CLEARWATER — First, the retail chain Linens 'n Things went bankrupt. Then Circuit City went belly up, closing nearly 600 stores.
These are tough times for the big box giants.
But here comes a new arrival, a consumer electronics retailer called HHGregg, which opened a huge new store Thursday in the middle of Clearwater Mall.
It's in a building that used to be occupied by Linens 'n Things. And the new chain is seeking to fill a void left by Circuit City, Sound Advice and other electronics stores that have gone out of business in the last year or so.
HHGregg is opening six new stores around Tampa Bay and West Central Florida. Aside from Clearwater, the others are in Bradenton, Brandon, Brooksville, New Tampa and Sarasota. The Indianapolis-based company now has 20 Florida stores, as well as locations in eight other states.
"We're very excited about our continued expansion in Florida," said company spokesman Jeff Pearson. "The opening of these new stores demonstrates our commitment to expand our business and gain market share."
The Clearwater location held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting with the company's CEO on Thursday, although it actually had a "soft opening" several days before that.
The inside of the large store is stocked with electronics and appliances. Two of its four long walls are taken up by huge flat-screen high-definition TVs. More acreage is devoted to dishwashers, ovens, computer accessories and home theater systems.
Its sales representatives, dressed in blue shirts and dark slacks, work solely on commission. Their salaries are based on the sales they generate.
"It's good that they're competing with Best Buy, I guess," shopper Scott Longwell said as he checked out plasma TVs. "The more competition, the better."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4160.