By Haddon Libby
In business, brands rise and fall. Woolworths, once a dominant name in retailing, no longer exists with the remaining fragments of their company remaining as Footlocker. When the affluent invested, EF Hutton listened. After an unfortunate money laundering and fraud event, they were acquired by Shearson Lehman Brothers which is now part of Citibank. Enron, Adelphia, Arthur Anderson and MCI/Worldcom are four other names gone from the business landscape due to illegal business activities. Airlines that dominated the skies like TWA and PanAm have also ceased to be.
Looking at the current business landscape, what other iconic brands are at risk of meeting the same future as these former brand stalwarts?
The most obvious is Blackberry. Their stock that once topped $140 a share is now worth $7. After posting a breathtaking loss of nearly $6 billion for its last fiscal year on sales of $6.8 billion, they are having trouble finding a company to acquire them.
Nokia has seen a similar crash in their sales. At their peak, Nokia sold 450 million cell phones. Today, sales are under 15 million. While Nokia still makes one of the best cell phones on the market, consumers want smartphones. Given that Nokia went with the sub-par Windows operating system, Nokia, like Blackberry, found it difficult to compete against Apple and Samsung/Google.
Remember Dell, the personal computer maker? In 2000, they were the largest maker of computers in the world. As they moved away from customer service and focused on cheap computers, consumers who had liked their cheap computers moved toward tablets.
The Nook by Barnes & Noble is another brand that is destined to leave the market. Starting late in 2009, it has been tough for them to compete against the likes of Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad. As an example, Amazon gets 130 million visitors a month versus Nook’s 6 million visitors. It is thought that Google that wants to enter this market will service for Barnes & Noble upon Nook’s demise.
With the advance of digital content, most printed word publications are struggling. It is thought that Hearst Publishing will consolidate Road & Track into their better-read sister publication, Car & Driver. Another publication, Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine, is also thought to be verging on the cessation of their publication due to their difficulties in sourcing advertisers.
Among carmakers, Volvo is at risk of going the way of Saab. This Swedish car was once the benchmark for safety. With more and better products flooding their price points, Volvo sales are heavily reliant on the Chinese market these days as their brand is failing in the US and European markets. Another carmaker, Mitsubishi, has left the US market with sales representing only 3 out of every 1,000 new cars purchased with customer satisfaction ratings among the worst in the industry.
Quizno’s declared bankruptcy earlier this year. When other chains like Subway started toasting their bread, the combination of their higher prices and the recession doomed this franchise. With 60% less franchisees now than at their peak and a debt load of $600 million, Quizno’s itself may soon be mmm, toasted. Sbarro is another brand struggling for survival after a recent bankruptcy.
With over $8 billion in debt and declining sales, things at JC Penney do not look too good. Let’s not forget K-Mart or their sister company, Sears either. Best Buy, Toys “R” Us and Abercrombie & Fitch are other brands struggling to compete in the constantly evolving and highly competitive retail market.
In business like life, you are either growing or dying. Nothing stays the same. Each of these companies knows that so well.