The Trouble With Sears

Back in 1800s, Richard Sears quit his job in Minnesota as a railway clerk to start the now famous retailer.  The company built its reputation with a slogan, and business practice “”Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back” .

Apparently that’s out the window these days.

When I was a tot, a lot of my family’s retail life revolved around our downtown Sears store. Appliance? Kenmore.  Tools? Craftsmen. Clothes, yep.  Toys, uh huh.  And we all looked forward to the holiday gift catalog, a “wishbook” as it were, for me and my siblings.

Today, that store is an Indian tribe sponsored casino, and the local Sears store has moved out to the urban sprawl/mall.

I don’t shop that much at Sears anymore, and apparently many people agree with my ostrasizing the retailer, as profits plummet and share prices stagnate after the take-over by K-Mart.

Many Chicagoans, where Sears is based, have never forgiven them for moving headquarters out to the burbs there, and selling the iconic Sears Tower, for decades the tallest building in the world.

I have passed through a couple of K-Marts in the last couple years, found them nearly deserted, and was dismayed to find that they had done away with their cool little snack bar, which was always fun.   In the two locations I’ve been in, merchandise was sparse, the stores were dirty, and sales ‘help’ was nearly non-existent.

Apparently this mentality has now shifted to Sears, as well.  Helping a friend look at major appliances yesterday, the clerk didn’t have many, if any answers to the customer’s questions.  He excused himself to look up some information online, and of course his PC was acting up, and it was a frustrating wait for him to come back and say “I couldn’t find the answer.”

Particulary aggrevating was the fact that the customer is shopping at this time of year because stores have Labor Day appliance sales, and when quizzed about Sears options for this event, he said that the prices wouldn’t be changing from what they were marked.

Lo and behold, this morning’s paper has a two page circular regarding Sears Labor Day appliance sale, and the price differences are substantial.

It’s easy to go online and find a lot  of customer gripes about the store not honoring the slogan/practice it was built on.  Apparently, returns are difficult, and costly.  Returning a $2000 appliance (unless it doesn’t work at all), will cost your a $300 “restocking” charge.

They also charge for delivery, installation, and takeaway of your old appliances, even though many competitors due not.

“Kenmore”, the iconic in-store appliance brand, is no longer the featured, front and center line, but is crammed into the rows of GE, LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, and whatever other lines they carry.

Many of their ills can apparently be traced to their current leadership, or lack thereof, as pointed out in a fascinating article in Bloomberg Business Week.

It’s an interesting idea of how to run a business, and a man singularly focused on driving one of America’s iconic brands right into the dirt.

Mr. Lampert?  Your most valuable asset walks out of the company every day at the end of their shift(s), and you hope you’ve treated them well enough to have them return the next day.

The key to succeeding in any business, isn’t technology, reacting to competitors, paring down, pitting departments against each other, or untrained, unmotivated employees.

Take care of your employees first and foremost, and everything else will fall into line.

And never, ever forget the promise that the company was built on: “”Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back” .  And once again, Sears will become “Where America Shops.”



Sears reviews


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