Friday, July 8, 2011

Jobs Report Says... Oh, Whatever... Here's 10 Brands On The Way Out!

The June 2011 jobs report issued Friday reveals what those of us in the trenches—naw, not the working class, I'm talking about those of us pushed off a cliff years ago—didn't need to read in a headline: There ain't no jobs. The unemployment rate spiked from 8.8% in March to 9.2% in June—again—while the "underemployed" rate—those out of work for more than 40 weeks who have all but given up on finding full-time jobs—is up to 16.2% from 15.7% in March.
While the feds remain obsessed with long-term debt, I could give a rat's ass. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration added 8 million jobs. Why hasn't the Obama administration gotten its head out of its butt to initiate something of the sort?

Instead, the Prez said this morning that while the economy is facing "tough headwinds" he's going to change it all up—by streamlining the patent process. Oh, boy! "I'm ready to roll up my sleeves," he chirped. Great. Might he have thought of that three years ago?

Okay, enough of that shit. Here's something that's actually interesting: 24/7 Wall Street has come up with a list of 10 brands that will evaporate by 2012. Previous lists accurately included Newsweek, Palm, Blockbuster and Borders, along with RadioShack, Reader's Digest, Kia (whoops, way off on that one), Crocs and Gap. I've condensed the factoids and natch, added my own commentary.

1) I'm amazed that Sears is still around anymore. It certainly feels like a stale, decidedly non-glam destination, doesn't it? Revenue continues to drop: down $341 million in its latest fiscal quarter. Its 2005 purchase of Kmart has been a disaster, too, with shares down 55% in the past five years. 24/7 Wall Street predicts the company will shutter Sears and try to save Kmart, instead of the two companies competing with one another—and both losing.

2) Saab was launched in 1949 by a Swedish industrial firm, which sold a million of its flagship 900 Series, released in 1978. GM bought half the company in 1989 and the balance in 2000. But Saab was never more than a niche brand against players like Ford and Chevrolet. In 2008, GM shed Saab, which was then bought by niche manufacturer Spyker. It sold 32,000 Saabs in 2010. 24/7 Wall Street says it's time to hang up the keys for good.

3) Damn all those "healthy" cereals. Kellogg’s Corn Pops sales dropped 18% over the past year to $74 million, compared with Cheerios and Frosted Flakes, which each move $200+ million a year. Corn prices are also hurting profits, while ingredients include stuff used to bind saturated fat, and BHT for freshness, used in embalming fluid. Yum! Oh, well, give me Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Captain Crunch and Quisp, anyday. I haven't had Corn Pops in decades. They always got too soggy too fast.

4) Tee hee. MySpace. Once the world’s largest social network, Facebook buried this dinosaur back in 2008. Facebook now has 700 million worldwide members and passed Yahoo! as the largest webbie for display advertising. News Corp, which bought MySpace, now has fewer that 20 million visitors and is trying to unload the brand. No one wants it. So it's off to outer space for MySpace.

5) Okay, this is kind of obvious. Soap Opera Digest has been decimated by two trends: first, there are no more soaps and second, who needs a print mag to find out about TV programming? This is one niche pub whose time has obviously passed. In 2000, the pub had circ of 1.1 million readers. It's now well below 500,000. I'm amazed it's that high. The print version of TV Guide can't be far behind.

6) Snotty clothing retailer American Apparel has at last lost its hip factor. Really, how can a store branded on boring solid color t-shirts have much to go on? After expanding to 260 stores in 5 years by 2008, it continues to bleed red and is now trading as a penny stock. Good riddance.

7) A&W Family Restaurants, founded in 1919, has been on the block since January, with no buyers. After WWII, 450 franchises opened and the company pioneered the “drive in” fast food format. A&W began to sell canned versions of its sodas in 1971, now owned by Dr. Pepper/Snapple. That's doing okay. But A&W Restaurants operates 322 franchises in the U.S., compared with 5,055 stateside KFCs, and Subway's and McDonald's 35,000 global locations each. 24/7 Wall Street concludes that A&W is too small to efficiently handle food purchases, logistics and transportation costs. So... so long.

8) Sony Pictures production arm has nothing to do with its core consumer electronics & gaming business. Sony bought Columbia Tri-Star Pictures in 1989 for $3.4 billion, which is tanking these days, down 15% in its most recent fiscal quarter, -$3.1 billion. Meanwhile, Sony’s gaming group is under siege by Microsoft and Nintendo, while its consumer electronics face an overwhelming challenge from Apple. If Sony can sell Columbia Pictures—and its namesake—it'll be gobbled into oblivion.

9) I didn't realize this, but 24/7 Wall Street says Nokia is a dead duck. While the world’s largest handset company sold 25% of the global total of 428 million units in 1Q 2011, market share was 6% higher a year earlier. Apple, Research In Motion (Blackberry), HTC and Samsung lead the way, while Nokia uses an outdated operating system and is moving to one even worse: Microsoft Windows mobile OS (ha ha!). 24/7 says the company is ripe for a takeover by any of its competitors.

10) Sony Ericsson was formed by the two consumer electronics companies to market handsets more efficiently under one name. The venture launched in 2001, before the rise of the smartphone. It was once as big as Nokia, Samsung, LG and Motorola. But no more. The brand has been fried by Apple and Blackberry. Sony Ericsson’s unit sales dropped from 97 million in 2008 to 43 million last year. There are marketplace rumors that Sony will take over the operation and rebrand handsets with its name.