Tuesday, October 30, 2007
10 businesses facing extinction in 10 years
Determining which industries aren't long for this world may seem easy enough. But some types of businesses, such as telemarketing, are surprisingly hard to kill.
And then again, other industries, probably the ones you're sad to see go, can't find a way to survive.
So start setting up your office pool, because here are our picks for 10 businesses facing extinction in 10 years.
By Geoff Williams
Record stores are closing in, well, record numbers. One of the most prominent music retailers, Tower Records, shut down all 89 stores last year after concluding it couldn't withstand the onslaught of online music stores and chains like Wal-Mart, which can offer lower prices and sell other items to offset the smaller number of CDs being sold.
Odds of survival in 10 years: Great, if you consider Wal-Mart a record store.
Camera film manufacturing
This probably isn't the best business to get into right now. According to The Chicago Tribune, from May 2006 to May 2007, the volume of prints made from digital cameras grew by 34 percent. Film camera sales, meanwhile, fell by 49 percent, while digital cameras sales continued to grow — by 5 percent. Of American internet users, 70 percent own a digital camera; another survey shows that 70 percent of Canadians now use a digital camera. Odds of survival in 10 years: Some entrepreneurs who specialize in making camera film for amateur photographers could possibly make a living.
They'll be around in 10 years, but likely not in their present form. The average age of the typical crop duster is 60, the number of crop dusters is dwindling, and the profession can be dangerous. Just several weeks ago, an Arkansas crop dusting company was ordered to stop flying in Iowa after spraying farm workers with a fungicide; 36 farm hands in a cornfield had to be decontaminated by a hazardous materials crew.
Odds of survival in 10 years: The type of crop dusting plane that chased after Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" will have almost certainly gone south. Farmers say that they'll always need crop dusters, even though new technologies have made them less important than in the past. But commercial airlines are increasingly taking business away from the small, independent crop dusters.
As The Orlando Sentinel noted in a recent article, around the country gay bars have been going out of business as gay men and women have been gaining greater acceptance in society. What used to be a hangout for people who felt unwelcome elsewhere is becoming less necessary.
Odds of survival in 10 years: As with many industries, the very best of them will endure; the rest won't.
Some people thought they were through when radio and TV news came about. Even after the fax machine revolutionized offices, some people predicted that everyone would have their news faxed in, since that would be quicker than relying on a newspaper. But the numbers have been falling precipitously since the 1990s when the internet came on the scene. In the past year, the Audit Bureau of Circulations twice has posted drops averaging 2.1 and 2.8 percent over six-month periods. Newsrooms across the country have been hemorrhaging staff.
Odds of survival in 10 years: They won't disappear; they'll be on the internet. We don't recommend startups investing a lot of money into a printing press plant.
In 1997, there were more than 2 million pay phones in the U.S.; now there are approximately half as many. There are probably always going to be certain places like airports and hotels that offer pay phones, as long as there are people who don't own or can't afford cell phones. Because phone kiosks on the streets are a favorite for drug dealers, who don't want to have their own numbers tapped and tracked, cities are shedding them.
Odds of survival in 10 years: They'll be around, but won't be anything to call home about.
They've been closing fast, and those that are still open are relying on what's making them obsolete: the internet. A used bookstore used to be the place to find that beloved, out-of-print children's book you used to read 17 times a day until your little sister flushed it down the toilet. Now you just type that title in a search engine and order it within minutes. Odds of survival in 10 years: Some of them will still be eking out an existence, but the handwriting is on the wall.
Piggy banksYou may chuckle, but as we continue gravitating toward a paperless society, it's not difficult to imagine a day when piggy banks no longer exist.
Odds of survival in 10 years: Sure, they'll probably still be a few around — in antique shops.
The good news for people who hate telemarketing calls is that the industry may finally be dying; the bad news is that it may take a while. Telemarketing has been hit hard by the national Do-Not Call list that was established five years ago, and sales have been stagnant, but the industry still managed to bring in $393 billion in revenue last year. Some of this is due to clever marketing. This includes holding raffles at shopping malls; when you sign your information, you agree to accept calls from the company running the contest and its partners. Cell phones are exempt from automated telemarketing calls, but not from individuals calling. Then there are occasional windows of opportunity: The national Do-Not Call list is set to expire in 2008, unless you remember to register again.
Odds of survival in 10 years: They'll be here. Humbled, more impotent, but probably still here.
With Nintendo Wii, casual gaming online and the Xbox 360, the video game arcade industry is thriving, but not the standalone brick-and-mortar arcades. For those of you who thought arcades were already dead, they still exist — at movie theaters, miniature golf courses and other touristy spots — but it seems only a matter of time before they vanish from the landscape. Ten years ago, there were 10,000 arcades in the nation, and now the number is close to 3,000, according to the American Amusement Machine Association. Revenue from arcade game units brought in $866 million last year, which sounds good until you consider that in 1994, the industry was pocketing $2.3 billion and that the profits are only still high because it costs so much to play a game.
Odds of survival in 10 years: Game over.
NVDL: The grass can't stay green forever. Interesting on this list are newspapers, record stores and gay bars. Not sure if I agree with the crop duster idea. If you buy into the philosophy that the world is about to unflatten, unshrink, become far larger, we'll see the end of a lot of industries: the hypermarket, parking lots, malls, drive thru, fast food, airline alliances like Star, the convenience store at a gas station etc.
We'll see a return of cottage industries like the butcher, the baker and the candlestickmaker. We'll also see the demassification of schools, from the current prison lookalikes, to private and home tutoring and also smaller, friendlier, more community integrated buildings.