What Will the Next 20 Years Hold for Sears Hometown Stores?
In 1893, the first Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog was published. In 1993, the last Sears catalog was published. In 2013, Sears Hometown Store is going nostalgic and honoring the memory of the "Big Book" with a twentieth anniversary sale.
This year also marks survival for the entrepreneurs who operate local Sears Hometown Store locations. Twenty years ago, Sears announced it was closing around 2,000 of its catalog stores along with the Big Book. Only 122 owners were allowed to continue operating their businesses that became known as Sears Hometown stores. Today, Sears Hometown Stores account for more than 900 locations as part of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc., which was spun off by Sears Holdings.
"Looking back over the past 20 years, we’re celebrating tremendous progress," said Bruce Johnson, president and CEO, of the company, in a statement. "Everyone has memories of ordering from the eagerly awaited Big Book for delivery to a local catalog store or their home. The Big Book is gone. But as much as things change, we continue to grow by providing top-notch customer service, and we still provide incredible values."
"I started working at a Sears catalog store in the telephone department in 1958," said Lucille Cooper, owner of the Sears Hometown Store in Bogalusa, La. "I loved working for Sears and worked my way up, eventually becoming a store manager. When we heard that the catalog stores were closing, our entire community was distressed. A few weeks later, I heard about the opportunity to buy a dealer store in my hometown, and I immediately took it. Everything has come full circle."
To commemorate the anniversary of the last Big Book, Sears Hometown Stores are running a "throwback" promotion offering current versions of items sold in 1993 at prices at or below what they charged 20 years ago.
- Iconic Retailer Marks 20th Anniversary of a Final Catalog, Evolution to Hometown Stores – Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores
- Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Corporate Website – Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores
What do you think will be the greatest challenges for Sears Hometown Stores over the next 20 years? Does individual ownership of stores increase or decrease the likelihood of success for the company in the years ahead?
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5 Comments on "What Will the Next 20 Years Hold for Sears Hometown Stores?"
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It’s easy to think of retail in terms of urban and suburban locations. However, according to the census, nearly 21% of the US population lives in rural areas. This is where Sears Hometown shines and will most likely continue to thrive for years to come.
The greatest challenge for Sears Hometown Stores in the next 20 years will be that the Sears name could still be associated with those stores. That’s both a plus and a minus with both current and future customer groups.
True, local ownership has great value to a great many people such as Lucille Cooper in Bogalusa. Individual ownership and personal involvement in that community also has value to the consumers living there and in similar locals, but if Sears Holdings’ image as a retailer continues to slip or die, it could possibly carry over to Hometown Stores.
Is the risk worth taking? Yes. The numerous values in local ownership have probably increased. And as to the future, check out demographic and population trends. They might prove underwhelming. Still I hope that this kind of locally owned, nostalgic retailing will continue to finds its place in the future.
“What do you think will be the greatest challenges for Sears Hometown Stores over the next 20 years?”
Having Sears as part of the name. Seriously, I wish them well, and I guess there is some advantage to the franchising arrangement(s) or they wouldn’t keep them, but I would think any involvement with Sears is a missed blessing.
Sears…the next 20 years…the big challenge….
Simple answer: Rapid Change Retailing.
Okay, another new term or just a reality? For Sears this is the reality. Rapid Change in Retail involves the ability to change styles—from brand look to store look to all channel look in a rapid manner. It involves maintaining and gaining shopper loyalty as the industry or shopper type changes.
Over the next 20 years Sears must learn how to let go of the past FASTER and grab onto NEW and NOW in a RAPID manner.
How to do this drop and grab? Well, part of it is to get more of the younger players into the decision areas of their retail ship. Another element is to crank on the memories of their older shoppers and get more of their wallets. None of this is easy, but there is a way to do it and Sears has the shopper reach and the channel awareness to make it happen.
Get Rapid, Change, and Retail Away!
Customer satisfaction must continue to be the core business value, and reaching out to the mobile users who access Sears.com with product ideas that are helpful to them. Use Facebook, and LinkedIn to advertise new ventures. Customers want to use mobile to access everything on the Internet, and it is imperative to accommodate them.