Sears wasn’t a supreme presence in my life growing up.
I don’t recall that there was a physical Sears retail presence in Worcester until the Sears store opened at the Auburn Mall in the early 1970’s, when I had one foot out the Worcester door and the other one not far behind it. Plus Sears clothing was always just a bit “off” as far as my heightened and sophisticated fashion sense went.
My family did get the Sears catalog, but I don’t remember my mother ordering much from it. When she went shopping, she dressed up, got on the bus, and went “down city” to one of the many stores that still graced downtown Worcester. (Ah, those were the days.) Not that my mother was averse to ordering things without having a hands-on experience. My parents always belonged to at least one book club – Book of the Month, Literary Guild, Classics, Vision Books (for Catholic kids). They also bought most of their albums from the Columbia Records catalog. And for a while my mother belonged to some tchotchke of the month that brought some “foreign” whatever that gave our house an international flair. (That little Greek plate is hanging on the wall, over my shoulder, as I write this post.)
But that Sears catalog… I loved thumbing through it in its entirety, especially drawn to the small toy section and completely intrigued by the pages that displayed fruitcakes, tinned cookies and petit fours.
I had never had fruitcake. All I knew about them was the jokes. And yet my sweet tooth drew me there, to gaze longingly at those colorful treats.
Fast forward a bunch of decades and I occasionally had a tire rotated at a Sears automotive, or looked at Kenmore appliances. I think we bought a TV there 20 years ago. I seem to remember a boombox or two. But I may well be thinking Lechmere Sales or Best Buy.
My most indelible Sears experience was working there one year when I was in college.
I have had plenty of crappy jobs in my life, but working as a customer complaint taker at Sears was right up there. Who needed training? Just answer the phone and write down whatever the pissed-off customer has to say. (Ten+ years ago, when I was a wee broth of a blogger, I did a piece on my experience on this particular job.)
And now Sears, which has been limping along for quite a while now – its workforce declined from 300K to 68K in the past decade – is limping ever closer to what is likely their inevitable finish line. One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. Sigh. I’m an old lady. I miss the iconic brands of my youth, even if I’ve done absolutely zero to help prevent or slow their demise.
The company lost about $5.8 billion over the last five years and shut down more than a thousand stores over the past decade. Many of the 700 stores that remain have frequent clearance sales, empty shelves and handwritten signs. (Source: NY Times)
Nothing says “let’s shop here” like empty shelves and handwritten signs.
Sounds like they’re ready for EOL.
Nonetheless, it’s depressing to think about all the folks who’ll be losing their jobs when the 142 stores on the chopping block shut their doors – even though there are plenty of other not-so-hot retail jobs out there for the asking. It’s depressing because, for all the retail clerks who are there because one crappy job’s the same as the next, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of lifers who, for whatever reason, have been working at “their” Sears for 10, 20, 30 years. It’s where they go each day. It’s who they take a lunch break with. It’s the regulars they recognize from waiting on them over the years.
Shed a tear for Sears? Hardly. Edward Lampert – the hedgie who runs Sears – will no doubt come out ahead.
It’s the little guys I feel bad for – even though when I was a little guy at Sears, futilely answering the phones, I hated every moment of it.
And, of course, there’s now even less likelihood that I’ll ever get one of those tinned fruitcakes I had my eye on 60 years ago. Of course, if there are any out there, they’re probably still as edible as they ever where.
Anyway, it may be a tiny bit premature, but so long Sears.