Timely Demise: Where are they now?

A friend recently discovered and fell in love with Timely Demise, my chronicle of the compression of American retailing in the last recession. I hadn’t really looked at the site since it closed, and as I started poking through the archives, I got curious about the final outcomes of the activities we tracked in the moment.

Researching the bankruptcies and acquisitions chronicled in the blog, I was able to get concrete updates on 40 of the larger entities. Here’s how they wound up:

  • Eighteen of them (45%) are gone, either through Chapter 7 liquidations or just closing up shop. Extrapolated across the hundreds of companies we covered, this percentage would undoubtedly be higher, given the amount of smaller brands and mom-and-pop stores we wrote about.
  • Seven (18%) were acquired and continue operating, including individual brands (Stila, J. Jill), retail brands (Crabtree & Evelyn) and multi-store chains (Better Bedding).
  • Four firms continued operating but encountered more trouble after their appearances in Timely Demise, including Fortunoff (which ended up closing all its stores, then reopening a few more targeted stores) and Reader’s Digest (which has returned to bankruptcy but continues to publish).
  • Now to the good news. Five companies emerged cleanly from bankruptcy and continue operations.
  • Four firms shrunk but are still in business in some form.
  • And four firms we wrote about look as though it’s business as usual for them, having weathered the recession and resumed their growth trajectories in recent years, some with admirable results. La-Z-Boy, we recline in a toast to you.

Words I learned today

A Veblen good is a product whose demand curve shifts in proportion to its expense. The more it costs, the more desirable it becomes, such as the Hermes Birkin Bag, on which you can spend $124,750 (well, in theory you could).
A Giffen good is a product whose consumption increases as costs increase, defying typical supply-and-demand curves. Giffen goods are inferior goods whose demand disregards quality.
(Via the wonderful Felix Salmon, who actually used the latter term incorrectly–my Prada shoes are Veblen, not Giffen, goods, although I find them most desirable at 60% off.)