Amazon is the new Sears

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

10 February 2017

Sears Amazon. Amazon is the old Sears Roebuck.

I’ll explain the Roebuck part of Sears Roebuck in a minute. Yesterday, I happened upon a song while driving home from the office. It was an old Broadway tune. I don’t know the name of the song or the show. For my ears, it was not that memorable. Except.

There was a phrase in the song about a family excitedly anticipating a delivery of packages from Sears Roebuck. It got me thinking.

Amazon is the new Sears.

Sears Roebuck was a brand

Today everything seems to arrive at my door in an Amazon box. I’m not as innocent as the fictional Broadway characters. But getting something you ordered still is exciting. Delivery has the innate feeling of a gift. Despite paying with your own cash. It’s magical in that way.

There was a time when Sears (then called Sears Roebuck) was America’s ticket to EVERYTHING. Rural, urban and suburban families all had a copy of the latest Sears Roebuck Catalog. It was Google before the internet.

You could buy EVERYTHING from Sears

My grandparent’s home was a Sears Kit House

Sears sold everything

Before my time, the Sears Roebuck catalog was more than a pre-Christmas staple. It was a connection to the world. It was retail without brick and mortar. Sound familiar?

My paternal grandparents bought their house from the Sears Roebuck Catalog. That’s right. They bought their house. (Read about Sears house kits here).

All the parts arrived in pre-cut boxes. Like paint by numbers, the local contractor followed directions and assembled the Kenmore Cottage like an IKEA bookshelf. The house kit arrived complete with Sears Roebuck furniture (if you ordered it). All the appliances were top-of-the-line Kenmore. No doubt carpets, lighting and heat plant were all part of the deal.

Amazon is just a newer version of Sears

That is my whole point. Sears should be Amazon. It served the same purpose in its time. Amazon is spreading its wings. Sears? Sears is shuttering stores. Somewhere Sears Roebuck lost its way.

“Sears lost its way. But it’s just the beginning. The retail category shows no vision and the vultures are circling.”

Sears sells everything

Today, Sears still sells everything. But I don’t mean consumer products. Sears has taken the sales of its brands seriously and is trying to sell them to the highest bidder. Craftsman and Diehard have been snatched up. Kenmore seems to have no suiters. What a crime.

If Sears is to survive, it must rebrand. Anything less than total redefinition is just a waiting game as the vultures circle the dying Elk.

There was a time when Sears could have bought Amazon with pocket change. But Sears had no vision. It never understood who it was and what its brand meant. Squandering everything in which my grandparents invested. Sears held on too tightly to a failing model. Its leadership lacked vision and flexibility. (Read about the troubled retail category here).

 

The Sears Catalog was an anticipated arrival.

It was as exciting as actually ordering from it.

Retail Today

The retail industry today is a macrocosm of the Sears Roebuck experience. An industry in flux. But the retail leadership lacks vision. (Read about rebranding retail here).They want to hold onto the old model even as it sinks beneath the sidewalk. Retail is today’s Pompeii.

Retail does not innovate any longer. They mimic and copy. Department stores copy Amazon. They invent nothing. Macy’s is the new Sears. Bookmark this page and put it in your browser under I told you so.

Maybe some version of Sears Roebuck emerges from the ashes of Sears/Kmart. A name change? Of course, But more importantly a model change that reflects changing needs and changing times.

Things are so bad for Sears that Amazon could buy the company for pocket change. But it’s not worth a dime

 

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