13-Jan-2012: This story, Lender Shies Away From Slumping Sears, is just one of many negative foreshadowing stories about Sears in the news recently. It reminded me of this piece, which I originally published December 28, 2010.
Sears & Roebuck was once this country’s Walmart.
When I was a kid, going to the Sears store on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn was a great adventure. The first thing you noticed when you walked into the store was the smell; it was popcorn, warm cookies and candy from the sweets counter in the middle of the aisle. It made the shopping experience there more like a party than a retail excursion.
You could find anything you wanted: toys, bicycles, fishing rods, and stuff you’d never have thought of if you didn’t see it there.
I loved going to Sears. Many years later, I even worked for Sears. I was still working for Sears when K-Mart took them over in 2005. It was called a merger, but that was strictly face-saving. K-Mart bought them.
After the ‘merger’, things changed. Full-timers were replaced with part-timers. Commissions were cut. Benefits were cut. It was indeed a dark day.
Yes, the website has changed a lot, but the stores are run down. Marketing has improved recently, but still isn’t adequate. They’ve gotten so obsessed with loss prevention that actually shopping can be a huge hassle, depending on how you wish to pay for your purchase, or even what you’re buying (gift cards).
Over the past several decades, one thing that K-Mart has excelled at is Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We’ve lost so many fine old retailers since the 1960s: Montgomery Ward, EJ Korvette, Great Northern, Foley’s, Joske’s, Gimbels …
It’s sad but true. Everything changes, like it or not, and as Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.”
I’m sad when I think of Sears dropping into the dustbin of retail history, but while it’s cold consolation, the Sears I knew and loved died years ago. This one is just an imposter with the same name.
Revised slightly, 13-Jan-2012