yet spencer’s gifts lives on


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?


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.

0 thoughts on “yet spencer’s gifts lives on

  1. LFMD

    You know, just yesterday we were at our nearby large outlet mall, and I was surprised to see a Croc outlet store. Since when does Crocs sell their shoes for discount? I told my husband that it must be a sign that Crocs has hit hard times.
    Personally, I love my Crocs. I have 4 pair, and my daughter has 3.
    I am going to read this article now. . .

  2. Anne

    I used to be a Crocs hater, and I still won’t wear mine outside our neighborhood. But I begrudgingly figured out that they are the best footwear for gardening. They’re actually comfortable in a weird way, and the back strap keeps them from slopping off like a regular clog. Wash ’em with the hose when you’re done tromping around in the dirt. Dewy lawns can’t destroy them, but the ventilation (all those holes) keep your feet from overheating in the summer. I keep mine on a rubber mat on our front porch. They get worn a LOT from May-Oct.

  3. Sean

    There’s a weird cross-section for me here. In sincerely believe that the American system works on a fundamental level, and that means that a) having a bunch of different companies offering the same thing is good for us and good for them, but also b) if nobody is buying buggy whips, then you can’t expect to make a living selling them.
    My dad had an amazing skill doing autography, setting large scores of music into giant pages, making them gorgeous and making them fit perfectly. He passed this skill down to me, we actually sat together when I was in my early twenties as he showed me what he did.
    At almost EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, computers were doing it MUCH better than we could ever hope to. And thus, an industry disappeared. And I didn’t shed a single tear, it’s SUPPOSED to disappear.
    So, with things like clothes stores, I hope they find a way to stay afloat so that everyone can keep dressing the way they want, but as far as Palm goes… unless they’re gonna start *trying*, they may as well follow the autographers out the door.

  4. Lee

    How could Crocs be in trouble? Seriously…how much could it possibly cost to make a pair? 15 cents?? Maybe.
    Now Eddie Bauer. That will make me sad. Since I’ve recently been battling an ice cream addiction, they’ve been there for me offering comfy clothes in a slightly larger size that I can get at the mall unless I want to wear box pants from Old Navy, which I don’t.
    As for Old Navy, I hope it’s them- as all that child labor they use to keep their clothes cheap should wreak karmic hell all over their fat ass corporate board room.

  5. Piglet

    Most of those brands are things I don’t use anyway. Some are brands I haven’t heard of.
    The exceptions include Old Navy. I like the durability and low cost of their clothes. also, Borders. I disagree with you on that one, keeping in mind my area doesn’t HAVE a Barnes & Noble, and the Borders is within walking distance of my house and a comfortable place to hang out. Maybe print books are on their way out, maybe not, but our Borders is at least half music, DVDs and the coffee stand, and their staff is helpful and competent. Seems to me they’re doing what a store should do.
    I understand AIG is going to change their name to PANGLOBAL International Group. At least the acronym will be appropriate.

  6. wottop

    You forgot dook Blew Devils basketball, Inc.
    Goodbye Hendergoon, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

  7. cullen

    Unfortunately wottop, I have the sneaky suspicion that Dook will crawl out from under this past season’s blue-fly cowpie. They have some impressive new recruits and are still in the running for a fine guard, John Wall, out of Raleigh. I live to hate ’em, but just like a good family of roaches, they’ll likely re-emerge.
    Great byline btw, the old Hanes Mall’s Spencer’s Gifts was a sophisticated smart arse haven for an impresssionable and newly transplanted mountain boy such as myself

  8. Joanna

    I stumbled out of bed this morning, opened my laptop and wondered how Ian has so much to say about so many things.
    It got me thinking …
    I’ll be happy if I never see another pair of Crocs and can Uggs go away, too? (Ask A Gay Man slams crocs)
    I’m forever grateful to Old Navy for seeing me through the post baby size fluctuations.
    Gosh, I’ll kind of miss it when all the grandma cars are gone. When I helped my grandmother move, I found myself enjoying the luxurious lack of distinction between automotive parts and living room furniture.
    Good, I never learned how to use a Palm.
    Maybe my son’s Manchester United jersey will become a collector’s item. It reads AIG in GIANT letters.
    Those airlines are all peanut free. Please spare at least one of them or my family will be car

  9. Neva

    This was a fun post – made better by the title!
    Can’t say I’ll miss any of these places. Seems like better opportunities abound and thus we say goodbye to the lesser thans.
    I do think Spencer’s gifts will always have an audience (although I always wondered if anyone actually bought anything since it’s mostly full of gawkers). Even though you could buy all that junk online now it’s not the same when you are 12 and finally left alone in the mall and can go with your friends to point and giggle at the sex games and inflatable boobies and feel like you’re doing something old and naughty. The internet just doesn’t fill that need for the preteen crowd.
    I think Buick will stay around to provide another alternative to the Chrysler and Pontiac driving Grandmas.
    I beg to differ about Borders. I see no advantage to B and N over Borders personally. In fact I think the coffee is better at Borders. I prefer the library or Amazon over either one though.
    I never bought anything at Old Navy that didn’t fall apart after about 4 washings (which is about the time my kids ruined it anyway so it did fill some purpose).
    I thought Eddie Bauer died a quiet death in the 1990s along with the grunge look.
    Tried the first Palm briefly. Hated that graffiti thing and lost all my data once. Refused to put it back in and that was the end of that. Still doing the large written calendar on the side of the fridge and it works just fine for everyone.
    Until the other airlines higher rapping flight attendants I have no pity for them.

  10. Ruthy

    Fortunately for me (6 ft. tall), Eddie Bauer sells all women’s clothes in Tall (extra 4 inches in pants). I’ll be wearing highwaters again, and will be very chuffed, if they fold.


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