No doubt you have heard about Sears recently filing for bankruptcy. The one-time retail giant has been facing crippling losses over the last few years which caused vendors to stop shipping supplies to their stores. It now owes billions of dollars which will likely not be paid back.
At one time there were over 4,000 Sears stores throughout North America. That number has dwindled to less than 700 with liquidation sales to begin shortly.
Sears originally started out as a mail order house, then expanded to stores both in urban and suburban areas, but they eventually felt the competition of discount retailers and specialty stores, such as Walmart and Home Depot, and their market share fell. The knockout punch was the Internet, an area they entered too late allowing others to dominate the market.
To me, it seemed like Sears was with us forever. No matter where I lived, there was always a Sears store nearby. It was dependable, consistent, and good value. It was also clean and meticulously organized, making it easy to find whatever you were looking for. If you couldn’t find it, the clerks would be glad to direct you to it and answer any question you might have. As such, the store was like an old, reliable uncle or friend in the neighborhood. You were comfortable in it and, unlike other stores with unthinking clerks, you liked to visit if, for no other reason, than to browse the aisles. This is why I consider this news about the company closing as a sad sign of our changing culture.
As a kid, my brother and I would love to page through the Sears catalog as we approached Christmas time, oohing and ah-hing at the latest toys, and dogear the pages we wanted our parents to see.
Sears was the home of Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, and DieHard batteries, products you always had confidence in. A Craftsman tool case was perhaps the most coveted prize to have in your garage. My family bought many a lawn mower at Sears over the years, and had them serviced there as well. Their hallmark was fast, reliable, and dependable service.
The Sears auto repair centers also had a good reputation for reliable work at reasonable prices. If the service man said you needed a new belt on your engine, you knew it wasn’t a con job. Nearby was their key center where you could have a duplicate key made quickly. As a lad, I loved watching the people make keys.
Having lived in Chicago, we were all familiar with the Sears Tower which, at the time was the tallest building in the world. It was a dramatic symbol of stability and strength for the company. Chicagoans would later be shocked when it was sold and renamed the Willis Tower, but even today, natives still refer to it by its original name.
This is why the passing of Sears is so troubling and unimaginable to a lot of us. It was a beloved institution which was trusted, possessed a great reputation and was a pleasure to frequent. We were so confident in its durability that it causes us to reflect on our own frailties. Maybe the problem was they simply overextended themselves and no longer could compete with the discount houses anymore. I find it rather ironic that Sears, which was originally devised as a mail order house, fell prey to the 21st century version of the same; you know, the Internet.
And so we turn another page in our culture.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]
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Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.