Sears, Roebuck and Co
|Type ||Public |
|Slogan || |
|Founded ||1886 Chicago, Illinois |
|Location ||Hoffman Estates, IL |
|Key people ||Alan Lacy, CEO & Chairman |
|Employees ||249,000 |
|Products ||Retail |
|Web site ||www.sears.com |
Sears, Roebuck and Company (NYSE: S (http://www.nyse.com/about/listed/lcddata.html?ticker=S)) was founded in Chicago, Illinois as a catalog merchandiser in 1886 by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck. Their "stores" were more akin to pickup centers than actually places to shop, though it was possible in larger outlets to do so.
The primary vending method was to send catalogs to great lists of people. These customers would order items, which would then be sent by mail or parcel post, or other shippers for larger items, directly to the home or business of the consumer. Some have also suggested that early shipments by Sears resulted in an increased reliability of the U.S. Postal Service, after demands for higher reliability and confirmation were made by the company. Items could also be picked up at the Sears Store in a nearby town when retail outlets were opened. The first free standing department store was opened October 5, 1925 in Evansville, Indiana.
The Sears, Roebuck catalog was sometimes referred to as "the Consumers' Bible." The Christmas Catalog was known as the "Wish Book", perhaps because of the toys in it. The catalog also entered the language, particularly of rural dwellers, as a euphemism for toilet paper. In the days of outhouses and no readily available toilet paper, the pages of the mass-mailed catalog were used as toilet paper. "I'm going to read the Sears catalog" was a polite way of saying "I'm going to the outhouse."
Sears also entered the popular usage of language through phrases such as: "what, did you get your driver's license at Sears?" This was a disparaging remark directed at drivers who lack skill. "Sears" in this context is the "Cracker Jack box" of modern generations. This phrase is still used by many older Americans.
After World War II, the company built many stores in suburban shopping malls. The company was the largest retailer in the United States until the early 1980s, and is still ranked among the top 10.
Sears diversified and established major brands of products during the twentieth century including Kenmore, Craftsman, Die-Hard, and Tuff-skin. The company formed the Allstate Insurance Company and owned Dean Witter at a time when the Discover credit card was introduced. During the late 1980s, and as late as 1996, the Discover card was the only accepted credit card at many Sears retail locations.
Roebuck was dropped from the name of the stores, though not from the official corporate name, in the 1970s. During the same time period, plans were launched for the Sears Tower, completed in 1974. This building, located in Chicago, is the tallest building in the United States, and the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat currently rates the Sears Tower as the tallest building in the world measured from ground to pinnacle. Indeed, the building had the highest occupied level in the world until July 1, 2003 when construction of the Taipei 101 completed its top floor. However, in the 1990s, Sears moved its headquarters to the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, and in March 2004 new owners were rumored to be planning a new name for the Sears Tower.
In the 1980s and 1990s the company divested themselves of many non retail entities. In 2003 they sold their retail credit card operation to Citibank.
Sears owns 55% of Sears Canada, a large department store chain in Canada, similar to the U.S. stores.
Merger with Kmart
On November 17, 2004 Kmart and Sears announced their intention to merge. The combined company will be the third largest retailer in the United States, behind Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The merged company will be known as Sears Holdings and will continue to operate the Sears and Kmart stores under their current names. A new board of directors will be formed which will comprise members from the current companies' boards; seven members will come from Kmart's board, three from Sears'. Shareholders in Kmart will receive one share in the new company for each of their shares. Shareholders of Sears stock will have a choice of receiving 50 USD cash or one-half a share in the new company for each of their shares. The decision to merge was made in the hope that the new, combined company would be able to achieve greater profits than either company could separately.
Sears was named one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers in 2004 by Working Mothers magazine