Breakout

Kiss ‘Em Goodbye: 3 Consumer Companies at Death’s Door

Jeff Macke
Breakout

Nothing lasts forever, especially not consumer product companies that lose touch with the customer. Tastes change, and if companies can't adapt with the times, customers will vote with their feet. Americans may love a comeback story, but they are slow to forgive when they feel taken for granted by merchants. Once they're gone, they don't come back.

Retail expert and author Hitha Prabhakar joined Breakout to issue the last rites for three companies that most people probably didn't even know still existed. If you like dowdy department stores, outdated surfwear or makeup sold door-to-door, brace yourself, we've got some bad news.

Talbots

This department store for "women of a certain age," as Prabhakar delicately puts it, tried to go too fashion forward for its target demographic. Having failed with that strategy, they overshot to the downside and started selling goods that are inappropriate for women of any age.

The company got so lost that it surveyed its real customers to get their opinion. The verdict? Shopping at Talbots made them feel their real age.

Pacific Sunwear (PSUN)

Yes, the merchant of surfer-dude chic still exists not just all over the country but around the world. Alas, the tsunami of obsolescence spares nothing. Pacific Sun is "trying to ride the wave of Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF)," according to Prabhakar.

These days not even Abercrombie can manage that. Dressing teens is a brutally competitive business. It's a credit to Pacific Sun that it lasted this long.

Avon (AVP)

Avon not only still exists, but the company has shown some signs of life. After years of chaos in the corner office, the makeup marketer recently beat expectations, albeit only by losing less than Wall Street expected.

Prabhakar says it's too little too late. "The real issue is the company not being able to change with the times," she says. No one wants door-to-door makeup anymore, and there are simply too many competitors in the online world.

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