Sears, Roebuck and Co.

   Richard Sears, a railroad station agent, sold (for a profit) a local jeweler's unwanted shipment of watches in North Redwood, a rural area of Minnesota, and thus began a small watch business. After moving to Chicago, Sears met Alvah C. Roebuck, a watch repairman, who joined him in the business in 1893. Recognizing the need for people in rural areas to find reasonably priced supplies and merchandise, Sears and Roebuck created a catalog of merchandise featuring sewing machines, sporting goods, bicycles, and clothing. In 1895, Julie Rosenwald, a clothing manufacturer, became part owner and, a year later, the Sears catalog grew to more than 532 pages, including shoes, women's clothing and millinery, wagons, fishing tackle, furniture, china, musical instruments, buggies, baby carriages, glassware, refrigerators, dolls, stoves, and groceries. The company's reputation for quality products and customer satisfaction was the key to their success. The catalog was known as the "Consumers' Bible" and the Christmas catalog was called the Wish Book because of the many toys it displayed on its pages. In 1908, they began selling house construction kits and, by 1940, more than 100,000 houses had been sold.
   The first Sears retail store opened in 1925 in Evansville, Indiana, thanks to the effort of then-vice president Robert E. Woods, who realized that with the invention of the car and modern roads, the catalog business would decline as people made more frequent jaunts into the nearest city. By the end of 1927, 27 stores were in operation and, by 1929, there were 319 stores. As the company grew, Sears began to develop its own brands, including Craftsman (tools), Kenmore (appliances), Allstate (tires), and Diehard (batteries). In 1931, Sears launched Allstate Insurance Co., a subsidiary that sold automobile insurance. After World War II, shopping mall sprawl was under way with Sears stores filling many of them. In 1973, the new headquarters opened in downtown Chicago, making the Sears Tower the tallest building in the world. Up until 1980, Sears was the largest retailer in the United States with stores in Canada, Central and South America, and Europe. However, during the 1980s, Sears also went through a major restructuring. It acquired the Dean Witter Financial Services Group and the Caldwell Banker Real Estate Group and closed many underperforming retail stores. It then sold its real estate and financial services business in the mid-1990s, returning to its retailing roots. By 2000, Sears operated 863 mall-based retail stores and 1,200 hardware/battery stores and, in Canada, 176 retail stores and 1,500 catalog stores. In 2004, Sears merged with Kmart stores to become the Sears Holdings Corporation.
   See also Montgomery Wards.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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  • Sears, Roebuck and Company — [Sears, Roebuck and Company] (also Sears, Sears and Roebuck) any of a very large group of US ↑department stores selling a wide range of products for the family. The company was begun in 1886 in ↑Minneapolis by Rich …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Sears, Roebuck and Company — (also Sears, Sears and Roebuck) any of a very large group of US department stores selling a wide range of products for the family. The company was begun in 1886 in Minneapolis by Richard Sears. He was then joined by Alvah Roebuck when he moved… …   Universalium

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