Department stores have once ruled the market. They are still quite essential for consumers residing in urban areas. Many brands became popular among American consumers and opened hundreds of department stores in major cities. Sears is one of those brands!
Even though business gurus now comment on the downfall of this company, its business model has inspired many businesses. Sears was the largest retailer during the 80s. It has served millions of customers, but it failed to continue its growth.
This post describes Sears’ business model, this company’s growth, and what caused its downfall. So, continue reading to reveal everything about Sears!
What is Sears?
Once known as the largest American chain of department stores, Sears, Roebuck, and Co. is an integrated retailer that offers a variety of goods. Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck had established this company in 1892. Initially, it used to serve as a mail ordering catalog firm.
The company later established retail locations across the country to serve more customers. Kmart acquired Sears in 2005 and turned it into Sears Holdings.
As mentioned earlier, Sears was the USA’s leading retailer in the 80s. It was serving millions of clients throughout the country. People loved shopping from Sears retail stores because it used to offer amazing deals on all the featured products.
Sears ruled the American market until the advent of online shopping. Ecommerce giants started slowly replacing it and now most customers know Sears as a bankrupt firm! Are all the Sears stores closed now? No, this company still operates its 425 stores (including other brands like Kmart) across the USA because it won the bankruptcy auction.
Richard Warren Sears used to sell watches for a living. He was running a mail-order watch business when he met Alvah Curtis Roebuck. Alvah was a watch repairman and he collaborated with Sears to establish the Sears Company in 1987.
That was the year when they had moved to Chicago and released the very first mail-order catalog. The firm was offering diamonds, watches, and exclusive jewelry.
Fast forward to 1889, Sears decided to sell the business and move to Iowa in 1889. He was planning to serve as a rural banker, but that didn’t go down very well.
So Sears came back to Chicago in 1992 and then made Roebuck his partner to establish the A. C. Roebuck watch company. This company was later renamed Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and it was the real beginning of the Sears Company!
As the company grew, its catalog expanded to more than 322 pages in 1894. They were selling bicycles, sewing machines, automobiles, and sporting goods. Since the customers were growing quite rapidly, Sears started offering a 532-page catalog with even more products.
Sears was doing pretty great in terms of sales, but 1893’s national panic caused a full-scale recession. The company failed to sell its merchandise and Roebuck quit after that shock. Julius Rosenwald bought Roebuck’s share in the company and became a partner in 1895.
Rosenwald wanted to diversify the company’s portfolio and added products such as consumer durables, dry goods, hardware, drugs, furniture, etc. Now, Sears was offering everything a common man needs to live a comfortable life.
Since this company was already making a profit in rural regions of the country, Rosenwald decided to tap into the urban population. He supervised the development of Sears’s first department store. It became functional in 1925 and it was the beginning of Sears’s brick and mortar department store chain.
Sears company’s first department store was located on the outskirts of Chicago. It had still drawn thousands of consumers. It inspired the development of hundreds of similar department stores across the country.
Although Sears was an American firm, its department stores were spread across the borders including Canada and Mexico. The 70s and 80s were probably the most profit-generating decades for Sears. Its 110-story building was completed in 1974 and it was the world’s tallest building at that time!
Consumers trusted Sears for offering the best quality goods, and the company consistently delivered. Loyal customers returned to its far-located department stores time and again for their day-to-day needs. It has met customers’ every demand and provided top-quality products in various categories! Therefore, nobody could have predicted the downfall of this company in the 21st century.
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Why Sears was so successful?
People talk a lot about why Sears failed. Very few people acknowledge it has been one of the world’s most profitable retailers in the history of mankind! So, why Sears was so successful? What encouraged people to enjoy the suburban shopping experience offered by this company? Let’s find out!
It served everyone!
Sears brought products for everyone. It is still known as the world’s first department store to serve both men and women. Sears’s department stores had a wide range of products. Female shoppers could find anything they need for household, makeup, work, and other demands.
This company wanted to entertain all American buyers looking for a cost-effective shopping experience. It served pretty well and that’s why thousands of buyers visited Sears stores every week.
Buyers from the 70s, 80s, and 90s still praise Sears for its signature low prices. Probably, that’s what allured people for suburban shopping.
The company offered huge retail stores to find everything a buyer might need. It continued to expand its line of products and kept prices pretty low.
Sears had introduced many products under its brand name to capitalize on its heavy footfall. People used those products and admired their quality.
This company was established to serve farmers from rural regions. It later became the center of attraction in suburban regions of popular cities across the USA. Automobile sales were booming after the Second World War. Therefore, people kept visiting Sears stores for cost-effective deals on high-quality products.
Diversified product line
Sears used to be brick and mortar version of what Amazon is today. It was initially selling watches and jewelry but later expanded its product line to everything under the sun!
They sold all types of household goods including clothing, hardware, tools, footwear, groceries, and everything a common household might demand.
Suburban department stores have also provided people with electronic equipment, appliances, automobile repair services, and heating and cooling systems. Its department stores are still one-stop destinations for buying everything people need. That’s how it ruled the retail industry during its prime.
Sears grew rapidly as the leading department store because it delivered valuable products to customers. It had drawn people to the outskirts of cities for shopping only because it had high-quality goods at reasonable prices.
Being the largest chain of department stores, Sears delivered satisfying services. Therefore, it was quite successful and people still visit Sears retail stores regularly, even if it involves long commutes.
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Companies owned by Sears
Sears has owned several businesses. The most noticeable ones are as follows:
Sears has owned the Kenmore appliance brand. This brand relied on various manufacturers for its appliances and sold them under one brand name. It was launched in 1913 and it used to sell sewing machines at that time.
Sears later included various other appliances, such as vacuum cleaners, washers, refrigerators, dryers, and freezers. Popular electronics brands, such as Panasonic, LG, Whirlpool, etc. were the manufacturers supplying appliances for Kenmore.
Kenmore had a wide range of appliances in all Sears department stores. It also appeared in Kmart retail stores after the 2005 merger.
Even though Sears is not as active as it used to be in its prime, Kenmore still offers its services. This brand is now selling online to entertain its loyal customers.
Monark Premium Appliances
Being a Sears subsidiary, Monark provides premium quality home appliances across the USA. It has an official website where buyers, such as homeowners, builders, designers, and architects can purchase premium quality appliances.
Monark Premium Appliances has more than 20 showrooms established across the West Coast of the USA. It invites professionals to assess and purchase the best quality appli9ances. GE Monogram, Bosch, Thermador, and Miele are some appliances brands sold at Monark.
It used to be a sailing equipment company during the 60s but later started offering general furnishings and clothing online. It served customers online and through mail-order catalogs. Sears had acquired this company in 2002 and then expanded its clothing line.
Lands’ End offered business outfitters, Canvas, Lighthouse, and sports outfits. Since it was growing quite rapidly, it became a publically-traded firm. It was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014!
Shop Your Way
Even though many people think Sears could not survive due to the growth of eCommerce Giants. This company had also tried its luck in the e-commerce game through Shop Your Way.
It was introduced as a free shopping rewards program. Sears was offering personalized goods, services, and millions of products online through this program. People liked this program because they could earn points and online cashback while shopping and connecting with friends.
What caused the downfall of Sears?
Sears was once known as a retail giant and now it is known for its failure to keep up with other companies. Let’s find out what caused the downfall of one of the USA’s most successful brands.
Lack of innovation
Sears was established in the late 19th century and it grew throughout the 20th century. It could not survive in the 21st century because it did not do anything innovative to draw customers!
Richard Sears had established this firm to supply goods through a rapidly expanding railroad network. His approach worked and the firm started serving thousands of buyers countrywide.
The company’s retail stores were established when people were buying cars to go out and enjoy the time. Sears had drawn car owners to its department stores for affordable shopping.
This company always took risks and gained huge rewards. It stopped taking risks and did not invest in something innovative. Other companies, such as Amazon took advantage of Sears’s sluggish approach and replaced it!
It could not keep up with competitors
Many people think Amazon grabbed Sears’s customers and that’s why it could not survive. In reality, it was Walmart that snatched buyers, who used to visit Sears for their shopping demands.
Walmart had followed an aggressive approach to gain more customers i.e the discount retailing business model. Buyers always want to save extra bucks while shopping. Walmart offered exactly what people wanted. Therefore, it had continued to outgrow Sears after 1990.
Both companies were at the same level in the 90s, but Walmart’s discount retailing made it more popular. Sears could not keep up with Walmart and other such companies and it eventually failed!
There are many reasons behind Sears’s failure – Lack of focus, investment in failing businesses, etc. are a few to point out. Those days are gone when Sears used to be one of the buyers’ favorite destinations for weekend shopping.
Many believe its survival is difficult, especially when you can order anything at the click of a button across the USA.