Well, it finally happened. Sears filed for bankruptcy. For now, it’s only chapter 11, so there is still hope. Toys R Us and Circuit City are both rumored to be making comeback attempts, and they liquidated. So, you never know. Only time will tell.
I’m willing to bet that Sears has touched almost everyone reading this post in one way or another. It’s worth looking up the history of the company online to get a feel for just how many facets of everyday life in the United States have, in some way, involved Sears. Whether with its brands such as Die Hard, Craftsman, and Kenmore, it’s companies such as Allstate, Land’s End, Orchard Supply or Kmart, or with its once 3,500+ stores (including Kmart), Sears was everywhere.
I know Sears has touched my life in a number of ways. My first bike was a J.C. Higgins (Sears). My dad would buy nothing but Craftsman tools (Sears). I still do. Die Hard batteries (Sears) powered my cars for many years. I have a Kenmore (Sears) refrigerator in my laundry room and still buy all my tee shirts from Land’s End (once Sears). Last, but certainly not least, my first retail job was at Sears in Glendale, CA, which I think is still there.
I worked in the marking room at night and on Saturdays. I still have dreams of pin-ticketing bras and panties by the thousands. Goldie, the foundations manager, was constantly coming to the marking room demanding more bras and panties. Ugh!
And then there were the 110-lb weight sets that we had to bring to customers from the third-floor stock room.
I met my best friend there, and we remain so to this day, some 49 years later.
But my most vivid memory of my time at Sears was standing in the marking room on December 1, 1969 (yes, I’m that old!). We were intensely listening to the first lottery drawing (based on your birth date) for the draft on a transistor radio. Most of us were college students, and it was at the height of the Vietnam War. All of us were hoping for a high number. We didn’t know it at the time, but the highest number ever drafted ended up being 195. But we knew higher was better. My number was 300. The guy standing next to me was 001. He joined the Navy the next day.
Lives affected by Sears? You bet. Sears has also had an impact on retail loss prevention. Some prominent retail loss prevention executives have spent at least a part of their careers at Sears, including: Bill Titus (retired), Mark Stinde (now at 7-Eleven), Tom Arigi (Walmart), Stan Welch (Agilence), Suni Shamapande (PricewaterhouseCoopers), and Scott Glenn (Home Depot).
So, what happened to Sears, which once had 3,500+ stores (with Kmart), tremendous brand loyalty, and at one time, was the largest employer in the United States? The list of concerns is long and varied, and there are lots of opinions. In order to understand the whole story, one really needs to do a fair amount of research. But here are a few things that led to the beginning of the end:
- Walmart, Home Depot and Amazon
- “Merging” with Kmart
- Slow mastery of online retail
- Management shake-ups
- Lack of investment in stores and product
- Cutting hours, pay and headcount, thereby negatively affecting service
- Eddie Lampert, if you believe many
As with any bankruptcy filing, it’s not over ’til it’s over. But Sears is a sad story nonetheless. We all want to see what happens, and most of us will look back on the many ways Sears has impacted our lives, generally in a positive way.