Not Everyone Sorry to See Sears Go

Companies that run malls can finally renovate money-losing sites, raise rents
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2018 11:10 AM CDT
Updated Oct 15, 2018 2:24 PM CDT
Sears Changed How America Shopped
In this July 16, 1969, photo, people watch the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket launch on multiple TVs at a Sears department store in White Plains, NY.   (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)

Sears filed for bankruptcy Monday morning, marking what might be the beginning of the end of one of the most remarkable business stories in American history. As the AP explains, the big question is whether the chain will go away for good or emerge as a smaller version of itself. One tangible result that consumers can expect to see soon: liquidation sales at the 142 unprofitable stores set to be closed by the end of this year—in addition to the 46 closures previously announced. Details and developments:

  • Your store? See USA Today for the state-by-state list of the 142 new closures (of both Sears and Kmart) announced Monday.
  • Trump: President Trump said the company had been mismanaged. "Sears has been dying for many years," he said, per Fox Business. "It’s been, obviously, improperly run for many years, and it’s a shame." Trump also noted that Sears was a "big deal" when he was growing up, calling its demise "very sad."

  • About time: Many malls around the US are operated by real estate investment trusts, or REITs, that are actually happy to see Sears go, reports NBC News. In many cases, they've been locked into decades-old leases in which Sears doesn't pay much. (That goes back to the days when thriving Sears stores were mall anchors.) Now the REITs can renovate the empty spaces, lure newer businesses, and raise rents.
  • Fateful watches: Sears began when a 22-year-old train station agent in Minnesota named Richard Sears received a shipment of watches for a local jeweler in 1886, explains the Chicago Tribune. When the jeweler refused them, the wholesaler told Sears he could keep them for $12 a piece. He did, sold them for a profit, and soon was making more than his "day job" salary. Sears quit and started a mail-order watch company the next year in Chicago, hiring a watchmaker named Alvah Roebuck. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Branching out: In a story on how Sears "reshaped America," the Wall Street Journal ticks off some of its monumental spinoffs: Allstate Insurance, the Discover credit card, Sears kit houses (delivered in pieces via railroad), Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, and the Sears Tower (once the tallest building in the world).
  • The catalog: At one time, the iconic Sears catalog shipped to pretty much every household in the US, becoming "the way many Americans first started to buy mass-produced goods," per CNN. The catalog was especially significant for those living on farms and in rural small towns.
  • Fatal mistake? It may have been innovative in its early years, but in the 1990s, Sears tried to be more like big-box Walmart instead of getting the jump on Amazon in e-commerce, writes Joe Cahill at Crain's Chicago Business. "Could Sears have beaten [Jeff] Bezos to the biggest retailing opportunity in 50 years? With the right timing, foresight, and fortitude, I think so."
(This didn't bode well last year.)

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