Friday, December 19, 2008

Items That Will Be History

Recently I have noticed examples of companies that will soon be history. Some times these departures are due to obsolescence. Other times they are due to poor management. In the end, it is all part of the "creative destruction" that economist Joseph Schumpeter spoke of decades ago. When the market brings down businesses, it replaces them with better ones. It isn't always pretty, but it is indicative of the progress and prosperity we enjoy today.

So here's a list:

  • Polaroid Traditional Instant Film. In my neighborhood few, if any, had this camera. It was simply too expensive on the front end. But it was so cool for those who had one. Remember waiting for a minute as the picture slowly revealed itself? Now we see the picture instantly with a digital camera. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on December 18th.

  • Bill Blass. Also on this week we saw the fall of what once was one of the leading names in fashion. In recent years it found itself in mass market and struggling for relevance. Soon it will be a footnote of its industry unless someone simply buys the brand.

  • CD Sales at Starbucks. For a while there we were concerned that Starbucks would find itself taking over the world. Starting with our taste buds, working its way to our ears, etc. Well, with declining traffic and shrinking sales, the coffee giant is going back to basics and dropping its ambition of being an entertainment one stop.

  • Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper. You have to be kidding. This is one that won't likely be missed.

  • Crown Pilot Crackers. This New England staple was also popular in the Midwest where I grew up. They are history in 2008.

The above joins two airlines, a couple dozen banks, and untold number financial advisers and institutions. You can read more about losses here.

When companies disappear they are rarely replaced with other large firms. Rather, there is an up rising of entrepreneurs who will struggle to take their businesses to the next level. Some will make it, others clearly will not. It is interesting to think that virtually all the above names started off as mere ideas that were birthed into major corporations, that eventually found itself in this obituary. The next big list of winners are in the making, even as I write.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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