4. American Apparel
The once-hip retailer reached the brink of bankruptcy earlier this year, and there is no indication that it has gained anything more than a little time with its latest financing. It currently trades as a penny stock. The company had three stores and $82 million in revenue in 2003. Those numbers reached 260 stores and $545 million in 2008. For the first quarter of this year, the retailer had net sales for the quarter of $116.1 million, a 4.7% decline over sales of $121.8 million in the same period a year ago. Comparable store sales declined 8% on a constant currency basis. American Apparel posted a net loss for the period of $21 million. Comparable store sales have flattened, which means the firm likely will continue to post losses. American Apparel is also almost certainly under gross margin pressure because of the rise in cotton prices. The retailer raised $14.9 million in April by selling shares at a discount of 43% to a group of private investors led by Canadian financier Michael Serruya and Delavaco Capital. According to Reuters, the 15.8 million shares sold represented 20.3 percent of the company’s outstanding stock on March 31. That sum is not nearly enough to keep American Apparel from going the way of Borders. It is a small, under-funded player in a market with very large competitors with healthy balance sheets. It does not help matters that the company’s founder and CEO, Dov Charney, has been a defendant in several lawsuits filed by former employees alleging sexual harassment.
The parent of Sears and Kmart–Sears Holdings-is in a lot of trouble. Total revenue dropped $341 million to $9.7 billion for the quarter which closed April 30, 2011. The company had a net loss of $170 million. Sears Holdings was created by a merger of the parents of the two chains on March 24, 2005. The operation has been a disaster ever since. The company has tried to run 4,000 stores which operate across the US and Canada. Neither Sears nor Kmart have done well recently, but Sears’ domestic locations same store numbers were off 5.2% in the first quarter and Kmart’s were down 1.6%. Last year domestic comparable store sales declined 1.6% in the total, with an increase at Kmart of .7% and a decline at Sears Domestic of 3.6%. New CEO Lou D’Ambrosio recently said of the last quarter that, “we also fell short on executing with excellence. We cannot control the weather or economy or government spending. But we can control how we execute and leverage the potent set of assets we have.” D’Ambrosio needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat soon. Shares are down 55% during the last five years. D’Ambrosio only reasonable solution to the firm’s financial problems is to stop supporting two brands which compete with one another and larger rivals such as Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE: TGT). The cost to market two brands and maintain stores which overlap one another geographically must be in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Employee and supply chain costs are also gigantic. The path D’Ambrosio is likely to take is to consolidate two brand into one–keeping the better performing Kmart and shuttering Sears.
6. Sony Ericsson
Sony Ericsson was formed by the two large consumer electronics companies to market the handset offerings each had handled separately. The venture started in 2001, before the rise of the smartphone. Early in its history, it was one of the biggest handset manufacturers along with Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Samsung, LG, and Motorola. Sales of Sony Ericsson phones were originally helped by the popularity of other Sony portable devices like the Walkman. Sony Ericsson’s product development lagged behind those of companies like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) which dominated the high end smartphone industry early. Sony Ericsson also relied on the Symbian operating system which was championed by market leader Nokia, but which it has abandoned in favor of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows mobile operating because of licence costs and difficulty with programmers. In a period when smartphone sales worldwide are rising in the double digits and sales of the iPhone double year over year, Sony Ericsson’s unit sales dropped from 97 million in 2008 to 43 million last year. New competitors like HTC now outsell Sony Ericsson by widening numbers. Sony Ericsson management expects several more quarters of falling sales and the company has laid off thousands of people. There have been rumors, backed by logic, that Sony will take over the operation, rebrand the handsets with its name, and market them in tandem with its PS3 consoles and VAIO PCs.
7. Kellogg’s Corn Pops
The cereal business is not what is used to be, at least for products that are not considered “healthy.” Among those is Kellogg’s Corn Pops ready-to-eat cereal. Sales of the brand dropped 18% over the year that ended in April, down to $74 million. That puts it well behind brands like Cheerios and Frosted Flakes each which have sales of over $200 million a year. Private label sales have also hurt sales of branded cereals. Revenues in this category were $637 million over the same April-end period. There is also profit margin pressure on Corn Pops because of the sharp increase in corn prices. Kellogg’s describes the product as being “Crispy, glazed, crunchy, sweet.” Corn Pops also contain mono- and diglycerides, used to bind saturated fat, and BHT for freshness, which is also used in embalming fluid. None of these are likely to be what mothers want to serve their children in an age in which a healthy breakfast is more likely to be egg whites and a bowl of fresh fruit.
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