10 brands that peaked in the '90s, including Blockbuster and Limited Too

  • Stores don't always last forever.
  • 1990s favorites like Claire's and Blockbuster were gems of their time. But changing fads and the rise of e-commerce have thrown many of these brands from their once-lofty perch.
  • Some stores that thrived in the '90s have survived to this decade. But some have gone bankrupt since their heyday.
  • From Payless to Delia's, here are 10 chains that peaked in the '90s but have gone downhill since then.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Some stores aren't what they used to be.

Many chains like Blockbuster and Claire's enjoyed great success in the 1990s. But in many cases, the good times came to a screeching halt at the start of the 21st century.

Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu sent Blockbuster into a death spiral. Declining mall traffic and the rise of e-commerce had a similar effect on other retailers that couldn't quite compete. 

Read more:5 fast-food chains that went extinct in the US but survived internationally

However, some stores have managed to hang on tight, even if by the skin of their teeth.

Toys R Us, the beloved toy store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017 and then liquidated several months later, but it was revived this year in a new entity called Tru Kids. Payless had 3,295 stores in 1991, but it is currently in the process of closing all its US stores.

We took a trip down memory lane to find 10 brands that peaked in the '90s. Many of them have spiraled downwards since their prime, but some stores, like Hot Topic and Claire's, still exist. 

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Sterling, USA - April 4, 2018: Toys R US store in Fairfax County, Virginia for children shop exterior entrance with sign, logo, doors, closing going out of business bankruptcy, couple walking

Toys R Us

The toy retailer experienced many ups and downs, from filing for bankruptcy protection in 2017 and liquidating in 2018 to its planned revival this year.

But at its peak, Toys R Us was a wonderland for kids in the '90s — a toy heaven, so to speak. The toy chain's ultimate downward spiral left many kids who grew up in the '90s filled with nostalgia. The chain is opening new stores in 2019.

Blockbuster

Before the age of Netflix and Hulu, there was Blockbuster, the movie rental store that practically defined the '90s zeitgeist.

Blockbuster was founded in 1985 and thrived throughout the '90s. In one of the more tragic company death spirals, the store ultimately petered into irrelevance and filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Interestingly, one Blockbuster store has survived in Bend, Oregon.

Wet Seal

Another '90s icon, this teen retailer filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

Before fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M became big, Wet Seal was a go-to destination for low-rise jeans and tube tops.

In 2015, the retailer said it would close 338 stores, partly a result of declining mall traffic. The final death knell came in 2017 when the retailer announced it was closing all of its stores.

Circuit City

The electronics chain was founded in 1949 and soared during the '90s but filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Many of the empty store locations were actually converted into restaurants, though the retailer does still have an online presence.

Circuit City has a special place in the hearts of many '90s kids. One industry executive even announced in 2018 he would launch a comeback of the electronics store.

Hot Topic

Hot Topic was a must-visit for any trendy '90s kid spending a Sunday at the mall. The first store opened in 1989 and featured punk-themed merchandise, perfect for the screamo-loving, eyeliner-wearing teen.

The store eventually expanded into clothes and became the place to pick up themed merchandise across the board.

Hot Topic constantly morphs to cater to the fad of the day, so it has stayed alive even while mall traffic has declined. It also has an online store.

Payless ShoeSource

The first Payless store opened in 1956. The retailer saw tremendous growth through the second half of the 20th century.

In 1991, the company had 3,295 stores. It continued to grow throughout the '90s.

Problems came at the turn of the century as competition from other retailers increased.

The company filed for bankruptcy twice — in 2017 and in2019— and is currently in the process of closing all its US stores.

Claire's

Claire's was another teen retailer that declined after the '90s. In fact, the store has been criticized for failing to modernize and staying stuck in the past.

Claire's declared bankruptcy in 2018 and blamed its problems on declining mall traffic.

But the accessories and ear-piercing store was once a major destination for teens.

Despite the company's struggles, nostalgic millenials can still visit any of Claire's 2,220 stores in North America and Europe, as well as shop online.

Linens 'n Things

Linens 'n Things had some good years before it closed all it stores.

The years after 1992 were particularly strong for the brand, which saw net sales increasing annually. Linens 'n Things was soaring in the '90s — sales were increasing and new stores were opening up.

But things eventually went downhill. The company had closed all its stores by 2008, though its products are still available online.

Delia's

This teen fashion brand was another staple of the '90s that carried clothes filled with eye-popping colors.

Famous for its catalog, Delia's grew tremendously in the '90s, but its success came to a screeching halt in 2014 when it filed for bankruptcy.

Delia's experienced a revival in 2018 when teen brand Dolls Kill bought the rights to release a collection based on the brand's iconic catalog.

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