Sears was the Amazon of old. The everything store before the everything store existed. Where you could not only buy virtually anything from fishing rods to fake flamingos but shop from the comfort of your favorite chair and chat excitedly with your friends and family about what you'd seen or bought long before physically owning it. Sears' 125-year history will be permanently changed now that the company has filed for bankruptcy. And more importantly, the lives of Sears' many employees will be changed as well.

The company's future will likely remain uncertain for some time. It could rise from ruin, Phoenix-style, like its fun-loving cousin Toys 'R' Us, or disappear permanently like so many other bankrupted retailers in recent years (including at least 15 so far this year). 

What's most telling about the demise of the American stalwart, though, is that for many of us, Sears disappeared a long time ago, not unlike its once-heavily shopped but now suffocated subsidiary, K-Mart. Sure, many would still go there, but quickly that it was merely a shell of what once was. 

It reminds me of the fading away of another cultural icon--the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. It operated in America for 146 years before closing in 2017 due to declining ticket sales. It's not surprising. Can even the greatest show on Earth compete with YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Prime, Hulu, and Vudu for entertainment (which, ironically, where 'The Greatest Showman' just became available to stream)? 

It may be that we haven't seen the last of Sears. But insomuch as we may be losing a storied brand that holds some cultural value, there is value to be gained back in the form of insight. 

The depressing--and enlightening--moral of the story is that no brand is safe. Companies have to take their cue from industry leaders like Apple and Amazon, and actively create the future. Otherwise, they risk not being a part of it. 

Published on: Oct 15, 2018