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Circuit City to close 155 stores

The major restructuring comes on the eve of the critical holiday selling season. Consumers, however, may benefit from the liquidation sales.

Circuit City Stores announced Monday it plans to close 155 stores and lay off 17 percent of its workforce in the U.S., as it aims to restructure its business amid a tightening credit market and downturn in business.

Over the past few weeks, the retailer's financial health has become more dire and, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, was considering restructuring moves as a means to avoid a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy filing.

Circuit City storefront
Circuit City Stores / Richard Cadan Photography

The struggling electronics retailer noted in its announcement that not only have its sales dropped amid an economic slowdown and loss in consumer confidence, but also its suppliers have begun cutting back on the level of credit they are extending to the retailer.

"The current mix of terms and credit availability is becoming unmanageable for the company," Circuit City noted in its announcement.

That cutback by suppliers comes at a critical time for Circuit City, as it heads into the holiday buying season when it wants to replenish its stock with the popular items.

The company plans to begin a liquidation sale at its 155 stores targeted for closing (PDF) on Wednesday and is expected to continue the sale through the rest of the year.

Circuit City also plans to scale back plans to open new stores to two from 12 in the current fiscal year and suspend all store openings for 2010. The company will continue to operate in 153 U.S. markets and overseas, but will be exiting 12 U.S. markets as a result of the restructuring.

Other woes for Circuit City include a potential delisting of its stock from the New York Stock Exchange. Last week, the NYSE warned the company its stock price had fallen below $1 for 30 consecutive trading days, a trigger point for a potential delisting.

The NYSE warned the company on Oct. 24 and Circuit City has 10 days to resolve the issue. One common means that companies use in this situation is a reverse stock split, in which investors who hold a certain number of shares can swap them for a single share in the issuer's stock. For example, 10 shares of stock trading at 50 cents each would become 1 share that trades at $5 a share.