Sears vs Amazon
Why isn’t Sears the world’s leading online realtor? A hundred years ago, Sears, Roebuck & Company was Amazon.com of its day. At the turn of the 20th century, Sears’ mail order catalogs were everywhere, so common that they were used as toilet paper. Like Amazon, Sears sold just about anything under the sun, even whole houses. (Something that Amazon has yet to sell.) But that’s not the Sears that we know. Sears today is relegated to mall anchor stores. The stores are dingy and depressing, and unable to keep up with modern society. Even the Sears Tower, long the tallest building in the world, has been renamed the Willis Tower and has been surpassed in height by several buildings around the world. So what happened to Sears? Like so many businesses, they were unable to adapt to the times.
Horse and Carriage Makers
You see this over and over throughout history. How many horse-and-carriage makers switched to making automobiles? Every time there’s a major change in technology, the older companies lose out. They’re too set in their ways to compete in the new markets. That’s why Maxwell House and Folgers don’t run giant coffee shop chains like Starbucks. It’s why Elon Musk doesn’t want to sell his electric Tesla cars through traditional dealership models. And it’s why Sears merged with Kmart instead of Amazon.com.
That sad part of this is that old companies do occasionally adapt to new markets. Mainframe maker IBM adapted to the computer market by making PCs, and the Dayton Company of Minnesota moved from department stores to discount stores by creating and spinning off Target. Sears itself went through several market shifts, going from a mail-order catalog to a downtown department store, then moving from downtown locations to mall anchor stores. But then the company got stuck. They tried moving into discount stores, even merging with Kmart, but were unable to compete with Walmart. And no one there seemed to think about returning to their mail order days. If they had, they could have become the next Amazon. Instead, they’re doomed to die a long and painful death, unless they can adapt to the modern era. I’m not optimistic about the future of Sears.