Sears was once where American shopped, and this month it leadership bailed. Once the marketing gem in the retail crown, Sears was the store for the rest of us: affordable, local, and exhaustive. The first Sears opened in Chicago back in 1887. By 1896 Sears, Roebuck and Co. put out its first catalogue. This wish book has everything that a booming American needed, new fangled machines, houses, dresses – they sold it all to the thousands who lived far from the big cities. In 1913 it launched the first product under the Kenmore brand name. By 1927 the first Craftsman tool was for sale. Sears would be the first major company to offer profit sharing and offer insurance. By the 1945 Sears sales surpassed 1 billion dollars a year. Then, the company reached it zenith, moving into the new Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world, in 1973. By that point, it was a household brand, the department store for the working family – and expanded to thriving new malls and downtowns across the nation, including Concord NH. In 1985, on the eve of its centennial, Sears launched the Discover Card.
Retail is cyclical– stores come and go – but the truth is that consumers today are shifting online, and for those who remain at stores are often willing to forgo service and quality for price. Never a good trade…
Things changed, and Sears did not change with them. Wal-mart spread across American town, emulating Sears sell-everything formula, but not is reputation for service or shopper experience. Target followed, and American changed – malls shrunk, big downtown department stores diapered. Legends of retail such as Woolworth and Montgomery Wards disappeared.
From a marketing perspective, the lesson is simple – life changes – as do consumer and organizational whims. The more you remain in a track, the farther you can be left behind. You need to invent, understand where the market is going, and be true to your self.