'Sam the Record Man' files for bankruptcy

Sam the Record Man, a Canadian firm that's been part of the country's musical landscape for decades, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday.

The chain had been propped up by the Sniderman family in recent years, amid hopes that it could overcome fickle consumers, fierce competition, increasingly narrow margins, and the availability of free music downloads from the Internet.

But in the end, the family couldn't hang on.

"Until very recently, we believed that if we persevered, we could turn things around," said Sam Sniderman, the 81-year-old son of the firm's founder.

"The family's own commitment to the promotion of Canadian talent will continue," he said.

Sam Sniderman Sr. opened his first store in the mid-1920s. Sam Jr. began working there in 1937. In 1959, he opened his flashy landmark store on Toronto's downtown Yonge St. At one time, Sniderman claimed it was the largest retail record store in the world.

Its Boxing Day sales in the last few decades have been hugely popular events, with people lining up for blocks.

From the start, Sniderman and "Sam the Record Man" were synonymous with a move to "Buy Canadian" and support Canadian music artists.

Sniderman had a hand in establishing the "CanCon" regulations that mandated that Canadian artists be guaranteed at least a minimum amount of airplay on Canadian radio stations.

He started expanding nationally in the 1960s, establishing dozens of company-owned or independently-operated "Sam's" stores across the country.

But in recent years, "Sam" the entrepreneur faced more and more competition from big international chains like Britain's HMV.

A release said the Sniderman family hoped the business would "ultimately survive in a refocused form."

A spokesman for the bankruptcy trustee said it will be "moving quickly to consolidate the operations across the country for a major coast-to-coast sale."

The bankruptcy filing applies only to the 30 stores owned by the Sniderman family. Eleven independent franchises licensed to use the "Sam the Record Man" name are not included in the bankruptcy.