After Hostess Brands, Who is the Next to Go?

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The bankruptcy of Hostess Brands is just the latest example of once-famous U.S. companies that have gone out of business.

History's dustbin is full of familiar brands that are now extinct, including Studebaker, Woolworth's and Braniff.

Analysts blame changing consumer tastes for the plunging sales of Wonder Bread and Twinkies that led to Hostess Brands' demise.

Most companies fail because management keeps trying to sell the same products, using the same marketing and business model, long after the products have hit the skids.

So which famous brands might not be around much longer?

The Next Hostess: Four U.S. Brands That Could Disappear

Here are four U.S. brands that have fallen so far behind the competition they are in danger of disappearing in the near future.

1. Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD)
Sears has a proud history of pioneering markets and once dominated retail with its catalogs.

But in 2005, a buyout of Sears and discount retailer Kmart by fund manager Eddie Lampert spawned a spate of management missteps.

Sears and Kmart, with more than 3,000 stores in the United States, have been unable to compete against other low-cost retail chains like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT).

Sears sales have been on a downward spiral for years. In fact, Sears has posted 23 straight quarters of declining same-store sales.

Meanwhile, Lampert has shown himself to be remarkably tone-deaf.

He recently bought a $40 million home north of Miami about the same time Sears decided to sell 1,200 stores and close another 173.

In 2011, Sears' American Customer Satisfaction Index score was 76 out of 100. Only Wal-Mart received a lower score.

Stockholders have shown their dissatisfaction with Sears. Shares have declined from about $180 to the low $40's.

2. RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH)
At a time when more Americans are doing more of their shopping online, RSH clings to its traditional, brick-and-mortar retail store model.

With about 4,700 stores, RSH is especially vulnerable because it focuses on the electronics industry, where consumers have easily adapted to online shopping.

Predictably, RSH has been clobbered in its efforts to compete with larger rival Best Buy Co. (NYSE: BBY) and giant online retailer Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)
RSH rattled investors when it suspended its dividend after posting a $21 million loss last quarter.

Thus far this year, RSH shares have plunged 78%.

3. Hewlett-Packard Co. (Nasdaq: HPQ)
For decades, HP was one of the leading-edge companies of Silicon Valley, but in recent years, it's been roiled by management turmoil.

Once known as the premier maker of quality printers, HP has been bent on making deals in the past decade, nearly all of which have been disastrous.

To diversify, HP paid billions of dollars for businesses like Electronic Data Systems Corp., Palm Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp.

Meanwhile, HP has fired and hired three CEOs in the past three years.

The results have been appalling, with sales declines across the board, including a 14% drop in personal computer business last quarter.

Now comes news that HP's effort to diversify out of the slumping PC business with a $10 billion purchase of software company autonomy is a bust.

HP claims Autonomy cooked the books, forcing it to write down $8.8 billion, vaporizing its profits and further damaging its image.

Investors have reacted by knocking the stock down by about 60% since February.

4. The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT)
The premier daily newspaper company in the United States could be headed for oblivion.

Simply put, The Times did not move online quickly enough to offset the decline of print advertising.

Instead, it has ceded territory to upstarts like The Huffington Post and Google News.

Now, NYT's downhill momentum may be unstoppable.

Ten years ago, NYT made $300 million on revenue of $3.1 billion. Last year it lost $40 million on revenue of $2.3 billion.

In short, print ad demand may be too far gone for the company to survive in the digital world.

The stock has been crushed by 84% over the past eight years.

To read more about the latest disappearing act of U.S. companies, check out this article on the demise of Hostess Brands.

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  1. Lauren | December 20, 2012

    What's going to happen if retailers like Radio Shack close – when you need a quick fix for a technology problem while working, or doing homework? I am from the old school and don't like the three day to a week delay when ordering online. I also don't like to have to spend extra money (sometimes more than the product itself) for faster shipping.

    It's really sad.

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