Sears, Roebuck and Company began as a mail order catalog company in 1892 and began opening retail locations in 1925. The catalog sold everything from farm equipment and cars to furniture, sewing machines, and bicycles. As the 126-year-old Sears (SHLD) files for bankruptcy this month, take a look at these other iconic brands that have come and gone.
Started in 1879, Woolworths is credited as being the first general merchandise store that kept its goods out in the open, letting shoppers handle, inspect and compare items. Its success established a blueprint for retail giants that followed, Wal-Mart (WMT) , Target (TGT) and Kmart among them.
Eventually, Woolworths expanded beyond sustainability, moving away from its five-and-dime discount roots and toward a department store model. The end came in 1997 when its parent company pulled the plug and evolved into Foot Locker (FL) , devoting its energy to sporting goods and footwear.
Photo: City of Boston Archives
Started in 1870 as a promotional tool to advertise sewing patterns, by the 1960s, owing to the growth of middle class suburbia, McCall’s had nearly 8.5 million readers.
In 2000, daytime talk show host Rosie O’Donnell was taken on as editorial director at McCall’s and the following year it was renamed Rosie, featuring herself on all subsequent covers. The change was ultimately a failure, and the magazine ceased publication.
The luxury automobile marque rolled out its first cars in Detroit in 1899. Packard bought Studebaker in 1953, and the company pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959. Earlier this year, RM Sotheby’s auctioned off a 1934 Packard for $3.75 million.
Above, a 1951 Packard 250 Ultramatic Convertible.
Photo: Keith Bell / Shutterstock
Until its demise, Oldsmobile was America’s longest surviving automobile brand. Originally the Olds Motor Vehicle Co. and founded in Lansing, Mich., in 1897, the brand was produced by GM after 1908.
Oldsmobile produced over 35 million vehicles until the time of its closure in 2004, when the last Alero came off the line 106 years after the company began. Above, a 1946 Oldsmobile Ace Series 66 Sedan.
Pan American World Airways, better known as Pan Am, was the largest international air carrier in the U.S. from 1927 until its bankruptcy in 1991. Poor branding following the tragedy of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and rising oil prices from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait ultimately did them in.
Photo: Taiyo FUJII from Tokyo, Japan/Wikipedia
Trans World Airlines started in 1930, thriving throughout the jet age and expanding to become one of the world’s largest airlines. Following airline deregulation in 1978, and under the ownership of Carl Icahn, who took the company private and sold off parts of it, the airline struggled with debt. In 1996 TWA Flight 800 exploded after taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport, killing 230 people aboard. In 2001, TWA filed for a third and final bankruptcy and was acquired by American Airlines (AAL) .
Photo: Eduard Marmet/Wikipedia
Tab started the diet cola craze. Advertising slogans included: “A Beautiful Drink for Beautiful People” and “One Calorie — Beautiful.” The familiar pink can with simple white lettering has become a symbol of the 1970s aesthetic.
But concerns about the artificial sweetener saccharine causing cancer led to mandatory, off-putting warning labels. (The FDA relented on the labels and admitted in 2000 it goofed regarding saccharine.) In 1982 Coca-Cola (COKE) introduced Diet Coke, and Tab never regained its popularity.
Photo: Jerry “Woody” /Wikipedia
Chiclets are tiny squares of gum, covered in a candy shell. Chiclets is now owned by Mondelēz International (MDLZ) which owns Kraft and Nabisco, among other brands. They’re no longer easy to find in the U.S., but the rest of the world still gobbles up the tiny treats.
Eastman Kodak Co.
Eastman Kodak Co., more commonly referred to as Kodak (KODK) , was founded in 1888 and was the dominant force in photographic film for decades. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, blaming in part the overwhelming shift to digital photography, and now operates on a much smaller scale.
At its peak in 1996, the company was the fifth most valuable company in the world with revenue reaching nearly $16 billion, compared to $16 million in 2016.
Photo: Rizhka Nazar / Shutterstock
Originally Standard Oil Company of Indiana, Amoco had by 1912 become the largest natural gas producer in North America, with exploration in 20 countries and production in 14 countries. In 1998 the company merged with British Petroleum, now known as BP (BP) .
In 2017, the company reintroduced the Amoco brand in some U.S. markets to further penetrate markets where they are already BP stations nearby.
Pontiac was introduced by General Motors Co. (GM) in 1926 and its Firebird model became iconic during the NBC series “Knight Rider” starring David Hasselhoff.
GM retired the Pontiac brand in 2009. Pictured is a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Photo: allanw / Shutterstock
Magnavox was an electronics company known for producing everything from the world’s first home video game console (shown here) to camcorders in the 1980s. The brand was acquired by Philips in 1974, but Philips discontinued the branding in the 1990s after consumers began to lose interest in the Magnavox name.
Known in the 1970s through the early 1980s for its designer jeans, Jordache became less popular in the 1990s and was heavily discounted. Now Jordache has diversified into U.S. real estate and Israeli ventures as well as manufacturing private denim for brands like Gap Inc. (GPS) and Levi’s.
Photo: Jordache Enterprises
Merry-Go-Round was a national clothing chain that flourished in the 1970-80s because of its fast fashion for teens, such as fingerless fishnet gloves and skinny leather ties. It shut down in 1996 after it was unable to appeal to a new generation. Above, this shot of Rosanna Arquette and Madonna in the film “Desperately Seeking Susan” (1985) sums it up.
Before Best Buy (BBY) , Walmart, Target and a slew of online options popped up, Crazy Eddie’s, The Wiz and Sears were to go-to stores for electronics.
Crazy Eddie’s began in 1971 in Brooklyn. In 1987, New Jersey started a federal grand jury investigation into the company and “Eddie” was eventually charged with federal securities violations and spent two years in prison. In 1989 the company declared bankruptcy and was liquidated.
The Wiz was a chain of electronics stores and a major sponsor of local New York sports. After expanding significantly, it filed for bankruptcy in 1998 and was purchased by Cablevision for $80 million and closed in 2003.
DeLorean Motor Co.
The DeLorean Motor Company was formed by auto industry executive John DeLorean in 1975. It produced one model: a stainless steel DMC-12 sports car with gull-wing doors made famous in the “Back to the Future” film franchise. The company’s brief and turbulent history ended in bankruptcy in 1982.
Photo: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock
Think of great movies of the ’70s and ’80s – “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – and the odds are good you will remember standing in line for tickets outside a General Cinema.
The theater chain helped usher in the era of the megaplex. After filing for bankruptcy in 2000, the movie chain was sold to rival AMC Theaters in 2002.
Photo: Mike Kalasnik from Fort Mill, USA/Wikipedia
Lovable pup Spuds MacKenzie was the Bud Light (BUD) mascot that appeared in a Bud Light Super Bowl XXI ad in 1987. She (Yes, the dog playing Spuds was a female bull terrier named Evie.) quickly rose to fame and was retired in 1989, but reappeared as a ghost in Super Bowl LI Bud Light commercial in 2017.
Photo: Anheuser Busch
Compaq was founded in 1982 and produced some of the first IBM PC compatible computers. The influential tech company was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2002 for $24.2 billion.
Photo: Leonid Mamchenkov/Wikipedia
The Yugoslavian car was marketed in the U.S. from 1985 to 1992, hitting its peak sales in 1987 at 48,812 cars sold that year, falling to 1,412 in 1992.
Photo: Irina Slutsky from San Francisco USA/Wikipedia
Netscape Navigator was the first widely-used internet browser way back in 1994. Netscape was a publicly traded stock until 1998, when it was purchased by AOL for $4.2 billion. The Netscape home page from the 90s, complete with descriptions of what a hyperlink is, can still be visited here.
Photo: 360b / Shutterstock
Ask.com, formerly known as Ask Jeeves, was launched in 1996 as a search engine that produced answers in “natural language.” It was widely recognized for its mascot, a butler named Jeeves. The character was eventually retired when IAC/InterActiveCorp (IAC) acquired Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion in 2005. Ask Jeeves still exists, but it’s primarily a question-and-answer service, having lost the search engine market to Google. (GOOG)
The video giant that rented VHS and DVD movies had over 9,000 stores around the world, half of those in the U.S. at its peak in 2004. It was edged out of the market by services such as Netflix (NFLX) and Redbox. But, according to Blockbuster, “the magic lives on with Dish.” (It was bought by the satellite TV company (DISH) .) The magic also still lives on in Bend, Ore. where the last remaining store still operates.
Photo: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock
Saturn, once billed as a “different kind of car company” with no-haggle prices, was a subsidiary of General Motors (GM) . The first Saturn was built in 1990, with the first dealership opening in Memphis. Despite the loyalty of Saturn owners, GM halted production in 2009 and discontinued the brand.
Photo: Peter Albrektsen / Shutterstock
Bear Stearns was the fifth-largest investment bank when it collapsed in 2008, after much of its heyday in the 1980s as a major trader in the nascent field of mortgage-backed securities.
Photo: Getty Images
Once known for its popular video game consoles and Cabbage Patch Kids, Coleco Industries went bankrupt in 1988 and sold off its product lines and assets in 1989.
Colecovision launched in 1982 as the company’s flagship gaming console and helped popularize games such as Donkey Kong from Nintendo (NTDOY) .
Excite launched in 1995 as a search engine, email client and web portal, similar to MSN. It eventually became one of the most-recognized brands on the internet due to its collection of webpages, leading the internet provider @Home to acquire it for $7.5 billion in 1999 – one of the largest internet deals at the time. The combined company later filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Created in 2002, Friendster was one of the first social media networks to launch on the internet, many years before the rise of popular platforms like Facebook (FB) and MySpace. Google (now Alphabet) tried to buy the company for $30 million in 2003, but the company rebuffed their offer. Friendster eventually attempted to relaunch as a social gaming company in 2011, but has since shut down entirely.
Originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” Yahoo was started at Stanford University in 1994 by electrical engineering grad students Jerry Yang and David Filo. It grew rapidly during the 1990s, its stock price peaking at over $118 in 2000, then plummeting to around $8 in 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst. In 2017 Verizon (VZ) purchased it, merging it with AOL and rebranding it as Oath.
Photo: lydiarei / Shutterstock