As the dictates of physics declare of the rising object, so too is true of the business: what goes up must come down (to paraphrase Newton). Many businesses saw their fortunes fade throughout the course of 2013, and for a number of them it proved to be an unlucky year indeed: their last year. 2013 saw both the failure of venerable, once towering institutions as well as the predictable end of several ventures destined for the quick implosion that has come to pass. Whether the businesses below fall into your “I knew him well” or the “we hardly knew ye” category, you won’t be seeing them around in the new year.
5 Fresh & Easy
This short-lived grocery chain popped up across much of the American west, and briefly seemed as if it was gaining a solid foothold. But the stores never truly found their slot in the grocery sector, hovering in a strange space between 7-Eleven and Trader Joe’s, which never fully resonated with the U.S. consumer. The British-owned chain had huge, nationwide plans when it launched its operations in 2007, but by the end of 2013 every one of its stores will have been either closed down or bought out under a deal with the company Yucaipa. (Ironic side note: Yucaipa has hired the former head of 7-Eleven to salvage the chain.)
4 Pet Airways
When this company first took flight in 2009, perhaps it seemed like a good idea to many people, but the clarity of hindsight is potent in this case. Pet Airways was an air travel service intended solely to transport animals around the nation. Did market research actually reveal that there were enough people intending to send their pets to faraway destinations without them—and at the same time, no less—to make a flight financially viable? Either way, the company began canceling flights last year and its website recently went into disrepair.
3 Tie Rack
When it was founded back in the 1980s, Tie Rack was a specialty store launched at the right time in the right place, and it seemed poised on the edge of greatness. At the time, more and more men were wearing ties to work, and the spirit of the time demanded a rich wardrobe with lots of snappy accessories. The trend of wearing ties daily began to fade in the late 90s, though, and by 2013 it was simply no longer a viable retail sector. Tie Rack once boasted some 450 stores, mostly located in the UK. As of 2014, there will be no more Tie Racks anywhere.
2 Current TV
Al Gore simply wasn’t hip enough to make this startup TV channel resonate with the hip young viewers it was intended to reach. The channel was on the air for less than a decade, and never really found any core audience; even among the Millennial generation toward which it tried to cater. Even its “biggest” programs drew so few views as to be statistically irrelevant. The channel was bought out by Al Jazeera America earlier this year, and has subsequently lost even more viewers.
1 Blockbuster Video
In the final chapter, after a precipitous rise and a long, slow collapse, Blockbuster Video (AKA Blockbuster Entertainment) will cease to exist by the time 2014 rolls through. The venerable video rental chain held on for many years into the “digital age,” but there is simply no need left for a brick and mortar rental center, and Blockbuster entered the mail order, kiosk and online media delivery arenas too late to gain their share of the sectors. Many American childhoods were defined by the hours spent perusing shelves lined by those iconic blue and white boxes—we bid the company a fond farewell.