3 iconic American brands destined for the trash heap
The economic downturn is taking a toll on these mainstays.
It has been ugly on Wall Street lately. Investors are spooked, consumers have prepared for the worst and businesses remain defensive. The Greek debt debacle is stealing recent headlines, but don’t fool yourself — persistent problems of high joblessness, a battered housing market and huge losses at financial firms continue to take a toll on the entire global economy.
While the big picture still is unfolding, there are a few stories for particular players that are rapidly approaching an unfortunate end. Victims of both the general downturn and of specific troubles related to their businesses, these iconic American brands are about to disappear.
We’ve already seen some retail big names go under in the past few years — Linens ‘n Things, Circuit City, Borders — but these aren’t exactly huge brand names. They are, after all, simply merchants who sell products from third parties.
But this latest wave of looming failures could be different because it will mean the end of some of the biggest American brands in history.
Here are those three iconic companies on the brink:
Eastman Kodak. Eastman Kodak (EK) saw its stock step off a cliff recently thanks to news that it was scrambling for cash just for “general business purposes.” Not a good sign when you need to ask for a loan just to keep the lights on.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Kodak has failed to transition into the digital photography age. A decade ago, Interbrand ranked Kodak as the 16th most valuable brand in the world,worth $14.8 billion — but every year since, the Kodak brand has fallen in both rank and value as consumers continue to identify it as an anachronism akin to rotary dial telephones and VHS tapes. The numbers at Kodak have been brutal as legacy film sales evaporate and its branded digital cameras and printers can’t fill the gap fast enough.
Its best year in recent memory was 2008, where it managed to post one good quarter and squeak out a full-year profit. Throw in a tough consumer spending environment, and Kodak seems destined to go to zero soon. That’s a sad fate for a company that once was synonymous with shutterbugs nationwide, but let’s be realistic. America’s “Kodak moment” seems to have come and gone — forever.
Competing airlines have been having a rough go of it, too, but at least have consolidated and strengthened their share of the airline market to minimize damage. Take newly merged United Continental (UAL), which was meant to marry two companies that eventually would have disappeared independently. No, it’s difficult to believe there is life after bankruptcy for AMR in this market — unless you count a sale to a rival as other major carriers struggle to be the last fish in the pond that gets eaten. It all means that 80-year-old carrier American could be grounded permanently.
But despite its iconic status and rich history, Sears is in it deep right now. Revenue has slid every year since 2008. To make matters worse, Sears Holdings was created by a merger of Sears and Kmart, and the operation has been a disaster as management tries to get a handle on the 4,000 total stores. (Read a full and painful list here of the ways Sears has failed to reinvent itself recently.) The company has had only three profitable quarters in the past two fiscal years, and it is slated to be in the black just once in fiscal 2012 for an ugly $1.50-per-share loss. And that’s if all goes according to plan. Same-store sales in the first quarter were off more than 5% for Sears, so it could be time for this iconic American catalog company to consider mailing it in.
I have worked as a manager in corporate retailing for 45 years. What determines how good a store’s customer service is going to be is directly related to how well the employee is treated by the corporation. If you treat your employees with disrespect they in turn will convey that same attitude to the customer.
You can’t browbeat, humiliate, and insult your employees and create an atmosphere filled with negativity and then expect the sales associates to treat their customer in an opposite manner.
A customer has the option to shop elsewhere. But, the employee does not have the same wherewithal to leave their employment.
I have been a Sears customer for many years. But, I have to recognize that the service quality has decreased a lot. Most definitely, I don't go to Wall mart, at all! But Sears has to change in areas such as employees treatment to customers, more people working at stores and, sometimes, the way the stores are organized.
And please, make sure all the merchandise has a price tag. It's quite annoying to have to look for someone to check the price for you and you can't find one to help.
Good luck Sears!
Corporate greed by companies like Wal-Mart is one of the reasons for this....How many billions do the Waltons need before they're satisfied ? Buying everything from foreign countries is another major issue.
We lost our savings, our jobs and equity homes because the LACK OF regulation in LONG-TERM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT ( LTCM derivatives). Thank you Wall Street ! ____________________________________________________________________ Time to take all our money from the corporate greed.
"Iconic Brands Headed for the Trash Heap". I find that title very offensive. Just report the facts from here on without adding your personal jab.
The future: Corporations rule America. CEOs vote among themselves who will be "president" for one year. All jobs will be outsourced that can be outsourced. The middle class (the folks with jobs) will be living on corporate credits which can only be spent at predetermined locations. The poor will live on food bricks, made of God knows what, in fenced off areas even the police and firefighters won't enter.
The rich will live in ivory towers, waited on by those middle class folks already mentioned. In a few more years, the corporations of Europe and Asia will take over their parts of the world. Corporate competition will lead to war. The poor, hoping to improve their lot, will be happy to fight for a chance at upward mobility.
You are no more than a number and an expendable one at that....Good luck.....
Campforlife, you can hardly blame the CEOs of an institution like Levi Jean Company when they have made a great product for over a century, and kept it relatvely affordable. Blame the idots who buy their kids $200 True Religion, Roberto Cavalli. APO. 7 For All Mankind jeans in order to be "cool". What was Levi's bpard supposed to do, market $300 jeans for the working man? Buyout a fly-by-night trendsetter? Truth is, this is a BAD economy and a lot of great American companies are hurting. What we need is to get Obama out of office and replace him with someone-- Democrat or Republican-- who understands basic macroeconomic theory; how NOT to waste money (remeber the Economic Stimulus Package?); and, most of all, how to put Americans back to work!
In a free market system, companies go away and new ones tke their place. Companies that survive the test of time tend to be chameleons, every changing to meet what the consumer wants. Despite all the advertising, Sears is not the place where working American gets the best deal. I have tried shopping Sears over the past several years for appliances, household items, etc and have always found what I was looking for, at a better price elsewhere-that is the bottom line for most consumers. And my last several visits to K-Mart have me wondering about what their identity is. Used to be the place to go for your household cleaning supplies, staple items like toilet paper and paper towels, personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste, but once again, I can find most things cheaper elsewhere. K-Mart tried to get in on the rewards program, but the points expire before you have enough for a reward, so where is the reward for shopping there. And I fail to see why patio furniture is worth 30% more just because it has Jacqueline Smith's name on it or Martha Stewart-the quality isn't really any higher for having a celebrity endorsement. And Lands End has just become way too pricey for most peoplle to consider. The sales are going to fall off as long as people can find similar quality for a lesser price.
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The company has made at least 4 acquisitions in the space, and few people have paid any attention.
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