. All of them run independently of their parent company, REV. It still sells products online, according to ABC News. RodaioShack has been around for 100 years, and hopes to continue for at least 100 more!

Many Best Buy Stores Will Close In 2021

Flat panel televisions in Best Buy display the store logo.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even before the 2020 pandemic, Best Buy was struggling. It still works hard to compete with online retailers like Amazon. During quarantine, Best Buy closed several stores and laid off around 21,000 workers. According to USA Today, Best Buy is expected to close more stores in 2021.

Although Best Buy has yet to declare bankruptcy, it is shrinking. A little over 1,000 stores remain, and the company also sells online.

Circuit City Ended…And Was Resurrected

A massive logo for Circuit City is on the side of the store.
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If you thought that Circuit City ended in 2009, you’re right. The electronic retail company liquidated all of its stores in March 2009. But in 2016, retail veteran Ronny Schmael acquired the Circuit City copyright from Systemax and planned to relaunch it.

In August 2018, Circuit City officially relaunched. Although no storefronts exist, you can now shop for its products online at Circuit City Corporation. If this website does well, perhaps new in-person stores will open.

How Much Longer Will Charlotte Russe Last?

People walk by a Charlotte Russe store that is hosting a closing sale.
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The fashion company Charlotte Russe struggled in the late 2010s. In 2019, it filed for bankruptcy and closed 94 stores. Poor sales, debt, and falling stocks all led to bankruptcy. But in April 2019, the brand’s social media announced a comeback.

Charlotte Russe planned to rebrand its online presence and open 100 new stores in the next year. But then, the pandemic hit. The number of stores did not increase but decreased from over 500 stores to 135. Still, the company maintains a positive outlook for the future.

Mattress Firm Miraculously Survived

A Mattress Firm is closed to the pandemic.
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When Mattress Firm went bankrupt in 2018, many people assumed that the company would not survive. The retailer closed over 700 stores and owed its mattress provider, Serta Simmons, $90 million. but miraculously, it survived.

Mattress Firm still operated in stores and online throughout 2020. As of December 2020, Mattress Firm still had 2,600 stores in the US. This is low compared to other mattress companies, but much higher compared to other failing businesses.

Claire’s Is Only Sold In America

The Claire's logo is printed on a storefront window in front of displayed earrings.
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While Claire’s still operates in some US malls, the same cannot be said for Europe. When the kids’ accessories store filed for bankruptcy in 2018, it liquidated all of its remaining 370 stores in the UK. In June 2020, bad news continued as Claire’s shut down another 92 stores in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Claire’s and Icing (both owned by the same company) went from 6,631 stores to 1,500. You can still find these stores in American malls, which means the brand still has a path to regrow its name.

Sleep Number Is Persevering Through Tough Times

A woman promotes a mattress inside a Sleep Number store.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sleep Number
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sleep Number

Although Sleep Number is still in business, it is rapidly declining. In April 2020, the company furloughed 40% of its employees, around 2,000 people. And that was before quarantine came into full swing.

With Sleep Number’s employees rapidly leaving, and the loans that it took from creditors, many people predicted that it would file for bankruptcy. But it hasn’t yet. With 579 stores yet and an online presence, Sleep Number is persevering and continuing to sell.

Linens ‘N Things Shifted Its Focus To Online Sales

The side of a Linens 'N Things store has a
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

In 2008, Linens ‘N Things underwent a painful liquidation. The bedding and blankets company had $650 million in debt and closed 120 of its 589 stores. But in 2009, two liquidation firms, Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Brothers Brands purchased Linens ‘N things to revive it.

The few hundred Linens ‘N Things stores remained open for a decade. In 2018, the brand redesigned its website and focused more on online sales.

Bon-Ton Only Exists Online

A mom and her daughter sit down to rest near a Bon-Ton store in a mall.
Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Bon-Ton was once a popular department store owned by Bon-Ton Holdings Inc. But since the 2010s began, sales fell drastically. In 2018, Bon-Ton finally filed for bankruptcy after eight years of little profit. It also liquidated most of its stores.

When Bon-Ton went bankrupt, it planned to eventually re-open several of its stores. But that never happened. Today, Bon-Ton only sells products online. Their home page says, “We’re back! And we’re here to stay.”

Get Catherine’s Products While They’re Still Available

A Catherine's store is closing.
reddit/u/welldamnitjerry
reddit/u/welldamnitjerry

Catherine’s is a plus-sized clothing store owned by Ascena Retail Group, the same parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft, and Justice. In September 2020, Ascena filed for bankruptcy and closed all of its remaining Catherine’s locations.

Over 320 Catherine’s stores closed down. However, the brand still sells products online. The hope is that the move to online-focused sales will help revive the brand. In the future, this could even lead to stores re-opening!

New Charming Charlies Might Open

Customers shop at a Charming Charlie booth.
Kim Raff/Getty Images for Operation Smile
Kim Raff/Getty Images for Operation Smile

In 2019, the apparel and jewelry company Charming Charlie filed for bankruptcy for the second time in two years. It also closed 268 store locations in 38 states. Although this seemed like the end, the founder, Steve Lovell, had another trick up his sleeve.

In September 2020, Lovell announced that new Charming Charlie locations are scheduled to open. Charming Charlie is scheduled to reopen in one of its original locations, Cumberland Mall, Georgia. If this goes well, the brand might be able to open more stores.

Can Avon Successfully Rebrand?

Several Avon lipsticks are on display.
Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The cosmetic company Avon has struggled with sales since the early 2000s. Between 2007 and 2014, sales were cut in half. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2015, largely because other beauty companies offered more affordable products. But Avon is still alive and trying to rebrand.

In January 2020, the Brazilian business Natura & Co. acquired Avon. The 134-year-old company also has a new owner who is experimenting with social media advertising on sites like TikTok.