One of my fondest memories of childhood is the day that my mom took me to Pizza Hut and bought me two wrestling figures – Hulk Hogan and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. I guess I was ten. We didn’t go out to eat much as a family, never, in fact. The only time that I remember our family of four going out together for dinner was after my Ring Mass in high school. I remember everything about that time at Pizza Hut. I remember my mom spilling her soda on the table.
We walked there. I guess it was a mile each way. I think about the places that we passed along the way – Channel Home Centers, K-Mart, Kiddie City, West Coast Video, Wall to Wall Sound & Video, Consumers, Fashion Bug, Today’s Man, Eckerd Drug, Circuit City, Crazy Eddie, Pathmark, Radio Shack. Almost every store we passed that day is gone. K-Mart is continuing its death spiral and Crazy Eddie is another story, but the rest of them are gone because they failed to adapt and change with the demands of consumers.
Steve Jobs once said that consumer don’t know what they want until they (Apple) tells them. Most people took this comment the wrong way. What I believe he meant by it is that the consumer doesn’t know what is possible until it is shown to them. Case in point: People were perfectly happy going to Wall to Wall, with their limited parking and dirty parking lot, to rent VHS movies. They didn’t know that DVD and streaming video was what they really wanted, until it was presented to them.
The leaders of tomorrow are what we call “visionaries” today. Some people call them “disruptors” but that’s a corporate word and I will refrain. What about Amazon? They seem to turn another industry upside down every day. Walmart (WMT:NYSE)? They seem to be hearing the music regarding the need for an online presence to stave off obsolescence. Not sure Kohls (KSS:NYSE) gets that station. K-Mart (SHLD:NASDAQ) seems to have given up.
Google (GOOGL:NASDAQ) has its interests in self driving cars and non invasive glucose sensors. They didn’t just become the worlds best search engine and rest on their laurels like Yahoo (YHOO:NASDAQ). Amazon was the world largest bookstore and now they are the worlds largest retailer. McDonald’s (MCD:NYSE) isn’t going to sit back and let Shake Shack (SHAK:NYSE)…. see here McDonalds Vision.
The ultimate visionary of the past decade has been Apple (AAPL:NASDAQ). Are they demonstrating that they are still a visionary company? Watch what they do with the Internet of Things and the Apple Watch.
Now, let’s revisit that lunch at Pizza Hut so many years ago. The soda that was spilled was Coke (KO:NYSE). That company is taking steps to reduce its reliance on beverages for revenue in order to keep pace with Pepsi (PEP:NYSE). The wrestling figures that I got are from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE:NYSE), formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). They seem to have changed with the times. Hulk-A-Mania is probably still running wild somewhere. I got them at Kiddie City, which is gone. What about Pizza Hut (YUM:NYSE), itself? My feeling there is that they are so far behind Domino’s (DPZ: NYSE) that they need to change quick. I’m pretty sure that the dining experience at Pizza Hut is not that different from the way it was thirty three years ago.
The best investments are the companies that have the leadership creative and crazy enough to dream the future and then go about creating it, leaving their competitors on their wake.
DISCLOSURE: This article was written for informational purposes only. It is not intended as investment advice and should not be relied upon as such. Consult with a qualified financial advisor or tax professional to determine the proper investment plan for you and your circumstances. I do not personally own or plan to purchase any investments spoken of here.