The End Is Nigh for an American Retail Legend
BY RICK MORAN
MARCH 22, 2017
Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced in its annual report that “substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” The long, slow death of a retail legend appears to be inevitable.
The death of Sears, while not imminent, brings to a close a significant chapter in American history. For nearly 100 years, Sears dominated the retail and catalog business in America. In rural America especially, Sears “wishbooks” opened a world previously unknown to farmers with reasonable prices for washing machines, ice boxes and other appliances as well as durable goods.
It’s been years since I’ve bought anything at Sears, and even longer (the 1990s?!) since I’ve even set foot in a KMart. Narrow aisles cluttered with merchandise left on the floor and not re-shelved, dim and dingy, unhelpful people? I’ll go to Target or Kohl’s or Bed Bath & Beyond instead. Or even to Walmart, which isn’t that close to me.
The nearest Sears has for years been little more than convenient mall access for us, as their parking area is less crowded … which suggests we aren’t the only people not shopping at Sears. Maybe it’s an outdated business model (can you say J. C. Penney? Montgomery Ward?); maybe it’s treating customers like cattle; maybe it’s treating store employees poorly, resulting in poor customer service. Probably, it’s all of the above.