Last updated

Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Type Subsidiary
Founded1892;129 years ago (1892)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Founders Richard Warren Sears
Alvah Curtis Roebuck
Number of locations
29 [1]
Area served
  • Clothing
  • footwear
  • bedding
  • furniture
  • jewelry
  • beauty products
  • appliances
  • housewares
  • tools
  • toys
RevenueDecrease2.svg US$13.8 billion (2016) [2]
Decrease2.svgUS$1.448 billion (2016) [2]
Subsidiaries See below

Sears, Roebuck and Co., [4] commonly known as Sears, is an American chain of department stores founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck in 1892, and reincorporated by Richard Sears and Julius Rosenwald in 1906. Formerly based at the Sears Tower in Chicago and currently headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the operation began as a mail ordering catalog company and began opening retail locations in 1925. The first location was in Chicago, Illinois. [5] In 2005, the company was bought by the management of the American big box chain Kmart, which formed Sears Holdings upon completion of the merger.


Through the 1980s, Sears was the largest retailer in the United States; Walmart and Kmart surpassed Sears in sales in 1990. [6] In 2018, Sears was the 31st-largest retailer in the United States. [7] After several years of declining sales, Sears' parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018. [8] Sears announced on January 16, 2019, that it had won its bankruptcy auction and would shrink and remain open with 425 stores, including 223 Sears stores. [9] Nevertheless, the trend of Sears and Kmart store closures continues, with only 95 stores, including 61 Sears stores, expected to remain open after a wave of store closures announced in July 2020. [10] [ better source needed ]

Early history

19th century

Richard Warren Sears Richard Sears.jpg
Richard Warren Sears
Julius Rosenwald Julius Rosenwald 02.jpg
Julius Rosenwald

In 1863, Richard Warren Sears was born in Stewartville, Minnesota to a wealthy family, which moved to nearby Spring Valley. [11] In 1879, Sears' father died shortly after losing the family fortune in a speculative stock deal. [11] Sears moved across the state to work as a railroad station agent in North Redwood, as well as in Minneapolis.

While in North Redwood, a jeweler refused delivery on the shipment of watches. Sears purchased them, then sold them at a low price to the station agents and made a profit. He started a mail-order watch business in Minneapolis in 1886, calling it "R.W. Sears Watch Company." Within the first year, he met Alvah C. Roebuck, a watch repairman. In 1887, Sears and Roebuck relocated the business to Chicago; later that year, the R.W. Sears Watch Company published Richard Sears' first mail-order catalog, offering watches, diamonds, and jewelry.

In 1889 Sears sold his business for US$100,000 ($2.8 million today) and relocated to Iowa, intending to be a rural banker. [12] Sears returned to Chicago in 1892 and established a new mail-order firm, again selling watches and jewelry, with Roebuck as his partner, operating as the A. C. Roebuck watch company. In 1893, they renamed the company to Sears, Roebuck, and Co. and began to diversify the product lines offered in their catalogs.

Before the Sears catalog, farmers near small rural towns usually purchased supplies, often at high prices and on credit, from local general stores with narrow selections of goods. Prices were negotiated and relied on the storekeeper's estimate of a customer's creditworthiness. Sears took advantage of this by publishing catalogs offering customers a wider selection of products at clearly stated prices.

By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, including many new items such as sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods, and automobiles (later produced, from 1905 to 1915, by Lincoln Motor Car Works of Chicago, no relation to the current Ford line). [13] By 1895, the company was producing a 532-page catalog. Sales were greater than $400,000 ($11.4 million today) in 1893 and more than $750,000 ($23 million today) two years later. [14] By 1896, dolls, stoves, and groceries had been added to the catalog.

Despite the strong and growing sales, the national Panic of 1893 led to a full-scale recession, causing a cash squeeze and large quantities of unsold merchandise by 1895. Roebuck decided to quit, returning later in a publicity role. Sears offered Roebuck's half of the company to Chicago businessman Aaron Nusbaum, who in turn brought in his brother-in-law Julius Rosenwald, to whom Sears owed money. In August 1895, they bought Roebuck's half of the company for $75,000 ($2.3 million today). The company was reincorporated in Illinois with a capital stock of $150,000 ($4.6 million today) in August 1895. The 1895 transaction was handled by Albert Henry Loeb of Chicago law firm Loeb & Adler (now Arnstein & Lehr, LLP). Copies of the transaction documents are still displayed on the walls of the law firm. [15]

20th century


The exterior of the Sears Merchandise Building Tower Sears Merchandise Building Tower.jpg
The exterior of the Sears Merchandise Building Tower

Sears and Rosenwald got along well with each other, but not with Nusbaum; they bought him out for $1.3 million in 1903 ($37 million today). [16] Rosenwald brought to the mail-order firm a rational management philosophy and diversified product lines: dry goods, consumer durables, drugs, hardware, furniture, and nearly anything else a farm household could desire.

Sales continued to grow rapidly, and the prosperity of the company and their vision for greater expansion led Sears and Rosenwald to take the company public in 1906, with a stock placement of $40 million ($1.1 billion today). They had to incorporate a new company in order to bring the operation public; Sears and Rosenwald established Sears, Roebuck and Company with the legal name Sears, Roebuck and Co., in the state of New York, which effectively replaced the original company. [17] The current company inherits the history of the old company, celebrating the original 1892 incorporation, rather than the 1906 revision, as the start of the company.

Sears' successful 1906 initial public offering (IPO) marks the first major retail IPO in American financial history and represented a coming of age, financially, of the consumer sector. [18] The company traded under the ticker symbol S and was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1924 to 1999.

In 1906, Sears opened its catalog plant and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower in Chicago's West Side. [19] The building was the anchor of what would become the massive 40-acre (16 ha) Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex of offices, laboratories and mail-order operations at Homan Avenue and Arthington Street. The complex served as corporate headquarters until 1973 when the Sears Tower was completed and served as the base of the mail-order catalog business until 1993.

By 1907, under Rosenwald's leadership as vice president and treasurer, annual sales of the company climbed to roughly $50 million ($1.4 billion today). Sears resigned the presidency in 1908 due to declining health, with Rosenwald named president and chairman of the board and taking on full control. [20]

The company was badly hurt during 1919–21 as a severe depression hit the nation's farms after farmers had over-expanded their holdings. To bail out the company, Rosenwald pledged $21 million ($0.3 billion today) of his personal wealth in 1921. [21] By 1922, Sears had regained financial stability.


As the nation urbanized, Sears' business model faced competition from city department stores. The mail-order market was based on rural America, with a slow-growing population and far less spending power than urban America. Rosenwald decided to shift emphasis to urban America and brought in Robert E. Wood to take charge. Rosenwald oversaw the design and construction of the firm's first department store, built on land within the Sears, Roebuck, and Company Complex. The store opened in 1925. In 1924, Rosenwald resigned the presidency, but remained as chairman until his death in 1932; his goal was to devote more time to philanthropy. [22]

The first Sears retail stores were pioneering and broke the conventions of the time in three ways: first, their location away from main shopping districts; second, their innovative store design, and third, their unconventional product mix and retailing practices.

The first store opened on February 2, 1925 [23] as an experiment in the North Lawndale Sears, Roebuck and Company Complex. Despite its remote location on the outskirts of Chicago, its success led to dozens of further openings across the country, many in conjunction with the company's mail-order offices, [24] typically in lower-middle-class and working-class neighborhoods far from the main downtown shopping district. This was considered highly unconventional at a time when shopping was concentrated in downtowns, however, rapidly increasing car ownership and the brand's huge popularity helped attract customers. [25]

Many stores at this time were designed by architect George C. Nimmons and his firms. The three-dimensional modeling of form, in other words, an architecture driven by merchandising needs, rather than the desired outer appearance determining the building's form, made the stores excellent examples of the modern architecture of the time – styles made famous by Bertram Goodhue and Eliel Saarinen. [24] [25]

Its stores were oriented to motorists—set apart from existing business districts amid residential areas occupied by their target audience; had ample, free, off-street parking; and communicated a clear corporate identity. In the 1930s, the company designed fully air-conditioned, "windowless" stores such as Sears-Pico in Los Angeles, which was the first to have an open plan selling floor (instead of breaking up the floor into discrete sections). [24]

Sears was also a pioneer in creating department stores that catered to men as well as women, especially with lines of hardware and building materials. It deemphasized the latest fashions in favor of practicality and durability and allowed customers to select goods without the aid of a clerk. In 1933 Sears issued the first of its Christmas catalogs known as the "Sears Wishbook", a catalog featuring toys and gifts, separate from the annual Christmas Catalog. From 1908 to 1940, it included ready-to-assemble Sears Catalog Home kit houses. [26]

The Sears catalog became known in the industry as "the Consumers' Bible". [27] The company sold to foreign customers, such as after the American occupation of Greenland in World War II when locals ordered from catalogs left by soldiers. [28] Novelists and story writers often portrayed the importance of the catalog in the emotional lives of rural folk. The catalog also entered the language, particularly of rural dwellers, as a euphemism for toilet paper, as its pages could be torn out and used as such. [29] In addition, for many rural African-Americans, especially in areas dominated by Jim Crow racial segregation, the Sears Catalogue was a vital retail alternative to local white-population-dominated stores, bypassing the stores' frequent intention to deny them fair access to their merchandise. [30]

Sears opened its first store in Mexico City in 1947; the Mexican stores would later spin off into Sears Mexico, which in 2020 operated more than 90 stores across Mexico. [31]


The Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower KM 5939 sears tower august 2007 B.jpg
The Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower

From the 1920s to the 1950s, Sears built many urban department stores in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (apart from, but not far from, existing central business districts), and they overshadowed the mail-order business. Starting in the 1950s, the company expanded into suburban markets and malls in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1959, it had formed the Homart Development Company for developing malls. Many of the company's stores have undergone major renovations or replacement since the 1980s. Sears began to diversify in the 1930s, creating Allstate Insurance Company in 1931 and placing Allstate representatives in its stores in 1934. Over the decades it established major national brands, such as Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, Silvertone, Supertone, and Toughskins. The company became a conglomerate during the mid-20th century, adding Dean Witter and Coldwell Banker real estate in 1981, starting Prodigy as a joint venture with IBM in 1984, and introducing the Discover credit card in 1985.

In 1974, Sears completed the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago, which became the world's tallest building, a title it took from the former World Trade Center towers in New York. Sears moved to the new Prairie Stone Business Park in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, between 1993 and 1995. [32] The Sears Centre is a 10,001-seat multi-purpose arena located in Hoffman Estates adjacent to the Prairie Stone campus. [33]

Sears reached its pinnacle in 1972–4, after which it was challenged by other retailers such as Home Depot, Best Buy, and Walmart—challenges Sears was ultimately unable to meet. [34]

In 1988, Sears, Roebuck purchased Western Auto from Wesray Capital. [35]

In the 1990s a series of pricing scandals were revealed. California successfully sued the company in 1992 for falsely finding things wrong with automobiles in for repair for other reasons. [36] In 1997, criminal charges were made. [37] [38]

There was a lot of diversification that was needed, but it distracted management's attention from the competition. Management, at first, discounted the threat from Walmart and Best Buy because of lower quality and lack of dedicated salespersons for appliances. [34] However, appliances turned over slowly and contributed weakly to net profit. [34] As it turned out, Walmart reset prices for the country. [34]

Even though its naming rights to the building expired in 2003, the Sears Tower remained named as such until early 2009. In March 2009 London-based insurer Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., was given the building's naming rights to encourage them to occupy the building. The official renaming as the Willis Tower took place on Thursday, July 16, 2009, during a public ceremony hosted by Willis Group Holdings. [39]

In the 1990s, the company began divesting itself of many non-retail entities, which were detrimental to the company's bottom line. Sears spun off its financial services arm which included brokerage business Dean Witter Reynolds and Discover Card. It sold its mall building subsidiary Homart to General Growth Properties in 1995. [40] Sears later acquired hardware chain Orchard Supply Hardware in 1996 and started home improvement store The Great Indoors in 1997. [41]

The cost of distributing the once highly influential general merchandise catalog became prohibitive; sales and profits had declined. The company discontinued the catalog in 1993. It dismissed 50,000 workers who had filled the orders. This was before the internet became an effective tool. With the advantage of hindsight, the timing was poor; Sears already had in place what it took Amazon and Walmart years to achieve. [34]

Sears eventually held sales on all items. The dedicated customer would just wait until the item was on sale to buy. In the meantime, the item took up valuable floor space. This was a marketing policy misjudgment. [34]

After weeks of speculation in 1998, Sears announced it had sold the remnants of Western Auto to Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts. The business deal was not quite what experts in the after-market automotive industry expected. Specifically, in return, Sears, Roebuck became "one of the largest shareholders" after obtaining a 40% stake in Advance Auto Parts, and by merging their two store networks, which included Western Auto's wholesale and retail operations. More precisely, the existing store network of Advance Auto Parts, comprising 915 stores in 17 U.S. states, merged with 590 U.S.-based Parts America Stores in addition to 40 Western Auto stores in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In 1997 Sears sold 85% of its Mexico affiliate to Grupo Carso. Sears Holdings continues to produce specialty catalogs and reintroduced a smaller version of the Holiday Wish Book in 2007.


In 2003, Sears sold its U.S. retail credit card operation to Citibank. [42] The remaining card operations for Sears Canada were sold to JPMorgan Chase in August 2005. [43] In 2003, Sears opened a new concept store called Sears Grand. Sears Grand stores carry everything that a regular Sears carries, and more. Sears Grand stores are about 175,000 to 225,000 square feet (16,300 to 20,900 m2).

History under Sears Holdings


On November 17, 2004, Kmart Holdings Corporation announced it was going to acquire Sears, Roebuck, and Co. for $11 billion after Kmart completed its bankruptcy (USA Today Nov. 17, 2004). As a part of the acquisition, Kmart Holding Corporation along with Sears, Roebuck, and Co. was transformed into the new Sears Holdings Corporation. The new company started trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange as SHLD; Sears sold its single-letter ticker symbol 'S' in the New York Stock Exchange it had held since 1910 to Sprint Corporation. [44] [ better source needed ] The new corporation announced that it would continue to operate stores under both the Sears and Kmart brands. In 2005, the company began renovating some Kmart stores and converting them to the Sears Essentials format, only to change them later to Sears Grands. [45] The combined company's profits peaked at $1.5 billion in 2006.


By 2010, the company was no longer profitable; from 2011 to 2016 the company lost $10.4 billion. In 2014, its total debt ($4.2 billion at the end of January 2017) exceeded its market capitalization ($974.1 million as of March 21, 2017). [46]

Sears spent much of 2014 and 2015 selling off portions of its balance sheet; namely, Lands' End and its stake in Sears Canada, one of the biggest e-commerce players in Canada, with C$505 million in sales in 2015—more than Walmart and others who had begun pushing aggressively into online sales, such as Canadian Tire. [47] Sears stated that the company was looking to focus on becoming a more tech-driven retailer. Sears' CEO and top shareholder said the sell-off of key assets in the last year had given the retailer the money it needs to speed up its transformation. [47] Sears Holdings had lost a total of US$7 billion in the four years to 2015. In part, the retailer was trying to curb losses by using a loyalty program called Shop Your Way. [47] Sears believed the membership scheme would enhance repeat business and customer loyalty in the long term. [47]

In 2015, Sears Holdings spun off 235 Sears and Kmart properties into a real estate investment trust called Seritage Growth Properties. [48] In September 2016, Sears Holdings terminated 17 Kmart store leases and paid Seritage a termination fee. [49] Lampert is also chairman and largest shareholder in Seritage. [50] Seritage Growth Properties is controlled by ESL Investments.

In October 2016, Moody's Investor Services downgraded Sears to speculative grade liquidity rating, and predicted that Sears was expected to have to rely on external financing and monetization of its alternative assets, according to Moody's VP Christina Boni. [49]

In late 2016 and early 2017, some significant steps were taken by Edward Lampert, president, chief executive officer and top shareholder of Sears Holding Corp. Lampert, with personal assets estimated at US$2 billion, is also the founder and manager of the hedge fund ESL Investments Inc. [51] He provided an additional loan of US$500 million to the company and said he would provide letters of credit to Sears for additional amounts, reportedly totaling US$200 million and possibly increasing to a half-billion dollars in the future. [52]

Lampert also concluded an arrangement that sold the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for approximately US$900 million. [53] During this period, the company also announced that it would close 150 stores (109 Kmart and 41 Sears outlets), in an attempt to cut its losses after a decline in sales of 12 to 13 percent during the holiday shopping season and the largest quarterly loss since 2013. Matt McGinley, an analyst at Evercore ISI, stated, "In the long run, the cash isn't likely to change the company's course. ... I don't think there is any viable path to any sort of profitability." [54]

In February 2017, Sears announced a restructuring plan that it hoped would cut costs by US$1 billion, via selling more stores, cutting jobs and selling brands. [55] During the second quarter of 2017, 42 Sears stores in 40 states closed. [56] Sears later announced that it closed an additional 12 stores. [57] In May 2017, Sears announced it would close 20 stores, including the last Sears store in Rhode Island, at Rhode Island Mall in Warwick. [58] In July 2017, Sears announced it would close another 43 stores (8 Sears and 35 Kmart stores). [59]

Sears declined from more than 3,500 physical stores to 695 US stores from 2010 to 2017. [60] Sales at Sears stores dropped 10.3 percent in the final quarter of 2016 when compared to the same period in 2015. [61]

In October 2017, Sears and appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation ended their 101-year-old association, reportedly due to pricing issues, although Whirlpool continued supplying Sears with Kenmore-branded appliances. [62] Another wave of 63 store closures, including 18 Sears, was announced in November 2017. [63] The retailer declined to run television advertisements for the 2017 holiday season, citing a desire to focus on online advertising. [64] The retailer announced several waves of store closures throughout 2018:

The company also auctioned some real estate, including the buildings of several operating stores, online. [70]

In May 2018, Sears announced it had formed a "special committee" to explore the sale of Kenmore. [71] In August 2018, Lampert's ESL Investments Inc submitted a bid of US$400 million for the brand. As of October 14, 2018, with Sears filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, leaving the future of both the Kenmore and DieHard brands undecided, it has been rumored online and elsewhere that Whirlpool Corporation could emerge as a possible top potential buyer for the Kenmore brand since they were the top major manufacturer of Kenmore appliances for well over a century. [72]

2018 bankruptcy

On September 24, 2018, the retailer's CEO warned that the company was "running out of time" to salvage its business. [73] Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018, ahead of a $134 million debt payment due that day. [74] Liquidation sales at 142 stores, including 79 Sears locations, including the last Sears store in Wyoming, at Eastridge Mall in Casper, began later in the month, [75] and in August 2018 Sears Holdings announced that 13 Kmart stores and 33 Sears stores would be closed by November 2018. [76] On November 8, 2018, Sears Holdings announced it would close an additional 40 stores, including 29 Sears stores, including the last Sears store in Idaho, at Grand Teton Mall in Idaho Falls, and the last two Sears stores in Mississippi, at Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian, and at the Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo. [77] On November 23, 2018, Sears Holdings released a list of 505 stores, including 266 Sears stores, that are for sale in the bankruptcy process while all others are currently holding liquidation sales. [78]

On January 16, 2019, Sears Holdings announced it would remain open after Lampert won a bankruptcy auction for the company with an offer to keep about 400 stores open. [9] On February 7, 2019, a bankruptcy judge approved a $5.2 billion plan by Sears’ chairman and biggest shareholder to keep the business going. The approval means roughly 425 stores, including 223 Sears stores, and 45,000 jobs will be preserved. [79]

Current operations under Transformco

A closed Sears store at Stones River Town Centre, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in April 2019, with signage still intact. The store closed earlier that year on February 11th. ClosedSears2019.jpg
A closed Sears store at Stones River Town Centre, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in April 2019, with signage still intact. The store closed earlier that year on February 11th.

In April 2019, Sears announced it was opening three new stores with a limited set of merchandise under the name Sears Home & Life. [80] Also that month, Sears closed its store at Windward Mall in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and its store at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Illinois, making it the first post-bankruptcy closure for the brand since being bought by ESL. [81] [82]

On June 3, 2019, it was announced that Transform Holdco LLC would acquire Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores. As per deal, they might need to divest its Sears Outlet division to gain approval. [83] On August 6, 2019, it was announced that 26 stores, including 21 Sears stores, including the last Sears store in Alabama, at Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, and the last Sears store in West Virginia, at Huntington Mall in Barboursville, would be closing in October with plans to "accelerate the expansion of our smaller store formats which includes opening additional Home & Life stores and adding several hundred Sears Hometown stores after the Sears Hometown and Outlet transaction closes." [84] On August 31, 2019, it was announced that Transform would close an additional 92 stores, including 15 Sears stores, by the end of 2019. 100 more stores closed by January 2020. [85] 51 Sears stores were closed in February 2020, including the last full-line store in Las Vegas, at Meadows Mall, the last two full-line stores in New Hampshire, at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, and the Steeplegate Mall in Concord, as well as the last full-line store in Vermont, at University Mall in South Burlington. [86] [87] On January 23, 2020, it was announced that the Sears in Glendale, California, would close on March 15, 2020. [88]

Near the end of 2019, Sears sold the brand name DieHard to Advance Auto Parts for $200 million. [89]

On February 5, 2020, it was announced that the Sears stores at Livingston Mall in Livingston, New Brunswick in New Jersey, Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, New Jersey and Moorestown Mall in Moorestown, New Jersey would close in mid-April. [90] On February 6, 2020, it was announced that seven more Sears stores would close in mid-April, including the last Sears store in Delaware, at the Concord Mall in Wilmington. [91] [92] [93] [94] [95]

After Sears started reopening, several Sears and Kmart stores held liquidation sales due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.[ clarification needed ][ citation needed ]

On June 26, 2020, it was announced that the last Sears store in Maine would close at the Maine Mall in South Portland. [96]

On June 29, 2020, it was announced that the Sears at Rockaway Townsquare in Rockaway, New Jersey would close on September 13, [97] and on June 30, it was announced that the Sears in Hackensack, New Jersey, the last freestanding Sears store in the state, would be closing on September 12, [98] due to the Bergen County Blue Laws occurring the next day which prevent non-essential retailers from opening, meaning there will be only one Sears store left in New Jersey, at Newport Centre in Jersey City, after these closures.

On November 10, 2020, it was announced that Sears would close seven more stores as part of deal closed with TransformCo Properties closed on January 31, 2020 that includes the last Sears store in Westchester County, New York, at The Galleria at White Plains [ citation needed ] and the last full-line Sears store in Connecticut, at The Shops at Buckland Hills in Manchester. All seven stores closed by Sunday, January 24, 2021 further reducing the number of Sears full-line stores.[ citation needed ]

On December 18, 2020, it was announced that the Sears store and Auto center located at the Coastal Grand Mall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina would be closing sometime in January 2021. [99]

On December 27, 2020 it was announced that Sears would be closing two additional stores in Puerto Rico, one at Las Catalinas Mall in Caguas, and the other one at Plaza Carolina, in Carolina, PR. [100]

In January 2021, Forbes Magazine reported that they are unable to get an accurate count of the number of operational stores, with numbers ranging between 74 and 60 at the beginning of January. An expert in retail bankruptcies at Debtwire calls the store closings "a slow motion liquidation". [101]

On January 28, 2021 it was announced that Sears would be closing 10 more stores. [102] Additional closures were announced in mid-February, bringing the number of non-liquidating stores down to 29. [1]

Store formats


A typical full Sears in the Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut in October 2017. This store closed at the end of 2018 as part of a plan to close 142 Kmart and Sears locations. Sears, Waterford, CT.jpg
A typical full Sears in the Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut in October 2017. This store closed at the end of 2018 as part of a plan to close 142 Kmart and Sears locations.


A Sears Hardware in Windham, Connecticut which closed in May 2016. Its signage was still intact as of 2017. Closed Sears Hardware.jpg
A Sears Hardware in Windham, Connecticut which closed in May 2016. Its signage was still intact as of 2017.

Corporate identity

Private-label brands


Since the merger of Sears & Kmart in 2005, many brands are now shared by both stores.

  • Adam Levine Collection – Men's and women's clothing
  • Athletech – Athletic clothing and shoes [158]
  • Basic Editions – Men's, women's and children's clothing
  • Cannon – Bed and bath
  • Canyon River Blues – Men's and women's clothing (a children's sub-brand called CRB Kids also exists)
  • Cat & Co – Cat supplies
  • Champion Breed – Dog supplies
  • Colormate – Bedding and bath accessories [159]
  • Covington – Men's and women's dresswear. [160]
  • DieHard – Batteries, clothing, and work shoes [161]
  • Easy Living – Painting equipment
  • Essential Home – Bed, bath, and kitchen supplies
  • Everlast – Men's, women's, and children's athletic apparel and footwear; through a license deal [162]
  • Evolv – Tools
  • Joe Boxer – Men's and women's underwear and sleepwear
  • Kenmore – Appliances, grills, vacuums (Sears brand also sold in other stores)
  • Laura Scott – Women's clothing [163]
  • Metaphor – Women's clothing
  • Northwest Territory – Men's and women's clothing and camping gear [164]
  • Outdoor Life – More rugged men's and women's clothing.
  • R1893 – Women's clothing, primarily jeans
  • Roebuck & Co. – Men's, women's, and children's clothing and shoes
  • Roebucks – Formerly clothing, now used for men's work shoes [165]
  • Simply Emma – Women's clothing and jewelry [166]
  • Simply Styled – Men's, women's, and children's clothing and shoes [167]
  • Smart Sense – Groceries, health, and household
  • Structure – Men's clothing and shoes (originally owned by Express, Inc. before Sears bought it in 2003) [168] [169]
  • Thom McAn – Shoes
  • Toughskins – Children's clothing [170]
  • Weatherbeater – Painting equipment


  • Allen – Washing machines
  • Allstate – Automobiles, motorcycles and mopeds, vehicle parts, insurance [171]
  • Alphaline – Electronics accessories, cables, headphones (video on-demand service powered by Roxio under the same name launched in 2010, [172] abandoned in 2015) [173]
  • Amanda Stewart - Women's clothing and accessories
  • Celestial Star – Diamond jewelry
  • Challenge Records – Record Label
  • Cheryl Tiegs – Clothing [174]
  • Coldspot – Appliances [175]
  • Companion – Tools
  • Conqueror Records – Record Label
  • Craftsman – Tools (sold to Stanley Black and Decker; still sold in Sears and other stores, under licensing deals, but no longer an exclusive brand)
  • Dashmate – Automobile radios and tape players
  • David Bradley – Farm machinery and equipment [176]
  • Dunlap – Tools
  • Economy – Iceboxes, fountain pens, sewing machine cabinets, gasoline engines, portable saw rigs, farm equipment, cream separators [177]
  • Free Spirit – Bicycles
  • Gold Bond – Footwear
  • Goolagong – Clothing
  • Handiman – Line of tractors and walk-behind equipment [178]
  • Harmony House – Interior decorating products [179]
  • Hearthside – Rug looms and quilting frames
  • Hercules – Work clothing, appliances, insurance, sewage systems, letter jackets, fire extinguishers, heavy-duty coveralls, home heating systems [180]
  • Hillary – Camping and outdoor gear
  • Homart – Heating and cooling systems, plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, kitchen cabinets, building supplies
  • J. C. Higgins – Sporting goods, camping [181]
  • Kardashian Kollection
  • Kromedge – Sawblades, dadoes, moldering heads, router bits
  • LXI – Stereo audio components and systems
  • Oxford Records – Record Label
  • Penske – Automotive testing tools
  • Permanex – Blow-molded polyethylene tool storage cases, gas cans
  • Personal Identity - teen clothing and footwear
  • Pilgrim – Clothing [182]
  • PROformance – Stereo audio components and systems (replaced LXI)
  • Sears Video Arcade – In-house version of Atari in the early 1980s (discontinued in favor of the actual Atari systems)
  • Seventeen – Young women's clothing (part of a 2014 license deal with the magazine of the same name) [183]
  • Silvertone – Stereos, televisions, musical instruments [184]
  • Silvertone Records – Record Label
  • Sofia by Sofia Vergara
  • Supertone Records – Record Label
  • Ted Williams Brand – Sporting goods
  • Tower – Cameras, photo supplies, office equipment


The company sponsors, through the Sears Auto Centers, the Formula Drift Darren McNamara Sears/Falken Saturn Sky drift car. It sponsored the NASCAR Truck Series, using the Craftsman brand as the title sponsor, from the series' inception in the 1995 NASCAR SuperTruck Series presented by Craftsman to the 2008 season, when the agreement ended. [185] Craftsman tools remain the official tools of NASCAR. The company sponsored the television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition . It sponsors and currently has naming rights to the Sears Centre, an 11,000-seat multi-purpose family entertainment, cultural and sports center, constructed in 2006 in Hoffman Estates. The company also underwrote the PBS television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood , under the name The Sears-Roebuck Foundation from the show's premiere in 1968 until 1992. It sponsored the #10 Gillett Evernham Motorsports car of Scott Riggs for the September 2, 2007, running of the Sharp AQUOS 500 at California Speedway through its Sears Auto Center branch. However, Riggs failed to qualify for the event. In 2016, Craftsman became the title sponsor of the World Racing Group, World of Outlaws Sprint car racing series. [186]

Employee relations

Sears building in the Edificio La Nacional building in Mexico City, across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Sears Centro Historico.jpg
Sears building in the Edificio La Nacional building in Mexico City, across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Sears has struggled with employee relations. One notable example was the shift in 1992 from an hourly wage based on longevity to a base wage (usually between US$3.50 and US$6 per hour) and commissions ranging from 0.5% to 11%. Sears claimed the new base wage, often constituting a substantial (up to 40%) cut in pay, was done "to be successful in this highly competitive environment". [187]

In early October 2007, Sears cut commission rates for employees in some departments to between 0.5% and 4% but equalized the base wage across all Home Improvement and Electronics departments. In 2011, commission rates on non-base items were cut by 2% in the electronics department. In late 2009, the commission on sales of "base items" from the electronic department was cut to 1%. As of 2017, appliances is the only remaining department where compensation is based entirely on commission. Other departments give a base pay plus commission. In many stores, jewelry department associates receive a low base salary with 1% commission on their sales.

In March 2019, Sears claimed that it was ending life insurance benefits for an undisclosed number of its 90,000 retirees. A few months earlier the company handed out over $25 million in bonuses to executives. [188] This key Sears Retiree Benefit was worth between $5,000 and $15,000 for most of the pool (29,000) of eligible retired employees. [189]

In May 2019, former Sears Holdings chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert, months after purchasing the remains of Sears from the holding company, threatened not to pay out the $43 million in pension payments [190] owed to 90,000 former Sears and Kmart employees and retirees. [191] A Forbes editorial pointed out that Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, was a board member of Sears Holding until 2016, and is presently one of three directors of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which manages administration of pensions for defunct or bankrupt businesses. [192]

See also

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Further reading