- Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider
- Stores don’t always last forever.
- 1990s favorites like Claire’s and Blockbuster were gems of their time. But changing fads and the rise of e-commerce have thrown many of these brands from their once-lofty perch.
- Some stores that thrived in the ’90s have survived to this decade. But some have gone bankrupt since their heyday.
- From Payless to Delia’s, here are 10 chains that peaked in the ’90s but have gone downhill since then.
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Some stores aren’t what they used to be.
Many chains like Blockbuster and Claire’s enjoyed great success in the 1990s. But in many cases, the good times came to a screeching halt at the start of the 21st century.
However, some stores have managed to hang on tight, even if by the skin of their teeth.
Toys R Us, the beloved toy store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017 and then liquidated several months later, but it was revived this year in a new entity called Tru Kids. Payless had 3,295 stores in 1991, but it is currently in the process of closing all its US stores.
We took a trip down memory lane to find 10 brands that peaked in the ’90s. Many of them have spiraled downwards since their prime, but some stores, like Hot Topic and Claire’s, still exist.
- Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider
Famous for its colorful, glitter-infused clothes, many Limited Too locations were rebranded as Justice stores in the early 2000s.
Toys R Us
But at its peak, Toys R Us was a wonderland for kids in the ’90s – a toy heaven, so to speak. The toy chain’s ultimate downward spiral left many kids who grew up in the ’90s filled with nostalgia. The chain is opening new stores in 2019.
- Blockbuster/Neal T.
Before the age of Netflix and Hulu, there was Blockbuster, the movie rental store that practically defined the ’90s zeitgeist.
Interestingly, one Blockbuster store has survived in Bend, Oregon.
- Kirsten Acuna/Business Insider
Before fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M became big, Wet Seal was a go-to destination for low-rise jeans and tube tops.
The electronics chain was founded in 1949 and soared during the ’90s but filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Many of the empty store locations were actually converted into restaurants, though the retailer does still have an online presence.
Circuit City has a special place in the hearts of many ’90s kids. One industry executive even announced in 2018 he would launch a comeback of the electronics store.
- Matthew R./Yelp
Hot Topic was a must-visit for any trendy ’90s kid spending a Sunday at the mall. The first store opened in 1989 and featured punk-themed merchandise, perfect for the screamo-loving, eyeliner-wearing teen.
The store eventually expanded into clothes and became the place to pick up themed merchandise across the board.
Hot Topic constantly morphs to cater to the fad of the day, so it has stayed alive even while mall traffic has declined. It also has an online store.
The first Payless store opened in 1956. The retailer saw tremendous growth through the second half of the 20th century.
In 1991, the company had 3,295 stores. It continued to grow throughout the ’90s.
Problems came at the turn of the century as competition from other retailers increased.
- Irene Jiang / Business Insider
Claire’s was another teen retailer that declined after the ’90s. In fact, the store has been criticized for failing to modernize and staying stuck in the past.
But the accessories and ear-piercing store was once a major destination for teens.
Linens ‘n Things
Linens ‘n Things had some good years before it closed all it stores.
The years after 1992 were particularly strong for the brand, which saw net sales increasing annually. Linens ‘n Things was soaring in the ’90s – sales were increasing and new stores were opening up.
- Courtesy of Dolls Kill
This teen fashion brand was another staple of the ’90s that carried clothes filled with eye-popping colors.
Famous for its catalog, Delia’s grew tremendously in the ’90s, but its success came to a screeching halt in 2014 when it filed for bankruptcy.
Delia’s experienced a revival in 2018 when teen brand Dolls Kill bought the rights to release a collection based on the brand’s iconic catalog.