- Best Products
:"For the home electronics chain see:
Best Buy, for the New York department store, see Best & Company."Infobox_Defunct_Company
company_name = Best Products Co, Inc.
foundation = 1957
defunct = 1997
products = home furnishings, consumer electronics, jewelry, housewares, toys
homepage = None
Best Products (also known simply as BEST) is a defunct chain of American
catalog showroomretail stores, formerly headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.
The company was founded by
Sydney Lewisand Frances Lewis. Sydney Lewis, a lawyereducated at Washington & Leeand Harvard Business School, worked with his father managing an encyclopedia sales operation in Richmond. Lewis thought of selling additional merchandise along with the bills for encyclopedias. In 1957, the Lewises sent out their first catalog. The first showroom was at 4909 West Marshall Street in Henrico County, just across the street from the new Willow Lawnshopping center.
The company had a strong sense of promotion and artistic sensibilities; it was legend in artistic circles that it would trade store merchandise for art. As a result, the company, as well as the Lewises, gathered a significant collection of 20th century art. Much of the Lewis Collection can be seen at the
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
In the 1970s, Best Products contracted with
James Wines’ SITE, Sculpture in the Environmentarchitecture firm to design nine highly unorthodox retail facilities, notably a tongue-in-cheek structure in Houston, Texaswith a severely distressed facade. This building purportedly “appeared in more books on 20th century architecture than photographs of any other modern structure” [http://www.texaschapbookpress.com/magellanslog54/indeterminatefacadeintro.htm] . In Richmond, the company built the Peeling Wall showroom that appeared to have a peeling facade (located on Midlothian Turnpike) as well as a Forest showroom that appeared to have trees growing out of it (located on Quioccasin Road). Photographs of these storefronts appeared in several Best catalogs. As of 2007, all of these distinctive buildings have been converted into conventional buildings by removing the architectural embelishments, or in a few cases, demolished.
Their Parham Road headquarters, built in 1981 and designed by
Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, was notable for an American Institute of Architects award and the use of Art Decoeagles rescued from a New York building. [http://www.holzmanmoss.com/best_products_pompany.html] The giant BEST letters of the headquarters could be seen along Interstate 95 at Parham Road. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer subsequently designed the West Wing of the Virginia Museum, which was funded by the Lewises.
Best employed the "catalog showroom" concept for many of its product offerings. Although some product categories (such as sporting goods and toys) were stocked in traditional self-serve aisles, the majority of products (notably consumer electronics, housewares, and appliances) were featured as unboxed display models. Customers were permitted to examine and experiment with these models, and if found to be desirable, they could be purchased by submitting orders to store personnel. Saleable versions of the merchandise (typically boxed and/or in its original packaging) would then be retrieved from storage and delivered to a customer service area for subsequent purchase.
As a cost-saving measure, Best jointly published its catalog with
Service Merchandiseand Modern Merchandising, and had regional non-compete agreements with those chains.
In 1982, Best acquired Basco and Modern Merchandising of Minneapolis and the six chains it operated —
LaBelle's, Dolgin's, Jafco, Miller Sales, Rogers and Great Western.
In 1985 Best Products was named the most efficient corporation in the United States by the Fortune 500 groupFact|date=September 2007. This was following the streamlining of Modern Merchandising into the Best Products family. The conversion was a move that analysts said would take as long as five years. Best completed the project in nine monthsFact|date=September 2007.
Best filed twice for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The first bankruptcy period began in January 1991 and lasted through
June 16, 1994. The second and final filing was made on September 24, 1996. At the time of the second filing, Best operated 169 Best stores and 11 Best Jewelry stores in 23 states, and a nation-wide mail-order service. Some analysts believe that the catalog itself was the downfall of Best and other catalog-showroom retailers because it constrained stores’ product lines and prices for each catalog’s shelf life, sometimes up to 18 months, while competitors were free to adapt to market conditions. Many also believe that the company's bad budget management was its downfall.
Best Products was traded on the
NASDAQexchange as “BESTQ.” It was de-listed on November 29, 1996. Best did not appeal the NASDAQ decision. By May 1997, Best had liquidated most of its assets and was declared insolvent. Best vacated its corporate headquarters in Richmond in January 1998 and mailed out final checks to unsecured creditors the following December (paying 96 cents per dollar owed).
* [http://www.siteenvirodesign.com/proj.best.php Official project webpage on SITE's website]
* [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3092/is_n7_v35/ai_18169720 Best cuts catalog to redirect marketing dollars]
* [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3092/is_v24/ai_3772113 Best centralizes, and admits it should have done so in 1982]
* [http://www.texaschapbookpress.com/magellanslog54/indeterminatefacadeintro.htm Bye-bye, Best Products: An Architecture Fairy Tale]
* [http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=11913 SITE Best Products stores pictures]
* [http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0403/bst/index.html Metropolis Magazine's article about the showrooms of Best Products]
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