10 iconic brands that disappeared and 7 more that may soon follow

There are countless reasons that a brand might die, from failing to keep up with market trends to a shift in the market landscape. Even brands that enjoy decades of popularity and impressive sales are not safe from extinction.

Here are 10 iconic brands that are gone but not forgotten, and seven that may soon follow in their footsteps:

Iconic brands that are disappearing
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Iconic brands that are disappearing


1. F.W. Woolworth Co.

Once one of America’s biggest names in retail, Woolworth was among the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store, first opening in 1879. Woolworth’s dominated the discount sector through the first half of the 20th century, but found it harder to compete as Americans moved to suburbs and flocked to malls. Eventually it “collapsed under its own weight — expanding beyond sustainability and moving away from its five-and-dime discount roots and more toward a department store model,” according to TheStreet.

2. Compaq

Although it was in business only for 20 years, Compaq was one of the largest computer sellers in the world in the 1980s and 1990s. The company met its end in 2002 when it merged with Hewlett-Packard Corp. and was “gobbled up by then-CEO Carly Fiorina of HP to make HP’s market share as large as possible,” says WalletPop.

3. Pan American World Airways

The airline, more commonly known as Pan Am, was the largest international air carrier in the United States until it folded in 1991. It was credited with many innovations that shaped the industry, including use of jumbo jets and computerized reservation systems. Its demise came after years of financial losses, which were largely blamed on increased airline competition, the 1988 terrorist bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the shrinking of worldwide air traffic after the 1990 outbreak of the first Persian Gulf War.

4. Oldsmobile

During its century-long history, Oldsmobile produced more than 35 million cars. But the once-popular car brand faltered in the 1990s as drivers opted to drive smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. The company closed in 2004, though Oldsmobile remains an active trademark of the General Motors Co.

5. General Foods

General Foods’ predecessor was C.W. Post’s Postum Cereal Co., established in 1895 by Charles William Post. The name General Foods was adopted in 1929, and it remained a well-known food company for more than half a century. It acquired products including Birds Eye frozen foods, Kool-Aid and Jell-O, before being acquired itself by Philip Morris in 1985. After a merger with Kraft, the companies spun off in 2007 as Kraft General Foods.

6. Borders

Borders was once one of the country’s biggest booksellers, but it couldn’t compete with the popularity of the internet, Amazon.com and e-readers. It shut its doors and declared bankruptcy in 2011, after 40 years in business.

7. DeLorean Motor Co.

The DeLorean Motor Co. is best known for the stainless steel gull-wing sports car that was featured in the “Back to the Future” films. But lack of demand for the DMC-12 sports cars pushed the company into bankruptcy in 1982.

8. Enron

Founded in 1985, Enron was a Houston-based energy firm that grew to become the largest energy-trading company in the world, boasting some 20,000 employees and a claimed $111 billion in revenue in 2000. However, a hailstorm of scandals tied to corporate fraud came to light, and the corporation was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2001.

9. Tower Records

Founded in 1960, Tower Records invented the popular music mega-store concept. Business Insider says its bankruptcy in 2004 was the result of “excessive debt, music piracy and iTunes.”

10. Blockbuster

For more than two decades, legions of movie lovers spent hours perusing the endless aisles of movies at Blockbuster. The onetime home-video king failed to adapt quickly enough to changing trends and technologies, as companies like Netflix and Redbox gained steam. The company began its last wave of store closures in 2013.

One foot in the grave

1. Sears Holdings

Short for Sears Roebuck & Co., Sears began in 1888 as a mail-order catalog that provided a retail lifeline for rural towns. The department store chain is obviously still with us, but Sears Holdings (SHLD), created after its 2005 purchase by Kmart, has been circling the drain for years. The company has burned through billions of dollars in recent years, selling off assets and closing hundreds of Kmart and Sears stores. “Dramatically poor earnings performances, combined with the hemorrhaging of sales and cash flow” spell only bad news, says InvestorPlace.

2. Coke Zero

Although Coke Zero — the sugar-free soda that first hit store shelves in 2005 — was one of the top 10 soda pop brands in 2016, Coca-Cola announced this July it would drop the drink and replace it with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar in August. According to CNN Money, Coca-Cola says Coke Zero’s replacement tastes more like original Coke and performed well in markets across the globe.

3. Gymboree

The San Francisco-based children’s clothing seller that opened in 1986 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, announcing it would close 350 of its stores, CBS News reports. Increased competition from online retailers and dying mall traffic have crippled sales at the once-popular children’s retailer.


4. Dodge Viper

This is a bittersweet year for fans of the Dodge Viper, as the supercar celebrates its 25th anniversary and ends its production run for good in 2017. Fiat Chrysler plans to shutter the Detroit factory where the Viper is made on Aug. 31, USA Today reports. Viper sales have failed to meet projections for several years.

5. Tailored Brands

Although Tailored Brands may not be a name you’re familiar with, you’re likely to recognize one of its many retail outlets, which include Men’s Wearhouse, Twin Hill and Jos. A. Bank. According to Bloomberg, the beleaguered 44-year-old clothing seller has lost more than half its value in 2017, as fewer people shop its stores and many workplaces embrace more casual dress codes.

6. Wheaties

Wheaties, once dubbed the “Breakfast of Champions,” has been a mainstay in the cereal aisle for decades — its bright orange box has featured images of some of the most iconic athletes of our time. But according to Money, it’s one of a long list of cereal brands that have been “dying a slow death for years.” In 2015, Wheaties-maker General Mills attempted to revitalize the brand by partnering with Fulton Beer to create HefeWheaties, a limited-edition Hefeweizen beer.

7. Perfumania 

It’s not all roses for this perfume and fragrances distributor. Perfumania (PERF) “is in big trouble” this year, says InvestorPlace. Strong online competition and a drop in foot traffic in shopping malls have taken a toll on the perfume retailer. Its shares have dropped by more than 64 percent in the past year, CBS News reports.

Do you mourn or cheer the demise of these companies? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Do you mourn or cheer the demise of these companies? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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