Tom Still: Principle of ‘creative destruction’ means churn and learn for Wisconsin economy

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.

With 11 stores and more than 1,000 employees spread over three states, American TV & Appliance stood as an iconic homegrown billboard for “too big to fail.”

But fail it has, after a run that spanned 60 years, in part because the innovation that characterized American in its “Crazy TV Lenny” days faded into static on a black-and-white picture tube. Competing on price alone no longer worked in an era when the Internet guaranteed someone could always sell for less.

As American prepares to shut its doors, lessons about competing on quality, service, product and price can be found in recent company expansions in Wisconsin. may strike some people as the kind of online company that led to American TV’s demise, but the secret to Amazon’s success is more than the triumph of clicks over bricks. From its roots in book sales, Amazon has grown into the world’s largest online retailer, offering consumers seemingly endless choices for products – new, used and virtual.

With those clicks come bricks in the form of distribution centers, the likes of which Amazon will build in Kenosha over the next few years. The first phase will span 1 million square feet and a second will cover half that size, with a total investment reported as roughly $200 million. About 1,200 good-paying jobs will be created over time.

Read the full column