Welcome back to the December edition of LRM’s Retro-Specs! Happy Holidays! Last Decemeber we took a stroll through the Sears Catalogue to remind us a holidays long ago. This month I thought we could take a look at another place many of us would spend our holidays shopping. Before Amazon, Target, Best Buy, and Walmart are the giants they are today, the best place to go for one-stop shopping in the 90s is Media Play!
The Best of Everything
Video games? CDs? Tapes? Books? Specialties? Media Play has it. In 1992 electronic stores such as Sam Goodys and Suncoast can be found in malls. While these stores are great, their owners, Musicland Group Inc. want to branch out to a larger store. One that can be connected to a mall, or stand on its own. That’s how Media Play comes to be.
Media Play moves into large warehouses and has video games, software, books, videos, tapes, CDs, specialty items all in one place. Think about it. You are just past the toy age. You don’t want to go into the toy store to look at video games. You could ruin your rep! Well, Media Play has them. AND you can play select games right there!
I do remember being sad when the toy store Children’s Palace closed in our area. I knew that nothing taking its spot would be as good. However, I was wrong! Media Play takes its spot. They actually take over a number of former Children’s Palace’s and keeps some of the castle-like architecture.
The first store opens in an Illinois shopping plaza in 1992. Additional stores open in North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, New York, and Utah. In its prime there are 89 Media Play stores in 19 states. It is the place to be. I remember going there often with my friends. Cruise around the aisles, play some games, listen to music (they had headphones around that you could sample different CDs with). They always have the most recent movies playing across different genres on the selection of TVs and memorabilia that matches the films. You can go through the book section and pick out the new hot titles (prior to Barnes and Noble). Media Play truly had it all.
If you were going to be there often then you needed to join the loyalty program. If you join the Media Play Loyalty Program, Replay, you add up points which results in discounts! Of course it works like many other loyalty programs. However, with so much being housed under one roof, the options are endless!
If It’s So Good, Why Didn’t It Last?
Well, as so many other wonderful 80s and 90s gems, Media Play begins its downfall around 2000. The dominance of other all-inclusive stores is one factor. Higher than usual prices are another. And, of course, the internet is another. In 2001, Best Buy purchases Media Play. Unfortunately, stocks begin to drop 27% in music and entertainment at the franchise partially due to online/downloadable music.
Even with a new marketing strategy, Media Play (and Sam Goody/Suncoast stores alike) have record loses by 2003. In that year 107 stores close and the brakes are put on the opening of any future stores.
Beginning of the End
Due to the loses, Best Buy puts Media Play, and its sister stores, up for sale. Florida-based Sun Capital Partners buys the properties. Media Play tries to hold strong during the 2000s, but the increase in competition from Circuit City, Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc. prove to be too much.
By 2005 even more stores close. That same year the loyalty program stops, and the franchises are no longer accepting returns. The writing, at this point, is on the walls. In 2006 they close the remaining stores, but still operate online.
Unfortunately, it is too little too late.
Media Play is Still Around…Kind Of
As Musicland files for bankruptcy Transworld Entertainment Company out of New York buys Musicland. In many malls, a majority of Sam Goodys rebrand to F.Y.E. (For Your Entertainment). Some Media Play locations swap the name as well. Many F.Y.E. stores are smaller than Media Plays. However, many keep the same layout. Go in to and F.Y.E. and see if it reflects your former Media Play!
While another 90s treasure is gone, it definitely will not be forgotten! While we may not have Media Play to go to for our holiday shopping this year, we do have our fond memories. Do you remember Media Play? What is your go-to purchase from the store? What other memories do you have? Did yours have the old Children’s Palace architecture? Leave your thoughts in the usual spot, and thanks for reading!