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Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Fall of an American Icon- From the Point of View of a High Schooler

          Here is an essay from my High School days, which were not long ago, but I always had this interest and this was on the subject of a current American event that seemed to be damaging to society and how it can be fixed.

Here is the paper:



U.S. History-Period 3

8 March 2013

The fall of an American Icon

          An American phenomenon, bringing the world the greatest in satisfactory service for more than 120 years, through the great times and bad, has fallen into a hole too large to climb out. Sears Holding Corporation, formerly Sears’s roebuck & Company is a consumer business providing products and services with many store formats from department stores to appliance outlets to people throughout the United States and international markets. A company that began so strong and fell so far into bankruptcy when not ready is a real problem that must be fixed.

           Richard Warren Sears was a railroad station agent in North Redwood, Minnesota, when he received an impressive shipment of watches from a Chicago jeweler; he sold the watches very quickly and decided to start selling other consumer goods. When he moved to Chicago, Illinois, he met Alvah C. Roebuck, who joined him in the business. In 1893, the corporate name became Sears, Roebuck & Co. Before the Sears catalog, farmers typically bought supplies (often at high prices) from local general stores. Sears took advantage of this by publishing a catalog with clearly stated prices, so that consumers could know what was being sold and at what price, order and obtain their purchases conveniently; the catalog business grew quickly. The first Sears catalog was published in 1888. By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages. Sears, Roebuck and Co. soon developed a reputation for quality products and customer satisfaction, the Sears catalog had become known in the industry as "the Consumers' Bible". In 1933, Sears, Roebuck and Co. produced the first of its famous Christmas catalogs known as the "Sears Wish book", a catalog featuring toys and gifts, separate from the annual Christmas Catalog. With the retail market booming, the first Sears retail store opened in Chicago on February 2, 1925, not soon after, the first freestanding retail store opened October 5, 1925 in Evansville, Indiana. During the summer of 1928, three more Chicago department stores opened. Through the greatest decades of Sears, thousands of stores where build supplying jobs to the American work force and creating a standard for American living, the golden years just began and won’t last for long.

           From the 1920s to the 1950s, Sears built many urban department stores. Starting in the 1950s, the company expanded into suburban markets, and malls in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s the company began divesting itself of many non-retail entities, which were detrimental to the company's bottom line. Sears spun off its financial services arm which included brokerage business banking firms Dean Witter Reynolds and Discover Card credit card program. It sold its mall building companies subsidiary builder’s to General Growth Properties in 1995. Sears later acquired hardware chain Orchard Supply Hardware in 1996 and started the home & garden big-box retail chain, The Great Indoors in 1997, to only last a decade before liquidation by April 2012. To what gave Sears such a great start in the growth of their business and what started it all, in 1993, the production of the general merchandise catalog was discontinued due to plummeting sales and lack of disposable profit the following year.

          A true discount retail chain to follow the footsteps of any failing or defunct company is the beloved Kmart Corporation, now a part of sears Holdings as of 2005. Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of the company that would be now known as Kmart, met variety store pioneer Frank Woolworth while working as a traveling salesman and selling to a chain of stores that he operated, known as Woolworth’s. In 1897, Kresge chose to purchase two five and dime stores of his own with help of a friend John McCrory, which will become the first stores in the S.S. Kresge chain. In 1899, the company was founded with partner Charles J. Wilson with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores. The growth of the S.S.Kresge chain through the 1940’s saw many changes after the Great Depression, Post-war retailing flipped dramatically in shopping patterns with many customers moving out of the busy city and into growing suburban neighborhoods. S.S. Kresge Corp. opened the first Kmart store on March 1, 1962, in Garden City, Michigan months before Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store. This store currently operates to this day. In 1962, a total of eighteen Kmart stores opened that year with hundreds to follow throughout the 1970’s. During Kmart’s growing years, Kmart put a number of competing retailers out of business. Kresge; which was absorbed into Kmart, the Jupiter Discount chain among others, and Kmart stores had their main competition from other variety chains such as Zayre, Ames, Hill's and other affiliates operated by MMG-McCrory Stores Incorporated. During the 1980s, the company's fortunes began to change; many of Kmart's stores were considered to be outdated and in decaying condition. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the corporate office shifted much of its focus from the Kmart stores to other companies it had acquired or created instead of their prime chain. Stores Kmart invested time and money into was The Sports Authority, now defunct Builders Square (bought by The Home Depot), and Waldenbooks. With the markets changing for the worst, Kmart introduced a new logo, the first modifications to the brand since 1962, (this will be one of many failed attempts to keep the name alive). The company also began to offer exclusive merchandise by Martha Stewart, Kathy Ireland, Jaclyn Smith, and Lauren Hutton. Other recognizable brands included Sesame Street and Disney, Rosie O'Donnell and Penny Marshall were all among the company's most recognized spokespersons. 

          In 1991, Kmart introduced the Kmart Super Center, or Super Kmart, with the first store at 147,000 square feet located in Medina, Ohio, featuring a full-service grocery store and general merchandise show floor. However, this location was downsized in 2011 among other Super Centers to be converted and one of a 100-120 Kmart’s closed in early 2012. Shortly after, the first Big Kmart opened its first store in Chicago, Illinois, on April 23, 1997. The format focuses on home fashions, children's apparel and basic grocery necessities. Most Kmart stores were remodeled to this format during the 1990s and most of them have been converted back to regular Kmart stores with the new logo introduction after being sold to Sears in 2004, or closing all together.  The original Blue Light Special, first introduced in 1965 was retired in 1991 and re-introduced in 2001, but again was discontinued in 2002. The concept was briefly revived in 2005, though Kmart at that time had no plans to use the concept long-term. In 1994, Kmart closed 110 stores, the first instance were corporate was facing a dilemma with profits. Unlike its competitors Wal-Mart and Target, Kmart had failed to invest in computer technology to manage its supply chain. Furthermore, Kmart maintained a high dividend, which reduced the amount of money available for improving its stores. Many business analysts also faulted the corporation for failing to create a coherent brand image. On January 22, 2002, Kmart announced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, through the restructuring process, Kmart closed more than 300 stores in the United States and laid off around 34,000 workers as part of the process. On May 6, 2003, Kmart officially emerged from bankruptcy protection as Kmart Holdings Corporation, not less than a year before another major jump in the retail world. Kmart introduced five prototype stores with a new logo, layout, and lime green and gray color scheme in 2005 with one in White Lakes Michigan and five in downstate Illinois.

          On November 17, 2004, Kmart announced its intention to purchase Sears. As a part of the merger, the Kmart Holdings Corporation would change its name to Sears Holdings Corporation. The new corporation announced that it would continue to operate stores under both the Sears and Kmart name. Around this time, Kmart changed its logo from the early 90’s style red “K” with the mart written in it, with a solid red “K” and “mart” written in all capital letters under the “K”. Most Kmart stores now use this logo on their signage, with some only using the red K and the word "mart" due to space concerns with the size of the store front. Kmart's headquarters were relocated to Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and the sprawling headquarters complex in Troy, Michigan, was recently acquired by the Forbes Company. No concrete plans for redevelopment of the site have been announced. In 2005, the company began renovating some Kmart stores and converting them to the Sears Essentials format, only to change them later to Kmart again in 2009 and also introducing the Sears Grand brand with the first 225,000 square foot store in West Jordan, Utah. For most of these stores, Kmart retired the "Big Kmart" logo and replaced it with the current logo. In some of the larger stores the old logo is still in use. In October 2009, it was reported that Kmart and the Martha Stewart Living brand line failed to come to a new agreement, this came after Stewart made remarks on CNBC TV that her line at Kmart had deteriorated, particularly after the Sears merger plus quoting” stores choose not to emphasize my brand over what people don’t want”. On December 27, 2011, after a poor showing from holiday shoppers, Sears Holdings announced that 100 to 120 of Sears/Kmart stores will be closing. As the 2013 business year starts, Sears Holding Corporations with not publicly announce a list of retail closures, although insights from retail blogs and analysts announce a mass closure of up to 300 store will occur by the end of this year with the MyGofer online store to be discontinued and the only store in Joilet,IL to close in mid-February. A total number of stores are 1,106(2012); this number with be less that 500 by summer 2014. There may not be hope for this household brand after all.

          What really caused such a prospering company like sears to fall into such hardship, a question that stumps the best in economic analysts will only be answered by really looking into the problem at hand. Not one company created in this will last forever, but Sears itself being a top-notch company may be in a better position if they didn’t step in to help the “trouble from the start” Kmart chain. Both companies are in great positions to come back and be successful, but being together didn’t seem to come together and now Sears Holding Corp. paid for the mistake the last nine plus years and at the” rate there going, may end for good in the next three years, if not sooner” says Forbes magazine December 2012. In conclusion, “attention Kmart shoppers”, we need help and it can only come from you.

-Thank You

Work Cited

     1 ^ Barbash, Fred; Barbaro, Michael (November 17, 2004). "Sears, Kmart To Merge in $11B Deal". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.

This sight provided the information about the corporate merger.

     2 ^ "Sears Sees Falling Sales on TVs, Computers and DVDs as Fourth Quarter Profit Drops 13%". Quarterly Retail Review. February 27, 2010.

How there sales were dropping with electronics and to try new sales tactics.

     3 ^ "More than 100 Sears, Kmart stores to close". News & Record. Associated Press. 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2011-11-27.

The mass closures of stores and what the company is doing to save them selves.

     4 ^Constance L. Hays (May 7, 2003). "A new start, a new name. But have things really changed as Kmart comes out of bankruptcy?". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2012.

The new face of sears and Kmart with the introduction of the new face of the stores format.

     5 ^ Constance L. Hays (May 7, 2003). “ Kmart comes out of bankruptcy?". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2012.

Kmart emerges from bankrupcy.



Thank you for reading and remember to ask questions and comment below.