As a little boy I sprinted to the curb as I saw the mail truck stopping at each mailbox on the way to mine. The buzz of electric excitement was felt swirling in the air when waking up that morning, after a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The fervor I felt as my toes touched the floor, launching me out the door exclaiming, “It’s Christmas Time!”
The utter sadness I felt each day the mailman would say, “not yet, Mikey.” I would have to wait for my treasure to come in the mail! I knew it had arrived when I saw his enchanted smile as he maneuvered the bulky catalog into our mailbox, I squirmed impatiently wanting to run outside and grab it from him. When I finally had my prize, an aura of joy and excitement would grow around me as I peered into it, a catalog of everything. It was the Sears Christmas catalog!
Sears, Roebuck and Company was founded in 1893 by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck. Sears, shortly after his father died in 1879, purchased a watch shipment that the distributor he worked for had refused, and was able to make a small profit from their sale. In 1886 he opened R. W. Sears Watch Company, a mail-order catalog company. That same year Sears met Roebuck who had become a watch repairman at age 12, and in 1893 the opened Sears, Roebuck, and Co. as partners. The companies catalog became known as the ‘Consumers’ Bible’.
Pressure from competition with Walmart and Best Buy became a threat in the late 1990s, causing management to do such things as converting full-time employees to part-time in an effort to cut expenses. Additional pressure on the company came from the increase of the price to distribute merchandise via mail, resulting in the discontinuation of its mail order catalog in 1993. The end of the Sears catalog led to the dismissal of the 50,000 employees who filled orders. Unfortunately, management had not been able to foresee the future of the internet – the company already had the purchase by mail infrastructure it took online companies, like Amazon, years to build.
In 2004, Kmart purchased and completely merged with the company, forming Sears Holdings. By 2010 the company was no longer making a profit. Eddie Lampert, who founded ESL Investments in 1988, became CEO of Sears Holding in 2013 and planned to make the company profitable again by cutting costs and selling the real estate of underperforming stores.
Although it lost $10.4 billion from 2011 to 2016, in 2015 Sears Holding was still the nation’s 20th-largest retail company in the United States. Unfortunately, on October 15, 2018, the company filed for bankruptcy, and sold its assets to ESL Investments in 2019. Sears Holdings was closed after the new owner placed these assets under ownership of its new subsidiary Transform Holdco LLC.