These Once-Invincible Companies Aren’t Surviving in the Digital Age

General electric

G.E. is on the decline. | Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

For many business sectors, it’s all doom and gloom — despite humming economic conditions. While some companies, like those in the tech sector, are taking over the world, others are losing their footing. Titans of business, companies that have etched their names into the history books. Companies that have taken big risks, hired millions of employees, and ultimately pushed out products that have become staples of our everyday life are now struggling like never before.

Companies that built refrigerators, that sold us back to school clothes, and that were our favorite stores as children — many are in trouble. All because they simply can’t or won’t keep up in the digital age.

Giant companies struggling in the digital age

It’s hard to say that the advent of the internet is the only thing causing problems for these businesses. For some, bad decisions from company leadership going back decades may be the true issue. But we can look at some powerful businesses that seemingly went bust overnight as proof that a shift in technology is enough to kill off entire industries. Blockbuster Video is one example — a company that was killed off after it refused to adapt.

The following companies, to some extent, fit into the same category. For some, it’s a rigid business model that’s causing problems. For others, it’s a simple incompatibility with the digital age — or an inability to properly use social media — that’s driving the knife. Either way, these old, powerful companies are struggling mightily, and some might go under sooner rather than later.

1. G.E.

  • In 2000, G.E.’s market cap was $600 billion. Today, it’s closer to $200 billion.

General Electric truly is a dinosaur of a company. It was founded by Thomas Edison way back when, and by diversifying and employing fancy footwork, is still alive and kicking today. But recently, it’s started to struggle. The company’s stock has tanked (while others have set record highs) and it’s laying off thousands of employees. It’s still a giant company, but years of bad decisions are leaving a lot of people pessimistic about G.E.’s future.

Next: A legacy retailer that may not last much longer

2. Sears

sears shopping cart

The company has been closing store after store. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Sears has become the poster child for struggling retail stores.

You’re probably well aware that Sears is effectively circling the drain. The retail giant, which was one of the country’s biggest and most powerful department stores for generations, appears to be in its death throes. Some speculate that it won’t make it another year. While internet giants like Amazon eat up more market share and Sears remains paralyzed, it looks like it’s only a matter of time before the store completely disappears.

Next: A popular pizza chain that keeps causing controversies

3. Papa John’s

Papa John's Restaurant Exterior

The CEO was ousted from the company. | Wolterk/iStock/Getty Images

  • Papa John’s was founded in 1984 and has become a favorite for pizza lovers nationwide.

You probably don’t think of pizza chain Papa John’s as a “legacy company”. But it is widespread and well-known enough to include it here. The problem with Papa John’s also isn’t its business model or technological prowess — it has more to do with its social stumblings. Recently, the company’s board ousted CEO and founder John Schnatter as the company struggles to keep up with competitors. A lot of it has to do with Schnatter’s inability to read the social tea leaves; specifically, he can’t keep his (unpopular) opinions to himself about Obamacare, national anthem protests, and other things.

Next: A bookstore chain that’s fighting to stay alive

4. Barnes & Noble

barnes and noble store

Its main competitor already went under. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • The bookseller’s biggest competitor, Borders, already went under in 2011. Is Barnes & Noble next?

Selling books is a tough trade in the digital age, especially when you’re up against Amazon, which has been so successful it’s literally opening brick-and-mortar bookstores for fun. Barnes & Noble has hung on, though, despite the treacherous terrain. It seems as though it’s only a matter of time, though, before it’s completely swamped by online competitors.

Next: A photo technology company that is in its declining years

5. Kodak

Empty 35mm film canisters

Kodak has been struggling with the change of technology. | Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

  • Founded in 1888, Kodak has had an edge in the photography industry. Until recently.

One company that’s clearly struggling with both the technological revolution and a stale business model is Kodak. At one time, the company ruled the roost when it came to photography. It even had a digital camera before everyone else. But it decided to shelve that camera and keep America hooked on film. Kodak’s real issue was that it was blinded by its own success and didn’t realize the world was changing around it. As a result, it’s been left behind.

Next: A staple of every shopping mall that’s quietly disappearing

6. Sbarro

Sbarro store

Malls are dying out. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • Another national pizza chain, Sbarro’s main issue is that they’re literally stuck in dying malls.

Michael Scott’s favorite New York pizza place is running out of breathing room. Sbarro, founded in 1956, has been a staple in shopping malls across the country for decades. The problem is that malls are dying, and Sbarro is going with them. The company already filed for bankruptcy, and unless it has a plan to reinvent their model, the chain is probably doomed.

Next: An office supply store that’s losing its legs in the digital age

7. Staples


Most people are getting their things online now. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Specializing in office supplies, Staples is experiencing the same problems all other retail stores are dealing with.

Staples, a retail giant specializing in office supplies, is staring at the same problem that retailers like Sears are dealing with: Amazon. This past summer, the chain was purchased by a private equity firm for $6.9 billion, and has been closing stores left and right over the past couple of years. It appears the company may end up disappearing as a relic of another time, like many others in the retail space.

Next: A tech company that missed the boat

8. Blackberry


Blackberry tried to keep up, but it’s become passe. | Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

  • For a while, having a Blackberry was the “it” thing. Now, though? They’re relatively rare.

Blackberry’s story is fairly interesting. The company’s products were everywhere for a while, but then the technology caught up and everyone switched to smartphones like the iPhone. Since then, Blackberry has struggled to keep up, and hasn’t been able to match the firepower of companies like Apple, Samsung, and HTC. The question, now, is how much longer can the company last?

Next: A legacy toy retailer that recently declared bankruptcy

9. Toys R Us

Toys 'R' Us

Toys R Us recently filed for bankruptcy. | Leon Neal/Getty Images

As you can imagine, Toys R Us has struggled mightily with the advent of the digital age. The main issue, as with all other retailers, is that companies like Amazon have beat them to the punch. Plus, when you have huge stores with lots of overhead, the debt is going to pile up. That’s what’s led to the company’s bankruptcy, and it’s only a matter of time before the toy store chain vanishes.

Next: A powerful legacy company struggling in a new economy

10. Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble Co. Corporate Headquarters

Proctor & Gamble has been slowing down. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • The company that sells just about everything may be contracting.

Procter & Gamble was founded in 1837 — so it’s safe to say that it’s truly a company from a different era. It’s managed to adapt and survive for nearly 200 years, though. But it is running into some trouble as of late with a few years of slow growth and sagging sales. The company is far from dead, of course, but the recent stumbles are catching the attention of investors and analysts.

Next: An old-school jeweler that’s fighting for market share

11. Tiffany’s

A flag for a Tiffany & Co. store hangs along Wall Street in Manhattan

Tiffany’s is having trouble getting millennials in the door. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

  • 180-year-old jewelry company Tiffany’s is having a hard time wrangling those millennials into its stores.

Another company seemingly built for another time, Tiffany’s is having trouble courting a new generation of customers. It’s cost the company its CEO in the past year, and Tiffany’s stock price has suffered. The main issue? Millennials aren’t as diamond-crazy as their parents and grandparents, evidently. Also, the company’s products are expensive, and many people simply can’t afford them.

Next: Are Americans losing their taste for motorcycles?

12. Harley-Davidson

Younger clientele isn’t being drawn in. | Harley-Davidson

  • Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson is having a hard time revving its engine in the digital age.

Harley-Davidson isn’t getting beaten by Amazon like many others on this list, but it’s struggling nonetheless. Again, the company is apparently having trouble attracting younger clientele — mostly millennials. As a result, stock prices are down and employees are being laid off. It’s not just America that may be losing its appetite for motorcycles; sales are down in Mexico, Australia, and Asia, too.

Next: Another legacy retailer that’s being kneecapped in the digital age

13. JCPenney

JCPenney store front

The up-swing might not be enough to save them. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • Despite recent positive signs, JCPenney faces a bleak outlook.

Yep, another department store. Another department store with monstrous stores and overhead, and armies of employees who all need to be paid. And another retail department store which is having trouble dealing with online competition. JCPenney is in trouble but has seen a short-term spike in sales. The question, however, is whether that’s a real sign that things are improving or an anomalous blip.

Next: A company that’s already dead

14. HHGregg

HHGregg store

HHGregg is dead and gone. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

  • The electronics retailer is dead as of the end of 2017.

HHGregg, a large electronics and appliance retail store, started 2017 with a pulse. By the end of the year, however, it had flatlined. The company was hemorrhaging money and closed 220 stores and laid off thousands of employees over the summer and fall. It’s another victim of the digital age.

Finally: One of your favorite department stores

15. Macy’s

Macys To Slash 7000 Jobs In Order To Cut Costs

Department stores in general are just not holding up. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Another department store, same old story.

It wouldn’t be a doom and gloom list without Macy’s. Like rivals Sears and JC Penney, Macy’s is getting torn up in the digital age by online retailers. Again, lots of overhead costs are eating the company up as companies like Amazon steal more market share. Macy’s may be able to stick it out, but it’ll take some new strategies and a healthy dose of luck.

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