Sears, Roebuck: The 19th Century’s Amazon

Adriene Hill Jan 22, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Sears, Roebuck: The 19th Century’s Amazon

Adriene Hill Jan 22, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Sears, Roebuck put out its first catalog in the 1890’s. You could buy a watch, jewelry and, later on, saddles, sewing machines, silk stockings, even live singing canaries. “The Sears catalog was a bit of a godsend to rural consumers,” says Art Carden, an economics professor at Samford University’s Brock School of Business.

Hello, consumer economy!

The Sears catalog gave people easy access, good quality, good prices, delivered to their doorstep. “The Sears catalog was even good for urban consumers because it meant they didn’t have to shop at the even pricier department stores,” says Carden.

“It is exactly the late 19th and 20th century predecessor to Amazon,” says Daniel Raff, a professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

So where did things go so wrong for Sears? When they are going so right for Amazon? “The large reasons have to do with the rise of internet commerce and the decline of the attractiveness of physical stores,” says Raff.

In 1925, Sears opened its first store. Today, Sears and its sister store Kmart, have twice the retail square footage of JC Penney.

But shoppers don’t want stores. More and more want to shop without leaving home. A model that Sears, at least in the old days, was really good at.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

The clock is ticking 

Time is running out to make a gift to Marketplace and help us meet our $100,000 fall fundraiser goal by midnight tonight.