By Moe Lastfogel
Director of Sales and Marketing for The Retail Observer
The end of an era creates opportunities for the independent retailer
Sears, the once-dominant retail chain that changed how Americans shopped and lived, has finally filed for bankruptcy. The 132-year-old company has been struggling for several years and has been drowning in debt. The final straw was a $134 million debt payment that wasn’t feasible for Sears to repay.
Sears was once the nation's largest retailer and its largest employer. In its heyday, it was both the Walmart and Amazon of its time. Formed in 1886 by railroad station agent Richard Sears, the company started as a watch business in North Redwood, Minnesota. Sears stores helped reshape America, drawing shoppers away from the traditional Main Street merchants. Its Kenmore appliances brand introduced many Americans to labor-saving devices that changed family dynamics. Its Craftsman tools and their lifetime guarantees were a mainstay of middle-class America.
Whirlpool (which had started in business more than a century ago selling its appliances at Sears) pulled its various brands out of Sears and Kmart stores last year. Once the dominant appliance retailer in the country, Sears accounted for only 3% of Whirlpool's sales worldwide in 2017.
With 142 more stores closing, this is a substantial opportunity for you as a retailer to pick up their newly available business in your territory. Not only will there be sales opportunities, but many employees will become available to you. Sales staff, office staff, warehouse, and delivery personnel will be looking for employment. Sears has always been known to have a well-trained staff, and this means minimal training on your part. I assume liquidation of inventory, vehicles, and store fixtures will also be available to you. And of course, there will be plenty of buildings available if any of you are looking to expand your business.
I myself am an ex-Sears employee. I worked for their specialty appliance division, McPhails, now known as Monark. As of this writing, it’s hard to predict what Monark’s fate will be. Iwishthemmuchluckinfindingasuitablebuyer for their group, as they have great locations and amazing staffs.
Good luck, my friends--