Farewell to Hastings Entertainment stores
Hastings Entertainment - 1968-2016
The marketplace continues to shrink for those of us who still buy "real" CDs, DVDs/Blu-Rays, and books. In July 2016, Hastings Entertainment announced that they were going out of business and all of their "Superstores" in the Midwestern and Southern United States would be closed by the end of October. The chain's Facebook page was quickly filled with notes and remembrances from customers who'd been shopping there for years and were naturally saddened by this news.
Founded in Amarillo, Texas in 1968, Hastings had struggled for years against the constantly changing tides of media consumption. Competition from online retailers like Amazon, the growth of streaming and downloading services for music and movies, and the popularity of electronic reading devices meant that Hastings faced major losses in all of their main merchandise areas. The chain did attempt to shed their old fashioned "Music and Video Store" image in recent years by trying to re-invent Hastings as a "pop culture destination," with a bigger emphasis on toys, t-shirts, collectibles and merchandise related to films/TV, music, comic books and video games, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to stop the bleeding. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in June of 2016 and the chain was put up for sale, but when no buyer was found Hastings announced final liquidation proceedings in July. By Halloween 2016, Hastings was just a memory.
Hastings Superstores' "Reboot" Came Too Little, Too Late
Why I Will Miss Hastings
This may sound strange but I mourned the demise of Hastings even though I'd never actually set foot in one of their stores. They had no locations in my home state of New Jersey, but from what I've seen in pictures and videos it looked like Hastings was "my" kind of store. If there had been a local Hastings when I was growing up in the '80s, I would've spent the bulk of of my allowance money there, because they carried all of my favorite things - music, movies, and comics - under one roof!
However, I had been a loyal customer of the GoHastings web site for about five years. I'm a fanatical CD collector who's always looking for new sources of cheap music, so I was amazed when I came across GoHastings and saw their wide selection of used discs for pocket-change prices. Oddly enough, I learned of its existence through a guy from Australia (of all places!) on a hard rock/heavy metal web forum. He posted a message saying that he was bummed because he'd just discovered an absolutely amazing web store full of dirt-cheap used CDs, but they would only ship within North America, so he was out of luck. I had never even heard of the Hastings chain at that time but when I read that post I thought to myself, "Hey, I like cheap CDs, and I live in America...this sounds like something I should look into!" (haha)
Within five minutes of browsing on their site, GoHastings instantly became my "go-to" online CD source. Over the past five years I have filled countless holes in my collection thanks to them - most for only a few bucks apiece. I can't tell you how many times I'd hear a snippet of a song on the radio, think to myself "I wonder if I can get that on CD?" and later I'd find a used copy on GoHastings for $1.29. You can't beat that with a stick!
I never had any complaints about Hastings' customer service, either. On the rare occasion that I received a bum disc which was too scratched or beat up to play (this is, of course, the major hazard of ordering used CDs sight unseen via the internet), all I had to do was call them up and they'd credit the price of the disc back to me. I didn't even have to send the defective item back to them. For this middle aged, cheap music addict who was basically dragged kicking and screaming into the e-commerce world of the 21st century, GoHastings was Heaven on Earth.
Naturally, when rumors of Hastings' imminent demise began circulating in the Spring of 2016, I thought, "Oh man, that sucks! I'd better enjoy them while I still can!" and immediately placed an order for another stack of used/cheap CDs. When that shipment arrived, I placed another order... and when THAT one arrived, I placed another order. (Haha!) As fate would have it, my final CD from them (which was the lone album by Coverdale-Page, just in case anybody's wondering) arrived in my mail box on July 20th, 2016, and Hastings announced their liquidation a day later, on the 21st. Timing is everything!
Out of curiosity, I dug into my CD cabinets after I received my last haul and counted up how many discs I'd acquired from GoHastings in the past five years. When the grand total came to 95, I thought about going back and ordering another five - just to make it an even one hundred - but when I went to their site, GoHastings' usual home page had already been replaced by a large "GOING OUT OF BUSINESS" graphic, and online ordering was no longer an option, so that was the end of that. Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted. Hail and farewell, GoHastings (tips hat)!!
So Who's Left?
Now that Hastings has closed up shop, are there any other major players left in the dwindling world of brick-and-mortar music and movie retailing? I'm told that the FYE (For Your Entertainment) chain is still limping along in some parts of the U.S., but all of their stores in my area got outta Dodge several years ago. Most, if not all, of my other favorite watering holes like Tower Records, Sam Goody, Musicland and Media Play are long gone. (Side note: GOD, I miss Tower Records SO MUCH! *sob*) Big box retailers like Wal-Mart, and Target still carry CDs, but for how much longer? Their music selections are already so small that they're barely worth bothering with, and they continue to shrink by the day.
Thankfully there are still a number of mom-n-pop "indie" music stores across this great land of ours, which are the stores which truly deserve our support, because they're keeping the physical-media flame burning (besides, they get all the cool stuff!). Still, sometimes I miss the days when I could go to the Mall and spend hours wandering around in a gigantic store surrounded by endless music and video entertainment options. It was truly a great time to be alive, kids. We shall never see its like again.
To the fine folks at Hastings, thanks very much for keeping my CD addiction well fed over the past five years. To my fellow Hastings customers, I grieve with you for the loss of your favorite store. I hope you found some cool stuff during the going-out-of-business fire sales. I wish I'd been able to hit a store and scrounge alongside you, but according to Google Maps, the closest Hastings location to me was in Auburn, Alabama - which would have been a 995 mile road trip. At least I have 95 CDs to rock out with and remember them by.