Wednesday, May 10, 2017
An article at Bloomberg covers the "long, hard, unprecedented fall of Sears," which the article rightly notes was the Amazon of its day:
"The Sears catalog had an even bigger impact in 1900 than Amazon has had today," said Robert Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University and author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Like today's e-commerce powerhouse, the Sears catalog provided shoppers more choice than ever before, and at lower prices. Sears freed shoppers from the tyranny of the local general merchant and improved their living standards. "The cost of living went down the minute Sears became available," said Gordon. [bold added]It is tempting to look for contemporary commentators from that era to see whether they complained, as current ones do of Walmart and Amazon, about all the lost jobs and "mom-and-pop" stores.
I knew the retailer was in trouble, but the degree of their problems surprises me a bit: the company is even in danger of being forgotten altogether. According to one source, "You've got young people today that don't even recognize Sears as a place where they would go." That said, reading the rest of the article might make you wonder how they have remained in business even this long.
The whole story reminds me of the adage, "From shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations."