Americans love two things equally: the next new thing and the way things used to be. For all our eager embrace of the iPhone and Amazon, we keep a special place in our hearts for old-fashioned things like letter writing and Sears–and its once marvelous catalog. Sears was such an important part of American history that it at one time represented the pinnacle of consumer choice–in essence, the American dream. People lived in houses, for goodness sake, that they ordered from Sears. In 1972 Sears accounted for 1% of America’s gross national product.
The decline of Sears has been steady and–from the looks of things–irreversible. There is never any good news. When the company name pops up in the headlines it’s like seeing the name of an elderly celebrity–first thing you think is oh no, she died. The news with Sears is usually not about its death, but about its long illness and the newest symptoms of its seemingly terminal disease. Sears recently announced that it will close over 100 stores, many before Christmas–the season the Sears catalog once ruled mightily over. The share price goes up when they announce things like this, but the spirit sinks. Perhaps only GM and Ford, among brands, are as closely associated as Sears with a certain kind of “American century” prosperity. There are books about Sears’ great legacy. You can order them on Amazon, of course.