The End of An Era: Sears Set to File for Bankruptcy

Eli Ridder | ANALYSIS

(71 Republic) – The United States-based Sears went from selling watches in 1886 to a national necessity store a century later to a brand barely standing today, filing for bankruptcy early on Monday morning.

Sears Holding Corporation more than a century ago pioneered the strategy of selling everything to everyone, according to the history books. The height of Sears was in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, and it was the largest retailer in the U.S. before being surpassed by Walmart in 1989.

The corporation, formally Sears, Roebuck and Company, established its dominance through the mail ordering service it offered , and continued to be a strong chain once brick-and-mortar retail locations opened in 1925.

It’s decline has largely been attributed to the popularity of competitor Walmart and stores that offer some of what Sears offered, such as Home Hardware. It also did not engage in digital offerings with speed or efficiency, falling far behind the likes of Amazon, Inc.

In a way, Sears was Amazon before it’s head Jeff Bezos was born. The mail order catalogue offered by Sears would be sometimes 1,000 pages long where North Americans could order everything from appliances to clothes.

Sears Canada folded in January 2018, and its Mexican and Puerto Rico divisions were sold off. Now, the once-great Sears has fallen into bankruptcy in the United States.

This is an example of a company not moving into the future fast enough to keep up. There have been others: for example, the camera company Kodak. It’s brand lives on in another form, but not as the great commercial enterprise it once was.

The story of companies like Sears, and the apathy it appeared to have as it took on the future, is one also familiar to the media. Many small town newspapers or even large media empires have been lacklustre when it comes to the future of media.

The Guelph Mercury was one of Canada’s oldest newspapers, and thus one of the oldest in North America, and spanned to pre-confederation of Canada times. It shuttered it’s doors in 2015. Why? Because it failed to make its web presence effective and sustainable. That’s it.

Having a good, and mobile-friendly, website is essential, and even that doesn’t cut it in the current, modern news climate. Media companies need apps, ads, and social media to engage the user where they’re at–a virtual “paper boy” in a sense.

Companies are grasping at modern solutions today. There’s a few that are admirable. CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, offers its full, unrestricted news network for $5 a month. In an age where less and less people have cable, it is a great idea and is ahead of international competition in some ways, beating the likes of CNN, ABC and BBC.

What about bitcoin? Civil is a company that works to pay journalists and newsrooms via the digital coin, a first of its kind and something 71 Republic could one day be inclined to move towards, if the bosses give it the go.

71 Republic is one voice of many, but it’s voice is critical to the sphere of journalism. Sears filled a gap that has now narrowed, thus leaving Sears out without a purpose.

But other companies have a purpose, especially new media. 71 Republic can represent a future of independent media, and work to fill a gap now open.

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