Tears for Sears: End of an American Icon

I have two very distinct and very different memories of Sears. There’s the nostalgic childhood memory of running around their giant store at the mall, scoping out their toy aisle (they always had the best selection of RV cars), and breathing in the rubbery scent of the automotive department.

Then there is the more recent adult memory of running around their giant store at the mall, not because I was exploring their inventory, but because I couldn’t find a manned checkout counter to make my purchase. I did stop in for some tire smells at automotive though. So not a total loss.

Two very distinct, but different memories that can be boiled down to a primary factor: customer experience.

To say that Sears fell prey to the disruption of brick-and-mortar caused by Amazon, a very similar disruption Sears caused a hundred years ago to general stores with its catalog, overstates the problem many brick-and-mortar retailers face today. American consumers have become accustomed to being able to purchase exactly what they want, for the best price, all in a timely manner. Those can be difficult demands to meet if you’re a store like Sears, who in an attempt to decrease losses, cut worker hours and inventory. This caused customers like myself to end up spending too much time wandering around a store looking for items and personnel. A bad customer experience.

There’s a great article by Zlati Meyer of the USA Today that focuses on interviews with nostalgic, once-upon-a-time Sear’s customers. The common thread of why these consumers started spending their dollars elsewhere? They didn’t want to spend their time in an ill-run store that sold outdated brands.

What lessons can big name retailers learn from Sears demise? Innovation is a big one. Sears was a leader of innovation for decades, until it wasn’t. A greater focus on having a strong e-commerce presence is an important lesson. In the past twelve months, Sears.com was responsible for around $800 million in sales, according to Ken Cassar at Rakuten Intelligence. That may seem like a lot of money to your every day ma and pa e-commerce store, but it’s not enough to keep your name on the tallest tower in Chicago. Or out of bankruptcy court. A big take-away? Don’t make your customer’s experience the sacrificial lamb when cutting costs.

As companies like Amazon are working hard to provide a more customized shopping experience for their clientele, a great customer experience is key for online shoppers. For established brick-and-mortar companies, a concerted effort to create a more customized online shopping experience for their customers will be an important growth factor as we progress deeper into the era of e-commerce.


Don’t let your online customer experience fall by the wayside. Metrical helps online merchants and retailers figure out how to deliver targeted messaging that improves the buying experience, converts shoppers into buyers, and be better positioned to build a loyal customer base. Interested in knowing more? Drop us a line!