Big brands that have taken their last bow in America
Here's a snapshot of brands across all industries -- automotive, publishing, tech -- forced to fold recently, or at least announce their exits from the U.S. market.
Abercrombie and Fitch's Ruehl
In mid-June, as the economic downturn continued to weigh on retail, specialty apparel chain Abercrombie & Fitch announced it was closing its trendy Ruehl stores. Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries said, "The recent strides made in differentiating and elevating the Ruehl assortment" made closing the brand "an especially difficult decision." All 29 Ruehl locations will shutter by year's end.
Many, Many Banks
Nearly 60 banks have failed so far in 2009, a figure experts believe will explode by year's end. Georgia, the hardest-hit state, has seen 15 bank failures this year, with Atlanta-based Silverton being the largest collapse. Normally, after a bank seizure, another bank assumes the failed bank's deposits and rebrands the business. In Silverton's case, the FDIC shut it down entirely after a plan to sell its assets to a group of private-equity investors fell through.
Various Auto Brands
A downshift in the auto market has set the stage for the elimination, sale and repositioning of various brands. Pontiac is driving into auto history, as General Motors is dumping the make in an aggressive restructuring plan. In January, Japanese automaker Isuzu exited the U.S. market, following a steep decline in sales. Some analysts are urging Suzuki and Mitsubishi to follow suit.
Circuit City shocked the retail world when it announced in January that it would liquidate after failing to find a buyer. The technology retailer filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008 but could not recover; its closure left more than 30,000 employees out of work. Analysts say the move opens up an opportunity for ex-rival Best Buy, which may eventually benefit from Circuit City's demise. (Consumers may not yet know that Circuit City has been reborn as an online retailer.)
Germany's Deutsche Post said last year that DHL, its package-delivery company, would mostly abandon domestic U.S. shipping after a failed attempt to take on UPS and FedEx. In January, DHL began focusing on international shipping and ended domestic-only air and ground services, resulting in nearly 15,000 U.S. layoffs. The move devastated the town of Wilmington, Ohio, where DHL had been the largest employer, but the pain continued in July, when ABX Air, which sorts and carries packages for DHL, said it would lay off an additional 1,000 workers in town by the end of August.
Fortunoff, Friedman's & More
Consumers are buying less bling these days, as the recession forces them to cut back on spending on baubles. In the last year, jewelry-retail bankruptcies have been on the rise. Those that couldn't emerge from bankruptcy and had to close down include Fortunoff, Whitehall Jewelers, Friedman's, and Christian Bernard.
Home Depot's Expo Design
The economic downturn continues to pressure the housing market, taking a bite out of the home-improvement business. This year, the nation's largest retailer in the category, Home Depot, shut down four of its smaller brands: Expo Design Centers, YardBIRDS, Design Centers, and HD Bath, amounting to roughly four dozen stores that were shut down.
Magazines and other print publications are folding fast, as the recession takes a toll on advertising revenue. Among those titles disappearing from newsstands: popular magazines about music (Blender, Vibe), business and luxury (Condé Nast Portfolio), and home lifestyle (O at Home, Hallmark, Country Home, and Domino).
Ladies, if Max Factor is a staple in your cosmetics case, you'll want to stock up now. Procter & Gamble, which owns the 100-year-old cosmetics brand, is phasing out distribution of Max Factor in the U.S. by early next year. P&G will shift the brand entirely to markets abroad where Max Factor sales have been the strongest.
As weak advertising revenue wreaks havoc on the nation's newspapers, some have been forced to stop the presses altogether. In February, the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's oldest newspaper, published a "Goodbye, Colorado" edition after failing to find a viable buyer. The venerable Seattle Post-Intelligencer vanished this year, and Michigan's Ann Arbor News ceased publication in July after 174 years (it will be replaced by a Web-focused community-news operation). Many other newspapers are seeking new sources of funding to stay in business.
Film manufacturer Eastman Kodak's decision to retire its iconic Kodachrome Film brand offers a snapshot of the changing landscape in the photography industry. As technology changes photographers' preferences, Kodachrome sales tanked and now yield only one percent of the company's sales. But the 74-year-old Kodachrome, the first commercially successful color film, leaves behind a rich history, responsible for capturing some of the best-known shots around the world. The company expects inventory to remain on sale through the fall.
Intel's Centrino Brand
Most PC consumers probably don't base their purchasing decisions on which brand of computer chip lies beneath the surface. But they've probably seen the "Centrino Inside" sticker. Intel, which makes the Centrino chip, is phasing it out for PCs starting next year, citing too many platform brands, and will instead focus on Intel Core. But Intel noted that Centrino has tremendous equity as a wireless technology, so the company will transfer the brand name to Wi-Fi and WiMAX products.
Linens 'N Things
Linens 'N Things, a former strip-mall mainstay, filed for bankruptcy last year and announced that it would also liquidate, after failing to find a buyer. But like Circuit City, the home-goods retailer is a well-known brand name that has given up its brick and mortar stores and has been resurrected as an online-only business.
Tiffany's Iridesse Pearl Jewelry Chain
Diamonds are a girl's best friend. Pearls are usually a close second, but as the recession hurts luxury spending, they seem to be one of the least favorite additions to the jewelry box. Case in point: Luxury jeweler Tiffany announced in March that it would shutter its Iridesse pearl chain, which has 16 locations across the U.S. Since opening in 2004, Iridesse has been unprofitable, contributing only one percent to Tiffany's annual sales.
First it was Times Square, then Union Square, 30 blocks south, in Manhattan. Finally, Virgin threw in the towel on all of its Megastores in the U.S. The remaining domestic stores will shutter by the end of summer. While the stores apparently remained profitable, despite struggles facing the music industry, the real-estate firms that own the U.S. chain, founded by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, were seeking higher rents from newer tenants.