Trans World shareholders OK sale of FYE subsidiary

Albany-based company says it has substantial doubt about its own ability to stay in business

ALBANY — Shareholders in the parent corporation voted Monday to sell ownership of music store chain FYE, a bricks-and-mortar retailer struggling to survive in a streaming-dominated industry.

Albany-based Trans World Entertainment Corporation detailed the $10 million sale of its subsidiary FYE to Sunrise Records and Entertainment Ltd in SEC filings. Its 206 locations — four of them in the Capital Region — will change names, and Sunrise expects to keep “substantially all of the current FYE employees,” according to a Trans World statement.

Regular FYE shoppers may have noticed that “For Your Entertainment” has branched out into selling products such as movies, T-shirts, Japanese chocolate Pocky sticks and action figures, to name a few pieces of their non-music inventory. 

After the sale, Trans World will focus on a small and historically unprofitable subsidiary called “etailz” that sells through Amazon Marketplace. It offered a cautionary note about this: 

“The Company has concluded that, following the Transaction, there still will be substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Trans World said in its proxy statement filed with the SEC.

The late Robert Higgins founded Trans World in 1972 to set up his first record store in Glens Falls, called Record Town. His company went public a decade later and grew to over 700 locations in 1994, raking in millions in profit.

That was a different world than today, where many listeners enjoy music via smartphone through paid or unpaid streaming services like Spotify or YouTube.

Streaming has skyrocketed to account for 75 percent of music industry revenue, according to a 2018 Recording Industry of America Association report. 

Physical and even digital album sales have been on the decline, forcing brick-and-mortar retailers to adjust.

Higgins died in 2017, but a trust in his name owns 39 percent of Trans World shares and is its largest shareholder.

The new owner of FYE is Doug Putman, CEO of Canadian Sunrise Records, who has “saved” other music retailers in Canada and the United Kingdom. 

In the Capital Region, FYE has stores in the Aviation, Crossgates, Via Port and Wilton malls.

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