Through the 1980s, Sears was the largest retailer in the United States; Walmart and Kmart surpassed Sears in sales in 1990. In 2018, Sears was the 31st-largest retailer in the United States. After several years of declining sales, Sears' parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018. Sears announced on January 16, 2019, that it had won its bankruptcy auction and would shrink and remain open with 425 stores, including 223 Sears stores. Nevertheless, the trend of Sears and Kmart store closures continues, with only 95 stores, including 61 Sears stores, expected to remain open after a wave of store closures announced in July 2020.[better source needed]
While in North Redwood, a jeweler refused delivery on the shipment of watches. Sears purchased them, then sold them at a low price to the station agents and made a profit. He started a mail-order watch business in Minneapolis in 1886, calling it "R.W. Sears Watch Company." Within the first year, he met Alvah C. Roebuck, a watch repairman. In 1887, Sears and Roebuck relocated the business to Chicago; later that year, the R.W. Sears Watch Company published Richard Sears' first mail-order catalog, offering watches, diamonds, and jewelry.
In 1889 Sears sold his business for US$100,000 ($2.8 million today) and relocated to Iowa, intending to be a rural banker. Sears returned to Chicago in 1892 and established a new mail-order firm, again selling watches and jewelry, with Roebuck as his partner, operating as the A. C. Roebuck watch company. In 1893, they renamed the company to Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and began to diversify the product lines offered in their catalogs.
Before the Sears catalog, farmers near small rural towns usually purchased supplies, often at high prices and on credit, from local general stores with narrow selections of goods. Prices were negotiated and relied on the storekeeper's estimate of a customer's creditworthiness. Sears took advantage of this by publishing catalogs offering customers a wider selection of products at clearly stated prices.
By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, including many new items such as sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, and automobiles (later produced, from 1905 to 1915, by Lincoln Motor Car Works of Chicago, no relation to the current Ford line). By 1895, the company was producing a 532-page catalog. Sales were greater than $400,000 ($11.4 million today) in 1893 and more than $750,000 ($23 million today) two years later. By 1896, dolls, stoves, and groceries had been added to the catalog.
Despite the strong and growing sales, the national Panic of 1893 led to a full-scale recession, causing a cash squeeze and large quantities of unsold merchandise by 1895. Roebuck decided to quit, returning later in a publicity role. Sears offered Roebuck's half of the company to Chicago businessman Aaron Nusbaum, who in turn brought in his brother-in-law Julius Rosenwald, to whom Sears owed money. In August 1895, they bought Roebuck's half of the company for $75,000 ($2.3 million today). The company was reincorporated in Illinois with a capital stock of $150,000 ($4.6 million today) in August 1895. The 1895 transaction was handled by Albert Henry Loeb of Chicago law firm Loeb & Adler (now Arnstein & Lehr, LLP). Copies of the transaction documents are still displayed on the walls of the law firm.
Sears and Rosenwald got along well with each other, but not with Nusbaum; they bought him out for $1.3 million in 1903 ($37 million today). Rosenwald brought to the mail-order firm a rational management philosophy and diversified product lines: dry goods, consumer durables, drugs, hardware, furniture, and nearly anything else a farm household could desire.
Sales continued to grow rapidly, and the prosperity of the company and their vision for greater expansion led Sears and Rosenwald to take the company public in 1906, with a stock placement of $40 million ($1.1 billion today). They had to incorporate a new company in order to bring the operation public; Sears and Rosenwald established Sears, Roebuck and Company with the legal name Sears, Roebuck and Co., in the state of New York, which effectively replaced the original company. The current company inherits the history of the old company, celebrating the original 1892 incorporation, rather than the 1906 revision, as the start of the company.
Sears' successful 1906 initial public offering (IPO) marks the first major retail IPO in American financial history and represented a coming of age, financially, of the consumer sector. The company traded under the ticker symbol S and was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1924 to 1999.
In 1906, Sears opened its catalog plant and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower in Chicago's West Side. The building was the anchor of what would become the massive 40-acre (16 ha) Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex of offices, laboratories and mail-order operations at Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. The complex served as corporate headquarters until 1973 when the Sears Tower was completed and served as the base of the mail-order catalog business until 1993.
By 1907, under Rosenwald's leadership as vice president and treasurer, annual sales of the company climbed to roughly $50 million ($1.4 billion today). Sears resigned the presidency in 1908 due to declining health, with Rosenwald named president and chairman of the board and taking on full control.
The company was badly hurt during 1919-21 as a severe depression hit the nation's farms after farmers had over-expanded their holdings. To bail out the company, Rosenwald pledged $21 million ($0.3 billion today) of his personal wealth in 1921. By 1922, Sears had regained financial stability.
As the nation urbanized, Sears' business model faced competition from city department stores. The mail-order market was based on rural America, with a slow-growing population and far less spending power than urban America. Rosenwald decided to shift emphasis to urban America and brought in Robert E. Wood to take charge.
Rosenwald oversaw the design and construction of the firm's first department store, built on land within the Sears, Roebuck, and Company Complex. The store opened in 1925. In 1924, Rosenwald resigned the presidency, but remained as chairman until his death in 1932; his goal was to devote more time to philanthropy.
The first Sears retail stores were pioneering and broke the conventions of the time in three ways: first, their location away from main shopping districts; second, their innovative store design, and third, their unconventional product mix and retailing practices.
The first store opened on February 2, 1925 as an experiment in the North LawndaleSears, Roebuck and Company Complex. Despite its remote location on the outskirts of Chicago, its success led to dozens of further openings across the country, many in conjunction with the company's mail-order offices, typically in lower-middle-class and working-class neighborhoods far from the main downtown shopping district. This was considered highly unconventional at a time when shopping was concentrated in downtowns, however, rapidly increasing car ownership and the brand's huge popularity helped attract customers.
Many stores at this time were designed by architect George C. Nimmons and his firms. The three-dimensional modeling of form, in other words, an architecture driven by merchandising needs, rather than the desired outer appearance determining the building's form, made the stores excellent examples of the modern architecture of the time - styles made famous by Bertram Goodhue and Eliel Saarinen.
Its stores were oriented to motorists--set apart from existing business districts amid residential areas occupied by their target audience; had ample, free, off-street parking; and communicated a clear corporate identity. In the 1930s, the company designed fully air-conditioned, "windowless" stores such as Sears-Pico in Los Angeles, which was the first to have an open plan selling floor (instead of breaking up the floor into discrete sections).
Sears was also a pioneer in creating department stores that catered to men as well as women, especially with lines of hardware and building materials. It deemphasized the latest fashions in favor of practicality and durability and allowed customers to select goods without the aid of a clerk.
In 1933 Sears issued the first of its Christmas catalogs known as the "Sears Wishbook", a catalog featuring toys and gifts, separate from the annual Christmas Catalog. From 1908 to 1940, it included ready-to-assemble Sears Catalog Home kit houses.
The Sears catalog became known in the industry as "the Consumers' Bible". The company sold to foreign customers, such as after the American occupation of Greenland in World War II when locals ordered from catalogs left by soldiers. Novelists and story writers often portrayed the importance of the catalog in the emotional lives of rural folk. The catalog also entered the language, particularly of rural dwellers, as a euphemism for toilet paper, as its pages could be torn out and used as such. In addition, for many rural African-Americans, especially in areas dominated by Jim Crowracial segregation, the Sears Catalogue was a vital retail alternative to local white-population-dominated stores, bypassing the stores' frequent intention to deny them fair access to their merchandise.
Sears opened its first store in Mexico City in 1947; the Mexican stores would later spin off into Sears Mexico, which in 2020 operated more than 90 stores across Mexico.
In 1974, Sears completed the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago, which became the world's tallest building, a title it took from the former World Trade Center towers in New York. Sears moved to the new Prairie Stone Business Park in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, between 1993 and 1995. The Sears Centre is a 10,001-seat multi-purpose arena located in Hoffman Estates adjacent to the Prairie Stone campus.
Sears reached its pinnacle in 1972-4, after which it was challenged by other retailers such as Home Depot, Best Buy, and Walmart--challenges Sears was ultimately unable to meet.
In the 1990s a series of pricing scandals were revealed. California successfully sued the company in 1992 for falsely finding things wrong with automobiles in for repair for other reasons. In 1997, criminal charges were made.
There was a lot of diversification that was needed, but it distracted management's attention from the competition. Management, at first, discounted the threat from Walmart and Best Buy because of lower quality and lack of dedicated salespersons for appliances. However, appliances turned over slowly and contributed weakly to net profit. As it turned out, Walmart reset prices for the country.
Even though its naming rights to the building expired in 2003, the Sears Tower remained named as such until early 2009. In March 2009 London-based insurer Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., was given the building's naming rights to encourage them to occupy the building. The official renaming as the Willis Tower took place on Thursday, July 16, 2009, during a public ceremony hosted by Willis Group Holdings.
In the 1990s, the company began divesting itself of many non-retail entities, which were detrimental to the company's bottom line. Sears spun off its financial services arm which included brokerage business Dean Witter Reynolds and Discover Card. It sold its mall building subsidiary Homart to General Growth Properties in 1995. Sears later acquired hardware chain Orchard Supply Hardware in 1996 and started home improvement store The Great Indoors in 1997.
The cost of distributing the once highly influential general merchandise catalog became prohibitive; sales and profits had declined. The company discontinued the catalog in 1993. It dismissed 50,000 workers who had filled the orders. This was before the internet became an effective tool. With the advantage of hindsight, the timing was poor; Sears already had in place what it took Amazon and Walmart years to achieve.
Sears eventually held sales on all items. The dedicated customer would just wait until the item was on sale to buy. In the meantime, the item took up valuable floor space. This was a marketing policy misjudgment.
After weeks of speculation in 1998, Sears announced it had sold the remnants of Western Auto to Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts. The business deal was not quite what experts in the after-market automotive industry expected. Specifically, in return, Sears, Roebuck became "one of the largest shareholders" after obtaining a 40% stake in Advance Auto Parts, and by merging their two store networks, which included Western Auto's wholesale and retail operations. More precisely, the existing store network of Advance Auto Parts, comprising 915 stores in 17 U.S. states, merged with 590 U.S.-based Parts America Stores in addition to 40 Western Auto stores in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In 1997 Sears sold 85% of its Mexico affiliate to Grupo Carso. Sears Holdings continues to produce specialty catalogs and reintroduced a smaller version of the Holiday Wish Book in 2007.
In 2003, Sears sold its U.S. retail credit card operation to Citibank. The remaining card operations for Sears Canada were sold to JPMorgan Chase in August 2005. In 2003, Sears opened a new concept store called Sears Grand. Sears Grand stores carry everything that a regular Sears carries, and more. Sears Grand stores are about 175,000 to 225,000 square feet (16,300 to 20,900 m2).
History under Sears Holdings
On November 17, 2004, Kmart Holdings Corporation announced it was going to acquire Sears, Roebuck, and Co. for $11 billion after Kmart completed its bankruptcy (USA Today Nov. 17, 2004). As a part of the acquisition, Kmart Holding Corporation along with Sears, Roebuck, and Co. was transformed into the new Sears Holdings Corporation. The new company started trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange as SHLD; Sears sold its single-letter ticker symbol 'S' in the New York Stock Exchange it had held since 1910 to Sprint Corporation.[better source needed] The new corporation announced that it would continue to operate stores under both the Sears and Kmart brands. In 2005, the company began renovating some Kmart stores and converting them to the Sears Essentials format, only to change them later to Sears Grands. The combined company's profits peaked at $1.5 billion in 2006.
By 2010, the company was no longer profitable; from 2011 to 2016 the company lost $10.4 billion. In 2014, its total debt ($4.2 billion at the end of January 2017) exceeded its market capitalization ($974.1 million as of March 21, 2017).
Sears spent much of 2014 and 2015 selling off portions of its balance sheet; namely, Lands' End and its stake in Sears Canada, one of the biggest e-commerce players in Canada, with C$505 million in sales in 2015--more than Walmart and others who had begun pushing aggressively into online sales, such as Canadian Tire. Sears stated that the company was looking to focus on becoming a more tech-driven retailer. Sears' CEO and top shareholder said the sell-off of key assets in the last year had given the retailer the money it needs to speed up its transformation. Sears Holdings had lost a total of US$7 billion in the four years to 2015. In part, the retailer was trying to curb losses by using a loyalty program called Shop Your Way. Sears believed the membership scheme would enhance repeat business and customer loyalty in the long term.
In 2015, Sears Holdings spun off 235 Sears and Kmart properties into a real estate investment trust called Seritage Growth Properties. In September 2016, Sears Holdings terminated 17 Kmart store leases and paid Seritage a termination fee. Lampert is also chairman and largest shareholder in Seritage. Seritage Growth Properties is controlled by ESL Investments.
In October 2016, Moody's Investor Services downgraded Sears to speculative grade liquidity rating, and predicted that Sears was expected to have to rely on external financing and monetization of its alternative assets, according to Moody's VP Christina Boni.
In late 2016 and early 2017, some significant steps were taken by Edward Lampert, president, chief executive officer and top shareholder of Sears Holding Corp. Lampert, with personal assets estimated at US$2 billion, is also the founder and manager of the hedge fund ESL Investments Inc. He provided an additional loan of US$500 million to the company and said he would provide letters of credit to Sears for additional amounts, reportedly totaling US$200 million and possibly increasing to a half-billion dollars in the future.
Lampert also concluded an arrangement that sold the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for approximately US$900 million. During this period, the company also announced that it would close 150 stores (109 Kmart and 41 Sears outlets), in an attempt to cut its losses after a decline in sales of 12 to 13 percent during the holiday shopping season and the largest quarterly loss since 2013. Matt McGinley, an analyst at Evercore ISI, stated, "In the long run, the cash isn't likely to change the company's course. ... I don't think there is any viable path to any sort of profitability."
In February 2017, Sears announced a restructuring plan that it hoped would cut costs by US$1 billion, via selling more stores, cutting jobs and selling brands. During the second quarter of 2017, 42 Sears stores in 40 states closed. Sears later announced that it closed an additional 12 stores. In May 2017, Sears announced it would close 20 stores, including the last Sears store in Rhode Island, at Rhode Island Mall in Warwick. In July 2017, Sears announced it would close another 43 stores (8 Sears and 35 Kmart stores).
Sears declined from more than 3,500 physical stores to 695 US stores from 2010 to 2017. Sales at Sears stores dropped 10.3 percent in the final quarter of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015.
In October 2017, Sears and appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation ended their 101-year-old association, reportedly due to pricing issues, although Whirlpool continued supplying Sears with Kenmore-branded appliances. Another wave of 63 store closures, including 18 Sears, was announced in November 2017. The retailer declined to run television advertisements for the 2017 holiday season, citing a desire to focus on online advertising.
The retailer announced several waves of store closures throughout 2018:
46 stores, including 33 Sears, in August, with the last Utah store, in West Jordan, which was downsized from the first and largest Sears Grand in 2017.
142 stores, including 79 Sears in October, with the last Wyoming store, in Casper.
40 stores, including 29 Sears in November, with the last Idaho store, in Idaho Falls, and the last Mississippi stores, in Meridian and Tupelo.
80 stores, including 43 Sears, in December, all set to close by March 2019.
The company also auctioned some real estate, including the buildings of several operating stores, online.
In May 2018, Sears announced it had formed a "special committee" to explore the sale of Kenmore. In August 2018, Lampert's ESL Investments Inc submitted a bid of US$400 million for the brand. As of October 14, 2018, with Sears filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving the future of both the Kenmore and DieHard brands undecided, it has been rumored online and elsewhere that Whirlpool Corporation could emerge as a possible top potential buyer for the Kenmore brand since they were the top major manufacturer of Kenmore appliances for well over a century.
On September 24, 2018, the retailer's CEO warned that the company was "running out of time" to salvage its business. Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018, ahead of a $134 million debt payment due that day. Liquidation sales at 142 stores, including 79 Sears locations, including the last Sears store in Wyoming, at Eastridge Mall in Casper, began later in the month, and in August 2018 Sears Holdings announced that 13 Kmart stores and 33 Sears stores would be closed by November 2018. On November 8, 2018, Sears Holdings announced it would close an additional 40 stores, including 29 Sears stores, including the last Sears store in Idaho, at Grand Teton Mall in Idaho Falls, and the last two Sears stores in Mississippi, at Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian, and at the Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo. On November 23, 2018, Sears Holdings released a list of 505 stores, including 266 Sears stores, that are for sale in the bankruptcy process while all others are currently holding liquidation sales.
On January 16, 2019, Sears Holdings announced it would remain open after Lampert won a bankruptcy auction for the company with an offer to keep about 400 stores open. On February 7, 2019, a bankruptcy judge approved a $5.2 billion plan by Sears' chairman and biggest shareholder to keep the business going. The approval means roughly 425 stores, including 223 Sears stores, and 45,000 jobs will be preserved.
On June 3, 2019, it was announced that Transform Holdco LLC would acquire Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores. As per deal, they might need to divest its Sears Outlet division to gain approval. On August 6, 2019, it was announced that 26 stores, including 21 Sears stores, including the last Sears store in Alabama, at Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, and the last Sears store in West Virginia, at Huntington Mall in Barboursville, would be closing in October with plans to "accelerate the expansion of our smaller store formats which includes opening additional Home & Life stores and adding several hundred Sears Hometown stores after the Sears Hometown and Outlet transaction closes." On August 31, 2019, it was announced that Transform would close an additional 92 stores, including 15 Sears stores, by the end of 2019. 100 more stores closed by January 2020. 51 Sears stores were closed in February 2020, including the last full-line store in Las Vegas, at Meadows Mall, the last two full-line stores in New Hampshire, at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, and the Steeplegate Mall in Concord, as well as the last full-line store in Vermont, at University Mall in South Burlington. On January 23, 2020, it was announced that the Sears in Glendale, California, would close on March 15, 2020.
Near the end of 2019, Sears sold the brand name DieHard to Advance Auto Parts for $200 million.
On June 29, 2020, it was announced that the Sears at Rockaway Townsquare in Rockaway, New Jersey would close on September 13, and on June 30, it was announced that the Sears in Hackensack, New Jersey, the last freestanding Sears store in the state, would be closing on September 12, due to the Bergen County Blue Laws occurring the next day which prevent non-essential retailers from opening, meaning there will be only one Sears store left in New Jersey, at Newport Centre in Jersey City, after these closures.
In January 2021, Forbes Magazine reported that they are unable to get an accurate count of the number of operational stores, with numbers ranging between 74 and 60 at the beginning of January. An expert in retail bankruptcies at Debtwire calls the store closings "a slow motion liquidation".
A typical full Sears in the Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut in October 2017. This store closed at the end of 2018 as part of a plan to close 142 Kmart and Sears locations.
Sears (Full-Line) is a chain of department stores that are usually located in shopping malls; however, some freestanding stores exist; they carry clothing, accessories, jewelry, home appliances, household hardware, lawn and garden supplies, lawnmowers, paint, sporting goods, automobile repair, and electronics, as well as a portrait studio (in some locations), optical center, and dental center. Sears stores are usually multi-level, averaging 139,000 sq ft (12,900 m2).
Sears Grand stores are typically located away from shopping malls (with the exception of Gurnee Mills, Gurnee, Illinois, which closed in September 2018, and Pittsburgh Mills, Tarentum, Pennsylvania, which closed in January 2015). Many Sears Grand locations were retrofit remodels of existing Kmart stores after the merger. They carry everything a Sears department store carries, plus health and beauty products, a pharmacy (in former Kmart locations), toys, baby care, cleaning supplies, home décor, pet food, cards and party supplies, books, magazines, music, movies, and a selection of groceries which is limited mostly to dry goods. Sears Grand stores range from 165,000 to 210,000 square feet (15,300 to 19,500 m2). The first Sears Grand opened at Jordan Landing in West Jordan, Utah in 2003. At 225,000 square feet (20,900 m2), the Jordan Landing store was the largest in the chain until it was remodeled, downsized, and converted to a regular Sears in 2017 and closed in November 2018. Some other Sears Grands have downsized and converted to regular Sears or Kmart locations.
Sears Home & Life are stores that sell "hardline" goods such as appliances, tools, mattresses and lawn and garden equipment. These stores are free-standing and are around 10,000 to 15,000 square feet (930 to 1,390 m2) in size. On April 4, 2019, Sears announced that it planned to open three locations. These stores, located in Anchorage, AK, Lafayette, LA, and Overland Park, KS, opened May 24, 2019.
A&E Factory Service is the on-site repair service, servicing larger items such as home appliances, electronics, and garden equipment. A&E is a joint venture held by Whirlpool and Sears Holdings. Sears acquired the A&E brand in 2001 from the bankrupted Montgomery Ward where it had previously operated as A&E Signature Service. It is not clear when Sears sold Whirlpool a share of the company. A&E Factory Service is a network of mobile service vans with a long history of performing appliance repairs.
Sears Home Services specializes in onsite repair, improvement, and maintenance of appliances, HVAC systems, electronics, fitness equipment, lawn & garden, electrical, plumbing, water heaters both tanked and tankless, whole home water filtration, insulation installation and removal, Crawl space and basement services. other services include bathroom remodels, cabinets, counter-tops, flooring, kitchen remodels, indoor sauna assembly, roofing, siding, and window replacement. Sears Home Services also offers repair of small appliances in-store.
Sears Carpet and Upholstery cleaning provides Carpet, Upholstery, Hardwood Floor Cleaning, Tile & Grout cleaning services, assist with water damage from emergencies.
Sears Air Duct Cleaning services Air Duct Cleaning, home air filtration systems, and dryer vent cleaning.
Sears Handyman Solutions Plumbing, Electrical, Installation & Assembly, Home Repair & Maintenance, Drywall, Decks, Fencing, and Painting
Sears Maid Services Home & Apartment Cleaning covers kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms. Housekeeping services include sweeping, mopping, dusting, and surface cleaning in rooms throughout the home. Commercial Cleaning includes common office spaces, as well as building services. Post Construction Cleaning restores living areas after a remodel or repair project, including washing surfaces, removing debris, and general cleaning.
Sears Garage Solutions Includes garage door sales, install & repair; garage door opener sales, install & repair; flooring, organization, and storage products. other services include installation of Entry Doors and emergency repair services.
ServiceLive a wholly owned subsidiary of Transform Holdco LLC, connects customers with one or more independent contractors for home improvement and repairs.
Sears Flowers (franchised to Teleflora) Website for Flowers, Plants, and gifts available for same-day delivery.
Sears Driving School teaches a state-approved curriculum in Classroom, in-car driving and observation for teens and adults.
Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores a subsidiary of Sears that operated a series of more specialized department stores. In 2012, these stores were spun off into an independent company and part of the former company was reacquired in 2019.
Sears Hometown Stores (formerly known as Sears Authorized Dealer Stores) was formerly part of the retail operation of Sears Holdings and is a small-store (averaging 8,500 square feet) version of Sears full-line department stores. Sears Hometown Stores, established in 1993, is a franchise formula. The stores are usually located away from shopping malls and serve local communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
Sears Home Appliance Showrooms is a store that offers home appliances and related services in-store. The stores have an internet kiosk where customers are able to view similar products, price match, and order products not available in the store. primarily located in strip malls and centers of metropolitan areas. Averaging 5,000 square feet with a primarily appliance showroom design. These stores carry Kenmore and other national brands of home appliances.
A Sears Hardware in Windham, Connecticut which closed in May 2016. Its signage was still intact as of 2017.
Sears Outlet was an outlet version of Sears department stores located in various retail locations across the United States. The stores carry new, one-of-a-kind, out of a carton, discontinued, used, scratched and dented merchandise at 20-60% off regular retail price. While a wide variety of products are available, appliances make up a large majority of available merchandise. Sears Outlet stores were once known as Sears Surplus. Many former Kmarts have been converted to serve as Sears Outlets, though these often take up less than half the floor space. Each store, on average, is larger than 18,000 square feet in size. Sears Outlet was part of Sears' spin-off of its hometown and outlet divisions into a separate company in 2012. Sears Outlet was briefly owned by Franchise Group from October 2019 until April 2020 when the stores were rebranded American Freight, after Franchise Group acquired American Freight that same year.
Sears Appliance & Hardware was a chain of hardware stores that carried the whole line of Sears hardware, and were usually free-standing. At peak, there were more than 110 Sears Appliance & Hardware stores averaging 28,000 square feet (2,600 m2). Stores were expanded to include Sears' full line of appliances in 2005. Sears Appliance & Hardware was part of Sears' spin-off of its hometown and outlet divisions into a separate company in 2012 and was dissolved in 2019.
Sears Fashion Outlet was a 30,000 square feet store that had carry end-of-season, discontinued and overstock apparel merchandise from both Sears and K-Mart stores in women's, men's, kids, shoes, and accessories product categories as well as home fashions merchandise such as small kitchen appliances, bedding, and bath items. The Sugarloaf Mills store in Lawrenceville, Georgia was converted into a regular Sears Outlet.
Lands' End, Sears officially spun off Lands' End in April 2014 amid Sears Holdings's continuing financial distress, including a US$1.4 billion loss in 2013. Many Sears domestic full-line locations include a Lands' End "store within a store" inside. Sears Holdings, prior to the spin-off, also operated stores that exclusively carry Lands' End clothing and various fashion accessories, footwear, and home goods. These stores, averaging 9,300 square feet, are separate from Sears department stores, usually in outlet malls and regular malls. On October 5, 2019, Lands' End Corporate Office made the decision to liquidate all remaining Lands' End Shops in the Sears Full Line Stores. All shops inside of Sears were officially closed January 31, 2020. Lands' End continues to sell various types of clothing for men, women and children as well as fashion accessories, footwear and home goods both through its website and an increasing number of stand-alone stores.
Sears Essentials was a chain of discount stores retrofitted from existing Kmart stores. Their product lines were similar to that of Sears Grand stores. In 2006, Sears dropped the brand as it tried to turn Kmart stores into free-standing Sears stores. Most of 50 buildings bearing its name were turned into Sears Grand Stores or reverted to Kmarts.
National Tire and Battery(NTB) & National Tire Warehouse(NTW) is an American brand of auto service centers, spun off by Sears in 2003. Sears created the brand in 1997 by consolidating the Tire America (TA) and National Tire Warehouse (NTW) brands, adding the "B" to include its DieHard brand of batteries. Sears sold the brand, which consisted mostly of stores set apart from its name-brand stores, in 2003 to TBC Corporation. A Sears spokesman said "Because of the separate branding and the lack of proximity to our retail operations, we weren't able to drive growth as a TBC could". The chain of 226 stores was reported to have brought in $425 million in revenue and $60 million in profit in 2002.
Discover Card Introduced in 1986 as part of the Sears Financial Network, spun off in 1993.
Sears Brand Central was an electronics store. The appliances departments in Sears are now known and referred to internally as Brand Central, although they are not marketed to consumers as such, except for a few locations in Puerto Rico.
Sears Catalog Sales Stores were located in small towns. These stores were very small, even smaller than Sears' current Hometown Dealer stores. At catalog stores, some items could be purchased from the floor, such as appliances; other items could be ordered from catalogs at the store. These stores were often placed in rural markets which were far from full-line Sears stores, allowing for customers to purchase Sears products more easily. These stores were closed in 1993 when Sears closed its catalog business.
Sears Authorized Catalog Sales Merchant was an independent business person who provided many of the same services as the Sears Catalog Sales Store. Similar operations were found in Canada with Sears Canada, as Sears Pickup Locations or Sears Catalogue Sales Merchants.
Sears Appliance Stores were small stores usually between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet. Sears Appliance Stores displayed and sold (at Retail Store prices) appliances, carpeting, etc. and, in addition, provided a catalog sales department through which catalog items could be ordered. Sears Holdings has opened a Sears Appliances store in Colorado in 2016 with plans to add more throughout the country. By 2019, there were four Sears Appliances Stores in operation, with plans to convert the stores into Sears Home & Life branded stores.
Sears Rent-a-Car was a car and truck rental chain formed in a mid-1970s joint venture with Budget. It was sold to Avis in 2002.
Sears HomeLife was a chain of furniture stores owned by Sears. The concept was introduced at a mall in Fresno, California in 1989, followed by a stand-alone store in Madison, Wisconsin. Sears HomeLife averaged 20,000 to 40,000 square feet, featured dark ceilings, theatrical lighting and an expanded array of furniture and accessories. These stores were designed to be much larger than the typical in-store Sears furniture department, which averages around 7,800 square feet. Sears opened HomeLife stores as stores-in-a-store to replace the existing furniture departments of their full-line Sears stores. Other Sears HomeLife stores were opened as free-standing locations. Sears sold the stores to Citicorp Venture in 1999, which changed the chain's name to "HomeLife". More locations opened, some inside large Sears stores or near the store depending on space availability. HomeLife closed its last stores in 2001. In Puerto Rico, a few HomeLife locations are still operating.
Sears Neighborhood was a chain similar to Sears Hometown stores, except that Neighborhood stores were located in urban markets. These stores were also independently owned and operated. The concept was introduced in Atlanta in 1998, and another similar store was located in Cincinnati. The Neighborhood stores closed in the early 2000s.
The Great Indoors was a chain of free-standing home decor stores that carried high-end home appliances, bedding, and kitchen and bath fixtures. The Great Indoors also offered custom kitchen and bathroom design services. Stores were approximately 140,000 square feet each. Nearly 300 employees were hired for each store. While it was a success originally, it succumbed to the housing crash. Sears Holdings announced the closing of all remaining stores in 2012.
Orchard Supply Hardware was a chain of free-standing hardware stores, spun off by Sears in 2012. The retailer declared bankruptcy and was sold to competitor Lowe's Home Improvement in June 2013, less than two years after it separated from Sears. On August 22, 2018, Lowe's announced it would cease operations of all Orchard Supply Hardware stores in early 2019.
Sears World Trade, Inc. (Arms and Military Equipment) was Sears's troubled import-export unit that catered to the international arms trade chaired by Dep. Sec. of Defense, Frank Carlucci. It operated from 1982 to 1986. Sears admitted to the effort in December 1986, initially stating they "only gave the advice in the defense contracting area." When the operation ended, the 300-worker unit folded back into the merchandise procurement division.
Sears Home Alarm provides alarm monitoring of new and existing systems, new alarm installations, CCTV systems including camera installations and web-ready DVR recorders, and access control systems and monitoring, including card-access systems. Available in Canada only.
Sears PartsDirect was a chain of lawn & garden equipment and appliance parts stores. Some locations, branded as Sears Parts and Repair Centers, featured a carry-in point for customers to bring-in merchandise which needs to be repaired, either in or out of warranty.
Sears Termite & Pest Control provided residential and commercial customers with pest control services including termite, mosquito and bed bug treatments, as well as insulation options. was sold to Terminix in 2001.
Sears Travel was a licensed business partner of Sears Holdings, founded in February 2012 in conjunction with International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. Sears Vacations functions as an online travel agency that provides online and telephone-based booking services for Sears customers through the SearsVacations.com website. Sears Vacations offers cruises, resorts, hotels, tours, guided vacations, car rental, airline tickets, shore excursions, vacation rentals, and travel insurance.
Sears Savings Bank was Sears' savings and loan association subsidiary from 1984 to 1987. Sears Savings Bank was created by Sears renaming its Glendale, California-based Allstate Savings & Loan Association subsidiary in January 1984. During the early 1980s, quickly expanded by buying existing saving institutions and building branches inside Sears stores within California. As a result of tight competition in the California S&L industry, Sears began to sell off branches. In June 1966, Sears Savings sold 16 branches to American Savings and Loan. Seven months later, Sears Savings sold in its remain 50 free standing branches to Citicorp in January 1987, leaving only the instore branches. In October 1987, Sears Savings closed 40 out 41 of the remaining branches, all inside Sears stores and sold most of the deposits to California Federal Savings & Loan. The remaining branch finally closed after winding down business.
Western Auto Supply Company In 1988, Sears purchased Western Auto from Wesray Capital, which resulted in greater tire selections, and in Craftsman tools and DieHard batteries being sold at Western Auto stores. In October 1995, Western Auto acquired 84 auto parts stores in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee from the bankrupted Nationwide Automotive chain for an undisclosed amount and later acquired Wheels Discount Auto Supply and its 82 auto parts stores in New York and Pennsylvania at the end of the year from Fay's Drug for $37 million. Also during 1995, Sears began to convert the Western Auto stores to the new parts-only Parts America format by eliminating the automotive service bays. By 1998, Sears almost finished converting the 600 remaining company-owned Western Auto stores into Parts America branded stores. By the beginning of 1997, fewer than 850 company-owned stores remained. At that point, the associate stores were the bread and butter of the company, with their more diversified name-brand lines including appliances, electronics, hardware, bicycles, go-karts and outdoor equipment/parts, and their reach into small-town America. Sears removed National Tire Warehouse and Tire America from Western Auto to form a new company called National Tire and Battery, which Sears kept until 2003. After weeks of speculation in 1998, Sears sold the remnants of Western Auto to Advance Auto Parts of Roanoke, Virginia. At that point, some associate Western Auto stores owned by dealers became Sears Authorized Dealer Stores.
Dean Witter Reynolds In 1981, Dean Witter Reynolds was acquired by Sears in a $600 million transaction. Sears' core retail business was facing several challenges, and the company decided to diversify into new businesses, including financial services. Sears, which was already in the financial services business through its ownership of the Allstate Insurance Company, announced a major acquisition initiative in financial services. Sears intended for Dean Witter to form the foundation for a larger Sears Financial Services Network that would be available to customers through the company's retail stores.
Coldwell Banker In 1981 it was bought by Sears, and became part of the Sears Financial Network. Sears sold the residential real estate division to the Fremont Group, a California investment company, for $230 million in 1993. Sears sold Coldwell's commercial real-estate operations to a management-led buyout in April 1989, renamed CB Commercial Holdings Inc and based in Los Angeles.
Allstate Insurance Company Named after Sears' tire brand, Allstate went into business on April 17, 1931, offering auto insurance by direct mail and through the Sears catalog. In 1993, Allstate went public when Sears sold 19.8% of the company. At the time, it was the largest IPO to date.
Sears Optical was operated by Luxottica. It provided vision examinations, contact lenses (including astigmatism and bifocal contact lenses), medical treatment of eye diseases, urgent care, cataract and glaucoma surgery consultation/referrals, "Advanced Testing Instruments," and eyeglass dispensary services. Luxottica terminated their relationship with Sears and closed all remaining Sears Optical locations by February 2020.
Sears Portrait Studio was a full-service portrait studio with locations in Sears stores and formerly standalone locations as well. It was run by CPI Corporation until all Sears Portrait Studios ceased operations on April 6, 2013. CPI Corporation, in a statement on its website, said it closed all of its U.S. studios "after many years of providing family portrait photography." The St. Louis-based company didn't explain the hasty closure, and calls to CPI went unanswered. However, the company has struggled financially, hurt by the rise of digital photography. Sears Portrait Studio was later revived in August 2016 in a few in-store locations through an affiliation with Picture People.
Logo used in 1907
Logo used from 1966 to 1984
Logo used from 1984 to 1994
Logo used from 1994 to 2004. This logo is still used by Sears in Mexico
Logo used from 2004 to 2010 in the United States
Logo used 2010-2019
Since the merger of Sears & Kmart in 2005, many brands are now shared by both stores.
The company sponsors, through the Sears Auto Centers, the Formula Drift Darren McNamara Sears/Falken Saturn Sky drift car. It sponsored the NASCARTruck Series, using the Craftsman brand as the title sponsor, from the series' inception in the 1995 NASCAR SuperTruck Series presented by Craftsman to the 2008 season, when the agreement ended. Craftsman tools remain the official tools of NASCAR. The company sponsored the television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It sponsors and currently has naming rights to the Sears Centre, an 11,000-seat multi-purpose family entertainment, cultural and sports center, constructed in 2006 in Hoffman Estates. The company also underwrote the PBS television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, under the name The Sears-Roebuck Foundation from the show's premiere in 1968 until 1992. It sponsored the #10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports car of Scott Riggs for the September 2, 2007, running of the Sharp AQUOS 500 at California Speedway through its Sears Auto Center branch. However, Riggs failed to qualify for the event.
In 2016, Craftsman became the title sponsor of the World Racing Group, World of Outlaws Sprint car racing series.
Sears has struggled with employee relations. One notable example was the shift in 1992 from an hourly wage based on longevity to a base wage (usually between US$3.50 and US$6 per hour) and commissions ranging from 0.5% to 11%. Sears claimed the new base wage, often constituting a substantial (up to 40%) cut in pay, was done "to be successful in this highly competitive environment".
In early October 2007, Sears cut commission rates for employees in some departments to between 0.5% and 4% but equalized the base wage across all Home Improvement and Electronics departments. In 2011, commission rates on non-base items were cut by 2% in the electronics department. In late 2009, the commission on sales of "base items" from the electronic department was cut to 1%. As of 2017, appliances is the only remaining department where compensation is based entirely on commission. Other departments give a base pay plus commission. In many stores, jewelry department associates receive a low base salary with 1% commission on their sales.
In March 2019, Sears claimed that it was ending life insurance benefits for an undisclosed number of its 90,000 retirees. A few months earlier the company handed out over $25 million in bonuses to executives. This key Sears Retiree Benefit was worth between $5,000 and $15,000 for most of the pool (29,000) of eligible retired employees.
In May 2019, former Sears Holdings chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert, months after purchasing the remains of Sears from the holding company, threatened not to pay out the $43 million in pension payments owed to 90,000 former Sears and Kmart employees and retirees. A Forbes editorial pointed out that Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, was a board member of Sears Holding until 2016, and is presently one of three directors of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which manages administration of pensions for defunct or bankrupt businesses.
^"#309 Edward Lampert". Forbes. January 22, 2017. Retrieved 2017. ...took over as Sears CEO in 2013 ... has presided over a remarkable dismantling.
^Sweeney, Brigid (January 5, 2017). "With Craftsman sale, Sears takes another step toward the grave". Chicago Business. Crain Communication, Inc. Retrieved 2017. The company may need $2.5 billion in cash to get through 2017 amid sales declines and store closures, including almost $600 million in minimum pension contributions.
Chang, Myong-Hun, and Joseph E. Harrington Jr. "Organizational structure and firm innovation in a retail chain." Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 3.4 (1998): 267-288. compares Sears' Robert E. Wood with Montgomery Ward's Sewell Avery online[dead link]