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This Is Not Your Grandmother’s Sears (Which Made Profits)

Written by Gary North on October 24, 2014

Sears and Kmart stores are like two drunks staggering down the street, holding each other up. The joint company will close 77 stores before Christmas.

You may know someone who shops at either store. I don’t, but you may. For those people, this will be bad news. They will have to shop at Amazon, which was busy last quarter losing almost half a billion dollars.

Sears’ credit rating is just above default.

Times change. Tastes change. Offering floor space to sell in-house brands no longer is a viable strategy.

What is the unique selling proposition of Sears? This, I guess: “We’re better than Penneys.” But are they? My wife just bought me some socks at Penneys this week. I bought a pair of walking shoes at Penneys a few months ago. These constitute my total purchases at Penneys over the last six years. Maybe seven.

I bought a freezer at Sears two years ago. That was the only thing I have bought at Sears in a decade.

If I had ever bought anything at Kmart, I would not admit it here. But I know the firm’s slogan. “Attention, Kmart shoppers!” Wherever you are.

If both firms’ 1900 outlets shut down entirely in November, would anyone notice, other than its employees?

The free market does this. It lets customers shop elsewhere.

Have you ever seen anyone between the ages of 20 and 55 in a Sears store? If you are between the ages of 20 and 55, probably not.

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5 thoughts on “This Is Not Your Grandmother’s Sears (Which Made Profits)

  1. There is a Kmart in my city, and I do shop there occassionally because there is no Target or Walmart (which the residents fought to keep out because they worried about what it might do to Kmart's business — seriously). It is incredibly depressing, and I haven't once had a positive experience there. Last summer I bought some outdoor chairs that were on sale. When they didn't ring up with the sale price, the cashier called her manager over. I showed the manager a picture of the sale price on my phone, on Kmart's website. She insinuated that what I was showing her must be the "online only" price. I then told her that the website clearly stated "available in store". She reluctantly made the price adjustment, after chiding me one more time for not mentioning it earlier.

    One funny thing I noticed the last time I was there is that they've started turning the lights off in the clothing department to save power, since there's rarely anyone in that department (or any other department, but particularly the clothing department).

    They have a dozens of checkout counters, but I've never seen more than two open at a time. And the checkout aisles are just wide enough to get a cart through. There will be about an inch clearance on each side. Why they don't simply make the aisles wider and remove some of the checkout counters is as much of a mystery as the question of how they stay in business.

  2. There is a Kmart in my area, undercut for a year by the area Walmart that opened, until shopping habits had been changed. That is free-market. Now that Walmart is established, I have noticed W prices exceeding K prices piece-meal and slowly, so as to not let those precious shopping habits change. That is free-market also. I, for one will miss the free-market competition if Sears/Kmart closes. Sadly, (like your rights 'reasonably' and 'common sense-ably' altered by Government only because you aren't fighting for them), They won't be missed until they're gone.

  3. Free market? You are kidding, right?

    With all of the red tape and regulations that handcuff small business, our country can hardly be called a “free market”. Corporations can easily afford armies of lawyers to keep them out of trouble, but small businesses can’t.

    Say this slowly (and repeat often): regulation is created by corporations (through their funded politicians) in order to eliminate competition.

  4. Candy Warren says:

    Those big box stores we all grew up with are a thing of the past. K Mart used to have cute clothes, now it is just cheap junk, like most of the rest of their wares. Sears was once the foundation of America for quality goods, but that is a thing of the past also. I do not know what Wal Mart is doing to be so successful, but the executives at those other stores had better be studying, or they will be on the unemployment line. Oh, well, that is capitalism in action. Compete or die.