By Mylena Vazquez
There was a time when Sears—then Sears & Roebuck—was king of retail. The Sears catalog was an eagerly anticipated item around the holidays, when children and adults alike would dogear pages of things that they wanted the metaphorical Santa to get them. Sears catalogs even sold entire home kits—you read that right, a family home, piece by piece, transported by freight for you (or your builder) to assemble.
As a kid in the 90s, I recall going to Sears with my parents all the time. They had everything you could want, from appliances to clothing to toys to an optical. But Sears today is just a whisper of what it once was. In fact, it’s hanging on by just a thread. In 2019, they filed for bankruptcy. How did such a fate befall the king of department stores?
For starters, Sears did not keep up with the times. It was evident in the stores themselves, whose look remained the same year after year after year. They failed to take into account the user’s experience of the store, which was becoming more important with the advent of online shopping. With such a slew of retail options from which to choose, Sears now had to make the in-person experience special—and they did not.
A similar retailer, J.C. Penney, did quite the opposite. For the past decade, they have been continuously revamping and remodeling their retail locations, turning some spaces inside the store into concept shops. They have partnered with well-known brands like Levi’s and Sephora, both of which have strong customer affinity, to create unique stores within stores, leveraging the loyal customer bases of each.
Is there a brand that you love that seems to be fading into obscurity? What do you think they can do to come back to life.