Fast Failure

Richard had a story recently about the unexpectedly rapid demise of a Jacksonville-based company called Body Central, which sold clothing to teenage girls and 20-somethings in the “fast fashion” industry segment.  After years of strong growth and expansion of its outlets into new malls, Body Central suddenly hit the wall and closed its doors.  Richard’s story is an interesting treatment of the arc of a company’s existence in modern America.

What happened?  Basically, capitalism.  Body Central, and other stores catering to the same market segment, kept expanding to new locations and storefronts and expected the demand for clothing from teenage girls and young women prowling the malls to continue to grow indefinitely.  But the tastes and buying habits of Body Central’s target audience changed.  They decided that going to malls wasn’t necessarily the bees’ knees and started looking for more clothing on-line.  In the meantime, Body Central had growth-related problems, like managing distribution centers.  Revenues shrank, efforts to redesign stores to reattract customers failed, and ultimately the enterprise crashed.

Capitalism has a long and proven track record for incentivizing production, creating wealth, and enhancing efficiencies — but it’s a messy process.  Businesses begin, occasionally thrive, and often fail.  Sometimes the failures are of mom-and-pop shops, but sometimes they are of companies that experienced some success but just couldn’t move to the next level, and sometimes the failures are of mega-corporations like Blockbuster that are killed by new technologies, changing consumer tastes and buying habits, and competitors who develop a better product or service.  It happens, but it doesn’t make the situation any more enjoyable for employees who are out of a job when the company hits the wall.

Goodbye, Body Central!  You’re just the latest in a long line — and you won’t be the last.

Crack Of Dawn

This morning I’m up and out the door on my way to Cleveland.  I’ve got to pick up a colleague and get up to The Best Location in the Nation by 9 a.m. or so — which means getting up and hitting the road early.

IMG_1613Typically people express sympathy when this occurs, but I don’t mind rising during the wee hours and getting started on the day.  I’ve  been an early bird for as long as I can remember.  I take after my grandmother, who said with a chuckle that she liked getting up at the “crack of dawn.”  (I always enjoyed that phrase, too, but Tom Waits kind of ruined it when he said, in the bass-driven intro to the classic album Nighthawks at the Diner, that he was “so horny that the crack of dawn better be careful around me.”)  When UJ and I spent the night at her house, she and I inevitably would get up by 6 a.m. and have our breakfast, while UJ and Grampa Neal slept in.

We’ve all got our unique circadian rhythms, and there is no right or wrong way.  Winston Churchill stayed up until all hours and stayed in bed until late morning but was incredibly productive nevertheless.  For me, “sleeping in” means staying in bed until 7 a.m., and if I tried to sleep later than that I’d just end up with a groggy and unpleasant headache.  I feel sharp and energetic in the morning, and I want to get up and get going.  When your body is telling you its time to rise and shine, why not just reconcile yourself to the inevitable and do the best with it?

So by the time most of you read this I’ll have been up for hours, whistling and listening to the radio and piloting my car on my way north on the familiar trip up I-71.  Doze on, sleepyheads!  This early bird likes the crack of dawn, Tom Waits notwithstanding.