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Sears, Roebuck and Company is a retailing division of Sears Holdings Corporation.



In 1886, the United States contained only 38 states. Many people lived in rural areas and typically farmed. Richard Sears was a railroad station agent in Minnesota when he received a shipment of watches which were unwanted by a local jeweler. Sears purchased them himself, and sold the watches at a nice profit to other station agents up and down the line, and then ordered more for resale. Soon he started a business selling watches. The next year, he moved to Chicago where he met Alvah C. Roebuck who joined him in the business. In 1893, the corporate name became Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Richard Sears knew that farmers often brought their crops to town where they could be sold and shipped, and then bought supplies, often at very high prices, from local general stores. He and Roebuck offered a solution with mail-order and a catalog. Richard Sears knew farmers, understood their needs and desires. He could write advertising copy that made farmers send in their money and orders. Thanks to volume buying, to the railroads and post office, and later to Rural Free Delivery and parcel post, they offered a happy alternative to the high-priced rural stores. Sears, Roebuck and Co. (and other mail-order companies) were the answer to farmers' prayers.

By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, featuring sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods and a host of other new items. Organizing the company so it could handle orders on an economical and efficient basis, Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald became a part-owner in 1895. Alvah Roebuck had to resign soon after due to ill-health, but the company still retained his name. By the following year, dolls, icebox refrigerators, cook-stoves and groceries had been added to the catalog.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. soon developed a reputation for both quality products and customer satisfaction. Its wide range of products were very popular, especially in areas far flung from the big cities and their large department stores.

People had learned to trust Sears for other products bought mail-order, and thus, sight unseen. This laid important groundwork for supplying a home, possibly the largest single investment a typical family would ever make. In 1908, the company began offering entire houses as kits, marketed as Sears Modern Homes, and by the time the program ended in 1940, over 100,000 had been sold.

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.

Sears issued many catalogs and didn't open its first retail store until 1925, when the business was already 32 years old. The first free standing department store was opened October 5, 1925 in Evansville, Indiana. In addition to mail-order — or rail shipment of large purchases such as the Modern Homes kits —, items could also be picked up at the Sears Store in a nearby town when retail outlets were opened.

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 became a conglomerate during the mid-20th century. It established several major brands of products such as 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 1993 (line 43 [1] ( 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. In the early 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 skyscraper. As late as 2002, however, an official Sears, Roebuck corporate history booklet distributed to visitors still featured the Sears Tower on its front cover.

The company's current logo was created for their one-hundredth anniversary in 1986. Previously, the Sears logo consisted of the name "Sears" in a rectangle. Now it consists of the blue text, Sears, with a white line separating each letter down along the length of its strokes. In late 2004 the logo was switched from all upper case to upper and lower case.

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.

In the late 1990s, the company's market share in many areas deteriorated rapidly as Wal-Mart drew away working-class consumers and Federated Department Stores attracted wealthier consumers. In 2004, Sears launched a new store concept called Sears Grand which it hopes will be a viable competitor to hypermarkets like Wal-Mart Supercenters.

Merger with Kmart

On November 17, 2004 Kmart and Sears announced their intention to merge; however, K-Mart is technically purchasing Sears. 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 Corporation 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. The formal merger was completed on Thursday, March 24, 2005.


Sears was named one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers in 2004 by Working Mothers magazine



Davis, Michael W.R. and Schweitzer, Robert (1990) America’s Favorite Homes Wayne State University Press; Detroit, Michigan

Katz, Donald R. (1987) The Big Store: Inside the Crisis and Revolution at Sears Viking Press; New York

Stevenson, Katherin Cole, and Jandl, H. Ward, (1995) Houses By Mail: A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and Company John Wiley & Sons; Hoboken, New Jersey

Thornton, Rosemary (2002) The Houses That Sears Built: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sears Catalog Homes Gentle Beam Publications; Alton, Illinois


See Also

External links

ja:シアーズ sv:Sears de:Sears


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