Sears Reshaped America, From Kenmore to Allstate

We just bought a new refrigerator from our local Sears. As a kid, I remember circling toys I wanted in the Christmas catalog. Pages of Legos, Matchbox cars, sleeping bags, remote-controlled cars.

There might have been no Sears at all if Richard Sears, a 19th-century railway agent, hadn’t received an unwanted shipment of watches. He sold the watches to station agents up and down the rail line and then teamed with Alvah Roebuck, a watchmaker, to form a Chicago mail-order watch business in 1893 called Sears, Roebuck & Co. The founders weren’t the ones to make Sears a retailing powerhouse, though. […] Sears in 1999 was one of the first retailers to launch a website and later to offer in-store pickup of online orders. […] Big-box stores like Walmart, Target and Home Depot were easier to shop than Sears, and they were rolling out in strip centers closer to where people lived. “Sears didn’t take the threat seriously enough,” said Mr. Martinez, the former Sears CEO. He took steps to shore up the chain, including closing the catalog, which he said was a money loser. “It loomed large in American history, but it wasn’t an economic proposition,” Mr. Martinez said. […] The bankruptcy filing threatens to put many of roughly 70,000 Sears employees out of work and throw the financial security of its 100,000 pensioners into doubt. It also leaves many shoppers without a go-to store. —Wall Street Journal