LivingSocial, a daily deals website, has trailed Groupon since it launched. But this is an industry in which trailing the leading company is a very bad sign. As the financial troubles of Groupon demonstrate, the online daily deal industry started to fall apart not long after it began. Groupon’s share price, which reached a high of more than $26 after its initial public offering, was trading as low as $2.60 last year. While the stock is up on improved sales, the company remains unprofitable.
The situation is even worse for LivingSocial. Leading advertising publication AdWeek recently reported that sources would not be surprised if the company “was sold to a larger company or liquidated piece by piece by spring 2014.” That is a long way from when Amazon.com confidently invested $175 million in LivingSocial in 2010. The deal soured as the huge e-commerce company wrote down the investment by $169 million in late 2012. More recently, an Amazon SEC filing indicated that LivingSocial lost $50 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to a profit of $156 million in the same period a year ago.
The biggest competitors to both LivingSocial and Groupon are eBay, American Express and Amazon’s own AmazonLocal service. Each has a huge customer base and significant amounts of data about its customers, which they can use to target deals. LivingSocial does not stand a chance.
In the United States, Volvo was never a giant manufacturer with a large number of models or ultra high-end brands. As of April, its market share in America had dropped to 0.3%
The company’s models compete directly with mid-luxury offerings from every large auto company in the United States, including giants General Motors and Toyota. It also has more direct competition from low-end models made by BMW, Mercedes and Audi. With all that competition, consumer demand just is not there for Volvo cars. In the first four months of this year, Volvo sold 19,571 vehicles in the U.S., down 8% — in an overall market in which sales rose almost 7% to 4,974,000. A mid-market car company without a broad range of sedans, SUVs and light trucks would find it hard to make any progress in the United States. Volvo’s model line is too small to allow it any chance.
Volvo’s future is in question not just in the U.S. The company’s dealerships in China inflated sales numbers to receive cash incentives from the company that never went to customers, according to Brand Channel. In other words, some of Volvo’s dealers committed fraud. China has been the Swedish car maker’s home since Zhejiang Geely Holding bought it in 2010.
Except for market leaders like Canon, Sony and Nikon, no one wants to be in the digital camera business anymore. Worldwide unit sales are down 18% in 2012 since their peak in 2010 and are accelerating this year. It is no surprise then that Olympus, which only has 7% market share, has failed to generate a profit from its imaging business in any of the past three years. The decline caught the company’s management off guard. Actual sales were less than two-thirds of forecasts.
For the next fiscal year, the outlook is grim. Olympus expects compact camera unit sales to fall from 5.1 million to 2.7 million units worldwide. But these declines are hardly a new trend. A major reason for declining sales has been the increased adoption of smartphones — which now offer lenses and chips that capture high-quality images — as an alternative to digital cameras. Based on increased interest in high-end cameras, the company plans to focus on increasing sales of SLR cameras, which accounted for just 35% of its imaging business. Meanwhile, sales of its largest camera segment, compact cameras, will be cut in half. Of concern to investors, the company has pledged to stop issuing dividends until the camera business is restored to profitability.