yet spencer’s gifts lives on

4/26/09

The 24/7 Wall Street website just ran a story about 12 brands that will not survive the end of next year. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

1. Avis/Budget car rental – This parent company runs both rental units, which raises the perennial question: why do corporations own competing brands? It’s one thing if the product is cigarettes or something else that is a matter of taste, but these two companies are both just plain old shitty rental car shingles. I think their bigger problem is that they don’t have an ace in the hole like the other two companies: cheapo Enterprise actually does pick you up (even if it takes 2.5 hrs) and Hertz’s Gold Club is about the most easy, painless experience in travel.

2. Borders – This company’s main problem is that it isn’t Barnes & Noble. Actually, its biggest problem is that it’s in an industry that is approaching “blacksmiths” and “haberdashers” in relevance, but that hasn’t stopped B&N from staying the classier option. You go to Borders only if it’s bizarrely close to where you happen to be standing; if not, you trek to B&N or just spend hours on Amazon.

3. Crocs – This is a tough one, because as much as I like to see a simple idea succeed, I fucking hate Crocs almost as much as I loathe seeing men’s toes.

4. Saturn – No, not the planet, which remains a solid buy, and the best attraction for even the cheapest telescopes. The Saturn automobile, however, is now a goddamn piece of shit. It wasn’t that long ago that we all considered purchasing one as soon as we sold our first screenplay; now they are made of baling wire and super glue.

5. Esquire Magazine – Not being privy to the elevator conversations at Conde Nast, this is a surprise to me. The cover is always a stunner, and they always seem to have good articles, but I guess it’s not hitting a key demographic right now. It would be a pity if a magazine that started in 1933 and featured writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were to go under.

6. Gap or Old Navy or Banana Republic – The article calls this entity “a three-brand company living in a two-brand body”, but I think that’s crap. Leaving aside my beloved BanRep for the moment, if you want humongous, thick-cottoned shirts with advertising on them, you can go to Old Navy, and if you want basics that actually fit and feel good, you go to the Gap.

The interior of an Old Navy is warehouse-like with pounding fluorescent lights, but you can dress yourself for practically nothing, and their toddler/baby sales are astounding. The Gap has the cachet and calm of an upscale store, but they really have lost their vibrancy since the mid-90s. If they’re forced to merge, I hope they take the best elements of both.

7. Architectural Digest – I want to want to get this magazine occasionally.

8. Chrysler – Apparently the “Chrysler” part of Chrysler is its worst division – Dodge and Jeep are shellacking it despite their own sales sucking. I dunno, can any of you muster the enthusiasm to say, “God, I’m really jonesing for a Chrysler”? The PT Cruiser had its moment, but can you honestly look at this Sebring and feel your pulse quicken?

ChryslerSebring.jpg

20 miles per gallon! WHOOO-HOOO!

9. Eddie Bauer – Eddie Bauer wants to be L.L. Bean, but ends up being Dockers. In a world with REI, it’s hard to understand how anyone can measure up.

10. Palm – This one is a little heartbreaking to me, because I remember when I got my first Palm at That Internet Job in 2000, and how excited I was to have all my phone numbers and lists and calendars in one spot. Learning the graffiti was awesome too, and it could wirelessly synch with your computer. The games were fantastic, especially Scrabble – my Treo 650 was the balls.

But then Palm coasted for years, while the iPhone came out and destroyed it. If the Palm was Nick Faldo, then the iPhone was Tiger Woods. It doesn’t help that Palm is stuck with Sprint, a company that should be taken out back and beaten with a switch.

11. AIG – This won’t be so much a brand failure as a name failure – AIG owns lots of little insurance companies that can revert to their real names, and all the other holdings will quietly settle their business and move on to other pastures, or whatever AIG renames itself. Too bad motherfucking “Altria” is already taken.

12. United or US Air or American Airlines – Apparently one’s gotta go, and as far as I’m concerned, all three eat shit. Flying with any one of these carriers is like being trapped in a veal-fattening pen at 34,000 feet. The service is rude, you have to pay for breathing and the planes feel ancient. I don’t know why Delta and Northwest aren’t on this list – they’re just as bad. Except for the exemplary Virgin America, this is another in a long line of businesses that Americans can’t get right. Like rock and roll, we invented flight, but now everyone else is better at it.