A dynamic economy offers much in the way of innovation and growth, but this doesn’t come without upheavals and changes in how business calculation works…both with consumer tastes and how venues respond to them. While some will succeed in such business, others don’t. This is the outcome of creative destruction. The graveyard is littered with those companies that failed to adapt to the changing economic climate around them, with Kodak, A&P, F.W. Woolworth, Polaroid, Sam Goody, Borders, and Blockbuster being just a few such examples. Another American icon in retailing might be joining those ranks soon. Sears, Roebuck & Co. in it’s heyday was a titan in the annals of shopping. Started by an entrepreneur who had found a way to sell watches, the company ultimately became a department store that was a mecca for many products across various genres. It is perhaps well known for being a pioneer in the mail-order catalog business, putting together a “wish book” upon which customers of all ages (especially children) could have access to products to their heart’s content. Sears was very much the Amazon of it’s day. For much of the 20th century, Sears dominated the marketplace, with brick and mortar stores across the country and a reputation of hard-earned quality both in customer satisfaction and product endurance.
However, unfortunately for Sears, nothing ever truly lasts in a dynamic economy…at least not without shrewd competitive spirit. Hampered by managerial mishaps and myopic vision, the company began to falter toward the latter end of the century. Changes in quality both in service and product began to drive customers away from stores. Little adaptation with regard to the advancement of e-commerce allowed upstarts like Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, and others to encroach upon aspects that Sears had once championed. The company has become a shell of it’s former glory, either downsizing store totals or selling brands. It is only a matter of time before the once proud vision of a railroad station agent closes it’s doors for the final time.
Such a story though shouldn’t be overtaken with grief. Indeed, there is the matter of unemployment that will befall Sears employees once the inevitable bankruptcy arrives (although most likely many of them will find work at better retailers…if they haven’t done so already). In the end however, what happened to Sears is hardly something to be blamed on anyone. As a company, over various administrations, it is largely responsible for the morass it finds itself in today. Customers have fled due to value that they weren’t finding, and that ultimately allowed others to rise to the challenge in bringing that value. That is what is important, and a demonstration how a company becoming large isn’t automatically something to fear…for such success will only continue as long as such value is continually provided in a free marketplace. In the end, we shouldn’t waste resources propping up failed endeavors like Sears. We instead should be making sure the marketplace is as open as possible for the next railroad station agent that comes up with a brilliant idea waiting to be shared.