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Farewell to Sears? Maybe Not Yet...

DealsorNoDeals profile picture
January 08, 2019 · 6.5k Views

Current Update: (1/16/19 at 8am)

Chairman Eddie Lampert has successfully won Sears' bankruptcy auction, which will allow roughly 400 stores to stay in business and about 50,000 employees to keep their jobs! Sears will live on (for now), but it will never be the iconic giant it once was. Take a look at the rise and fall of the "largest retailer in the world" below.


Updated: (1/10/19 at 9am)

Chairman Eddie Lampert has submitted a revised bid of more than $5 billion, increasing the chances of Sears remaining in business! This doesn't mean the department store is out of the clear yet though, as Lampert must win during Sear's bankruptcy action on Monday (1/14). His is the only bid that will keep Sears open. Furthermore, if Lampert's bid is chosen during the action, a bankruptcy judge still must approve the deal before it's finalized.


Updated: (1/8/19 at 11am)

Sears Holding just gave Lampert 24 hours to come up with a feasible offer to keep the company alive. If he fails to come up a $120 million deposit and new offer terms in that time frame, then liquidation will begin.


After 130 years in business the once iconic department store, Sears, just narrowly escaped liquidation.


Though Chairman Eddie Lampert has successfully staved off liquidation, one thing is still clear, once deemed the "world's largest retailer", this iconic giant will never be the same again. Now only with roughly 400 stores and about 50,000 employees left, Sears is only a fraction of the glory it once was. Let's take a look back at the history of Sears to honor this faded giant.



Sears, Roebuck and Company (now known only as Sears) was founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curis Roebuck back in 1893. In the early days, Sears began operation as a mail order catalog company until opening its first retail store locations in 1925.


Sears Catalog...

Before the Sears Catalog, farmers had to purchase supplies on credit from local general stores. Unfortunately, this often meant prices were not set in stone (and often high) and dependant on a customer's creditworthiness. Sensing an open market, Sears took advantage of this by offering a catalog with a wide selection of products and clearly defined prices. In fact, by 1894, just one year later, Sears catalog expanded to 322 pages and included items from sporting goods to sewing machines. 1905 saw the first catalog featured in full color and with textured wallpaper samples.

In 1933, Sears published its first Christmas catalog known as the "Sears Wishbook", which was separate to the annual Christmas Catalog. This wishbook featured toys and gifts that any good little girl or boy would want underneath the Christmas tree. 

Throughout the early 20th century, the Sears catalog was widely known as "the Consumers' Bible," because of the importance it played in the emotional lives of rural folk. Every year saw a new issue of the catalog that reflected the current changing scene in America, becoming a keepsake of the past. The catalog also served as a vital tool for rural African-Americans to bypass local white-dominated stores during the era of Jim Crow racial segregation. 

Unfortunately, in 1993, Sears discontinued their "Big Book" catalog due to sinking sales and profits.



In 2004, Sears acquired Kmart Holdings Corporation after Kmart completed its bankruptcy. The thought behind Sears buying out Kmart was the idea that combining the two declining retailers could result in stabilizing profits. The combined company's profits peaked in 2006 at $1.5 billion. However, by 2010 the company saw no profit. In fact, between 2011 to 2016, the company lost $10.4 billion. 

In order to make up the difference, Sears began selling off portions of its balance sheet between 2014 and 2015, including Lands' End and Sears Canada. In an effort to gain repeat business and customer loyalty, Sears tried introducing their Shop Your Way program, which offered cashback rewards and free shipping.

In early 2017, Sears sold off their famous Craftsman brand for about $900 million. Also, during this period, the company announced that it would close 150 stores in an effort to cut its losses. Furthermore, by February 2017, Sears announced a restructuring plan that would save the company $1 billion by further selling stores, cutting jobs and selling off brands.

In an expanse of seven years, from 2010 to 2017, Sears closed more than 3,500 physical stores. October 2017 also saw the end of the 101-year relationship between the department store and the appliance manufacturer Whirlpool. Sears further announced 63 more store closings in November 2017.

2018 saw even more store closings, the timeline looking something like this:

  • January 2018: 103 more stores closed
  • May 2018: 63 more stores closed
  • July 2018: 15 more stores closed
  • August 2018: 46 more stores closed
  • October 2018: 142 more stores closed
  • November 2018: 40 more stores closed
  • December 2018: 80 more stores closed

Now with roughly only 400 locations left, and about 50,000 employees, the era of Sears, Roebuck & Co. has come to an end.



Once hailed as the largest retailer in the world, with more than 350,000 employees at its peak, Sears department stores were a fixture of the rapidly changing times in America. Early on, annual catalogs helped revolutionize the retail marketplace, offering a variety of goods at fixed prices to rural Americans. By the mid-20th century, these catalogs were a staple of everyday life, with many people looking forward to the next issue. Success also allowed the company to branch off into many different aspects of life, even at one point offering pre-fab kits for homes. Sears was the "everything" store before the era of Amazon. Looking back on Sears' storied history, it's clear the important role the retailer played in American capitalism.


Are you sad to see the current state of Sears? Are you one of the 50,000 employees still left? Please leave a comment below.

HannasmotherJan 08, 2019
Great article. I didn’t realize the profound impact Sears had on American culture and growth.

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