So if you’ve been paying attention to the so-called “death of retail,” or, more specifically, the death of retail bricks-and-mortar storefronts, you know that one of the higher-profile “patients” that’s looked to be terminal for a while now is none other than the iconic Sears brand.
Well, you can add to all of their troubles the news this week that Sears shoppers will no longer be able to purchase Whirlpool appliances. Sears and Whirlpool ended their 101-year relationship after they could not come to terms on pricing. The split means that neither KitchenAid nor Maytag appliances will be available at Sears, either, as both of those brands are owned by Whirlpool.
It has been said that Sears’ problems are rooted, in part, in the company’s ham-fisted way it dealt with the advent of online shopping. While other retailers saw the Internet as the mall for the next generation, Sears remained convinced that shoppers would still want available a “classic” department store through which they could walk on their own two feet, and therefore looked at the physical store as being a sort of immutable truth. The reality has been much different, however, as Sears continues to fall out of favor with consumers less interested in the shopping experience than in simply getting their stuff.
Sears has also engaged in some odd financial moves, including a curious buyback of shares years ago that seemed to accomplish little more than burning through a ton of cash. And something else that Sears has become notoriously and shockingly bad at over the recent years is customer service, for so long the company’s greatest competitive advantage. While banking on the big-box department store to remain in fashion was a longshot to begin with, Sears basically doomed itself for sure by mystifyingly allowing its level of service to fall into the abyss. I saw this first-hand recently, when I needed to purchase several new kitchen appliances. Taking advantage of a holiday sales special, I bought a dishwasher, refrigerator, and range from Sears. Unfortunately, the process of actually receiving the merchandise turned into a nightmare, with the refrigerator delivery repeatedly postponed by Sears and positively no information provided as to when it would actually take place. Eventually, I canceled the order, and have vowed to be forever done with Sears.
For their part, the folks at Business Insider visited a New Jersey Sears earlier this year to see if they could gather any “average shopper” type clues as to why the company is falling apart. The video they shot goes a long way in explaining just why there seems little point for any consumer to waste time trying to buy anything from Sears any longer.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large