10 Industries On Life Support

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BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- If you read the print edition of a newspaper, still make calls over a landline or plan to rent a tuxedo for an upcoming wedding, you are doing what many of your friends and neighbors gave up long ago.

Analysts at IBISWorld, a market research firm, recently compiled a list of 10 industries that may be on the "verge of extinction in the United States." Within its database of close to 700 industries, about 200 are in decline, with the ones selected having seen large and steady drops in revenue and number of establishments. From the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2016, these industries are likely to deteriorate further.

The Borders books chain is bankrupt, but bookstores in general are doing better than many industries, thanks to changes in their business model that answer how consumers are finding and buying books now.

"People might think that we are coming out of recession and these industries have hit bottom, so therefore everyone should be going up," IBISWorld Senior Analyst Toon van Beeck says. "But that is definitely not the case. A lot of these revenues peaked in about 2000 and since then they have declined year over year."

He explains that while economic cycles, the ups and downs of bull and bear markets, often swing every eight to 10 years, "industry life cycles can be three to 50 years where they go from maturity into decline." The industries singled out by the firm "are really at the end of their decline phase or they are in rapid decline."

Most of the industries share common reasons for their bleak prospects, including damage from advances in technology, industry stagnation and external competition, he says.

Because labor costs and regulations are high domestically, many manufacturers send their production to foreign countries. Downward price pressure from domestic wholesalers, retailers and consumers forces U.S. producers to cut costs to offer a competitive price. Many firms that cannot outsource have a difficult time competing.

Advances in technology are another drag on companies whose failures drag down their industry. The rapid pace of technological developments may create industries and business opportunities. But traditional companies not forward-thinking or nimble enough to adapt will court failure.

Adding to the vicious circle, struggling companies are often forced to cut prices and reduce production costs. Doing so hammers away at budgets for R&D, as well as capital and technology investments. The resulting stagnation drags down these businesses, and their overall industry, even more.

In singling out wired telecommunication carriers as among the 10 barely breathing industries, IBISWorld points that revenues have dropped nearly 55% since $341.8 billion in the year 2000. An additional decline of 37.1% is projected over the next six years.

Big players such as AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ) still dominate the industry despite losing a steady stream of customers, he says, because of their prominence in the wireless space for which many former customers are jumping ship.

Record stores, van Beeck says, are a "sad story" hard hit by changes in how their customers now find, buy and listen to music. There may still be a strong, core following for traditional vinyl, but many shops haven't found a way to expand beyond that niche.

The industry saw revenue plummet 76.3% since 2000, to about $2 billion. IBISWorld expects the bad news to get worse as they lose nearly another 40% by 2016.

Van Beeck says record stores are a case study in not adapting nimbly enough to changing times.

Bookstores, which bear conceptual similarities to record stores, are themselves in rough shape these days -- with the once giant Borders ( BGP) now in bankruptcy. Their declines weren't substantial enough to make the cut of his ranking, van Beeck says. In fact, they may offer some hindsight into what record stores could have done -- creating a more customer-friendly environment with cafes and a more diverse inventory.

The photofinishing industry has also lost its focus and vibrancy.

"While Eastman Kodak ( EK), Fuji Film ( FUJI) and Ritz Camera were once major and prominent companies, they are just a splash of what they were in their heyday," van Beeck says.

With about $1.6 billion in revenue last year, they have faced a decline of nearly 70% during the past decade. Revenue could drop another 40% by 2016, IBISWorld estimates.

Once again, technology is the issue. Digital cameras continue to offer improving quality and falling prices. Color printing can be done at home and cheap digital storage, on hard drives and flash sticks and through online services, has reduced the need to produce a hard copy of every shot as a keepsake. Overall, the total number of prints in the United States has fallen at an annualized rate of 3.5% over the past five years, he says.

Video postproduction is another industry done in by the do-it-yourself opportunities presented by new technology. Once requiring specialized expertise, many of these tasks can be done on even an average home computer.

Companies such as Technicolor ( TCH) have suffered as a result. Industrywide, revenues have fallen 25% in the past decade to just north of $4 billion, with another 11% decrease predicted by 2016.

The Internet's role as a creator/destroyer is also behind the constant talk of the demise of newspapers. Newspaper publishing, a $41 billion industry last year, fell 36% since 2000, with a 20% decline likely by 2016.

Failing to see the writing on the wall, and how the online world would snare eyeballs and advertisers, is once again a major part of the problem these companies face. It's been years and years since the "information superhighway" was a hot concept, and yet such companies as The New York Times ( NYT) are just now getting serious (though not yet successful) about such concepts as "paywalls" for their content.

Five other industries in dire straits:

DVD, game and video rentals
Blockbuster ( BBI), its woes reflected in the state of the DVD, game and video rental marketplace, could be a poster child for dying industries.

"In 2000, Blockbuster was a thriving business and the most dominant player in the $12.2 billion industry. Today, Blockbuster is bankrupt, and the industry is 35.7% smaller than it was a decade ago," van Beeck wrote in his analysis.

Demand for the sort of media Blockbuster built its one-time empire on is as strong as ever, he says. What changed is that the company, and many like it, weren't prepared for how the Internet, digital cable, satellite TV, big box stores and mail-delivery services such as Netflix ( NFLX) would change consumer habits. What was once a weekend night at home can now be an everyday occurrence without the need to drive to a specialized, bricks-and-mortar location. The industry's revenue of roughly $7.8 billion last year is down nearly 36% since 2000, with a 20% drop-off projected over the next six years.

Formalwear and costume rental
Proms and weddings may be joyous occasions, but there isn't much smiling these days for those in the business of formalwear and costume rentals.

The old-school business model was fairly simple. Important events demanded expensive attire few would wear often enough to afford and, therefore, rented the outfit instead. There are new ways these days to go black tie, however.

"China and other low-cost apparel manufacturing countries have been able to produce lower-cost suits and costumes for the U.S.," van Beeck says.

As the cost is driven down, consumers are increasingly weighing the value of renting an outfit or, for slightly more, buying one to keep and reuse.

Not everyone is suffering equally. Men's Wearhouse ( MW), with about 50% of the market, is the largest in the marketplace, and that scale gives it a leg up on the competition, according to van Beeck.

"But the industry as a whole, when you include all of the smaller players, is getting hit pretty hard," he says.

IBISWorld says the industry pulled in roughly $736 million in revenue last year, a decline of 35% from 2000. It forecasts a further revenue drop of 14.6% through 2016.

Textile mills, and companies that create socks, carpeting and knitted apparel, have faced a difficult time due to overseas competition. Because facilities outside the U.S. can make these products more cheaply, domestic demand has plummeted.

The industry, with nearly $55 billion in revenue last year, has lost 50% of that income stream since 2000, with another 10% reduction unraveling by 2016, according to IBISWorld.

There is one bright spot. U.S. companies producing nonwoven fabrics still have a global upside because other countries have not yet perfected the technology to produce flame-resistant or moisture-absorbing fabrics.

This niche area is good news for such companies as Hanesbrands ( HBI) and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A), a major player in the mill space.

Apparel manufacturing
Sounding a similar story, apparel makers have been squeezed out of their profits by the cheap labor and materials offered offshore.

The $13 billion industry saw revenue falling 77% over the past decade, bottoming out so badly IBISWorld foresees an additional 8.5% drop by 2016.

Like mills, the news isn't all bad. In addition to the prominence U.S. manufacturers have in making certain specialty fabrics, there are competitive strengths in apparel design and brand development, the IBISWorld report says. U.S.-based operators possess advanced advertising and promotional skills and have access to a large consumer market.

Manufactured-home dealers
Manufactured-home dealers stand out from all industries in IBISWorld's database, van Beek says, for having some of the steepest declines.

"The coming forecast period is demonstrating no signs of anything positive," he says.

This industry saw a 73.7% revenue decline since 2000, according to IBISWorld. It is forecast to see its revenue, now about $4.5 billion, drop another 62% by 2016.

Multiple pressures are hurting this industry and, in turn, companies such as Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary Clayton Homes. Demand is dwindling, sustaining profit is very difficult and there has been stagnation.

"It hasn't really just been the past few years that they have declined," van Beek says. "It has been many years now. They are quite possibly the hardest hit of all. The industry has just been getting smaller and smaller each year because demand has been dwindling."

"During the past decade, operators have experienced very little product change," the IBISWorld report says, singling out a self-induced factor for the decline. "Manufacturers have made cosmetic changes to manufactured homes, but they have not been significant enough to alter their life cycle stage."

"The industry just hasn't been able to evolve and is ultimately dying a slow death," van Beek says.

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