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The Passing of Another American Icon - Sears

Updated on October 10, 2018
jackclee lm profile image

Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

Sears Roebuck and Co. is shutting its doors for ever. It was an American institution for over 100 years. Founded in 1886, it has grown to over 500 locations across America. Like Kodak before it, another giant in the industry is closing for good. How did it come to this? A sad state for our malls.

- Oct. 2018

Background

Across America, in almost every major shopping malls, there is a Sears store as one of its anchor. Over its long history, it was a catalog company before it became a department store. It was the Amazon of its hay day. People living in remote areas of our country would do their shopping using the catalog and have the products shipped to their home. It is exactly what Amazon does today except instead of a paper catalog, people use the web and the internet.

Sears had a reputation for quality. The Sears craftsman tools were the gold standard of tools. A tool would be warrantied for life. That was how good it is. In addition, they had an extensive parts catalog for spare parts and repairs. Instead of throwing something out, we used to fix things. It was more economical and better for the enviroment. This was before the consumer society took off where now we made most things disposable.

By any logic, Sears should have been the Amazon of today. They had the size, the scope, the products, the foot print and the shipping expertise. Yet, they missed out on this new paradigm shift.

The parallel between Sears and Kodak cannot be overlooked. Both were giants in their industry. Both were successful and profitable for their shareholders. Both were dominant at one time. Both were known for quality. Yet, both suffered the same fate.

Why Is This Happening?

To a great extent, the management of the company did not move with the changing times. It was no surprise. These changes have been going on for 30 years. Little by little, the online shopping experience has replaced the shopping malls. Especially with the younger demographics, they are just more comfortable shopping online.

The genius of Jeff Bezos was to create a “free shipping“ option with Amazon Prime. It made the higher cost of shopping online disappear. Along with the easy return policy, it created a better shopping experience.

For some shoppers like me, I was almost forced into it. There were some items I wanted to buy that are not available in stores. I was forced to go online to get the items I wanted.

The Dying Malls

America consumers are changing. The internet has brought about that change. A family used to do most of their shoping in local malls. Teenager used o meet up at malls to go to the movies and hang out. That is no longer the case. With the high speed connection, and wifi, people are streaming their videos to their home TV and smart phones.

These malls are a dying breed. Some people have repurposed the mall to be a local community center. Retirees can go their to play cards and chess with their friends. Local talent can perform their talent on stages in the mall. Some people are using the mall as exercise paths especially in the winter months. These are some good way to preserve these malls.

Summary

I am a dinosaur in a new modern world. Even though I have no problem with technology, I prefer to use paper and talk to people and socialize in person rather than on social media.

I still enjoy shopping in stores where I can touch and feel the products I am buying. I can try on the shoes and the cloth to see if they fit.

It is interesting to me that Amazon has started opening stores around the country. It has come full circle. Why didn’t the executives at Sears follow this new model?

© 2018 Jack Lee

Comments

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      This echoes a similar experience in the UK with household store names closing and high streets growing emptier.

    • jackclee lm profile imageAUTHOR

      Jack Lee 

      10 months ago from Yorktown NY

      Yes, that is absolutely the case. They had plenty of time to adapt and jump on the e-Commerce band wagon. Look at Walmart and they are succeeding while Sears and Kmart floundered.

    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 

      10 months ago

      It is sure sad to see it go, but that is the world of business. Some business people believe it was because Sears was too slow to adapt to the changes in the business world. Jack, do you agree?

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