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.
Now, five years later, it doesn’t look much better for Sears. This was brought to the top of my mind again by this article in the New York Times on December 22nd: “A Tough Sell at Sears”.
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