No, Cost Plus Doesn’t Plan to Shut Down in 2009

In a November 26 post, I mentioned a business report about 10 major retailers that might not make it to 2009 if their sales dropped by double digits during this holiday season compared to last year’s holiday season. Four have locations in Walnut Creek, including Oakland-based bargain import retailer Cost Plus

I wondered what the loss of Cost Plus would mean to Walnut Creek, what with Cost Plus having its prominent storefront location in downtown at the corner of Mt. Diablo and California boulevards.

Well, according to a blog on Diablo magazine’s website, Cost Plus CEO Barry Feld says that Cost Plus is here to stay. “I expect to be around celebrating our 75th anniversary,” says Feld, who was brought in as CEO in 2006 to reinvigorate the business. “We’re not going anywhere.”

According to the Diablo blog: Feld said the recent news report, predicting Cost Plus’ impending doom, reminded him of the need of tabloid journalism to accentuate the sensational and the negative.

At the same time, he acknowledges that Cost Plus has been going through tough times.

He tells Diablo: “I was brought in very specifically to do the turnaround. Cost Plus was in very serious trouble when I got here. The fundamental issue was that during the housing boom of ’03, ’04, Cost Plus turned itself into ‘PotteryBarn lite,’ a furniture store. I was a vociferous opponent of that strategy. I felt very strongly that this was a very dangerous merchandizing shift.”

Adds Feld: “For years, the company successfully sold an aggregation of inexpensive products—soaps, candles, or foods from around the world, inexpensive carpets, home décor items for the first-time home buyer. Cost Plus started to lose its core customer base when it started to fill our stores with expensive collections of furniture. The company started to slow down when the housing market started to slow.”

Now, according to Diablo, “Cost Plus is back in the business of selling mostly low-priced, iconoclastic items to the same kinds of people who shop at Trader Joe’s: educated singles and couples, with or without kids, living in or near urban centers, looking for items that are tasteful, original, but not super expensive.”

Feld says that 85 percent of items sold at Cost Plus now go for under $20 a piece.”

Let’s hope that’s the case. Actually, I always liked Cost Plus. And even though I’m downsizing my holiday gift spending, I might stop in to see if they have any fun stocking stuffers.

5 thoughts on “No, Cost Plus Doesn’t Plan to Shut Down in 2009

  1. My older brother is the CEO in charge of Real Estate for Cost Plus World Markets. At this time they are only selling off about 25 stores, and will be down-sizing staff after the holiday’s.One thing that Cost Plus has done is to merchandise their stores with items under $20 to stay competitive with stores like Target, Walmart, Kmart, etc. (Most stores now are 80% stocked with these items). Looks like it has been working out.However their overall stock value has dropped 90% (ninety percent) just in the last year. That makes for an un-certain future indeed.It has been reported in the media that the survival of Cost Plus will be a good barometer in the retail sales arena. If Cost Plus goes under; that’s not a good sign.


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