Although Sony’s recent launch of PlayStation 4 has been a huge success (5.3 million units sold so far), the Japanese company is closing 20 of its 31 US retail stores and laying off 1,000 workers. The company faces a number of challenges, including getting out of the PC business altogether and unfavorable reviews of its Xperia Z2 smartphone.
The news of big brand retailers closing hundreds of stores usually worries both Wall Street and Main Street. Headlines about Radio Shack closing 500 stores and Sears shuttering 300, including its flagship store in downtown Chicago, tend to get people nervous about the economy. But sometimes the decision to close some stores is good news for the company, its stockholders and customers. Those parties increasingly want companies to focus on core competencies–and Sony’s core competence isn’t in retail. Besides, transforming existing brick-and-mortar stores into “retail experiences” isn’t easy. (The enchanting impresario of the Apple Store, for example, was unceremoniously booted from retailer JCPenney after his magic waned.) How can these stores compete with the convenience of online shopping? Online merchant FreshDirect has managed the heretofore impossible–it sells fish online. The times they are a-changing. While the most successful retail chains are integrating targeted mobile couponing and high-tech gadgets to entice shoppers back into their stores, Sony couldn’t make the move. Unfortunately for the Japanese giant, chances are those savvy shoppers will be tapping into savings on their iPhone or Samsung S5.