Sears Roebuck USA: The Great American Catalogue Store And How It Grew by Gordon Weil Link:

Sears really was the of its heyday.

First, they made an extravaganza of goods available to Americans in even the remotest parts of the country. Sears originally started entirely as a mail order business with the explicit goal of selling to the large population of rural Americans. In the 1890s, living outside of a major city meant that the only goods available to you were either ones that you could produce yourself or that happened to be sold at one of the few local stores within horseback riding distance.

Sears changed this. The company offered an enormous selection of clothing, farm equipment, coats, footwear, timepieces, hunting rifles, furniture, toys, toiletries, canned goods, carriages, and much more. Farmers could purchase a new cream separator, order a replacement wheel for a cart or select a heavy winter coat without having to venture into town. Individuals in even the remotest parts of the country could stay informed of the latest household conveniences just by flipping through the latest Sears catalog.

Sears’ selection grew with the American standard of living. Sears soon sold radios, televisions, major appliances, automobiles, even houses (!) as they became affordable to the masses. Families eagerly awaited the annual Sears “Wishbook”—the affectionate title of the Christmas-time catalog—to see a wide selection of holiday shopping options. A number of modern brand names such as Whirpool, Craftsman, or Allstate, are so well known because they were either created by Sears or heavily backed by Sears. It is no wonder that U.S. Presidents are alleged to have said they would send every Russian a Sears catalog, if they could send them one book to dissuade them of communism and persuade them of the virtues of the American system.

Like, Sears was also a leader of logistics. They had gigantic warehouses so large they had their own fire stations. Their distribution centers contained vast networks of transmission belts racing products to order fulfillment stations and they were staffed by armies of employees who picked orders, sorted products, packed boxes, and manned phones. They had state-of-the-art IBM machines to process orders and track inventory, well before the personal computer revolution, and they had their operations down to a science—every order was to be brought to a specific location in time to be packed and shipped within a precisely scheduled, 15-minute time window.

The fact that the leaders of Sears—men such as Julius Rosenwald and Retired General Robert E. Wood—ran the company with such a mindset for efficiency definitely played a major role in why they were able to grow the company into a retail giant and sustain its success for many decades. Sears definitely belongs in the annals of companies who helped build America.

Reposted from a few years ago.


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