Random Thoughts

Sears – The Latest Story in our Changing Marketplace

This week, a major icon of the retail world declared bankruptcy.  Twenty years ago we would have wondered how this could even be possible.  But now Sears joins a large number of other iconic businesses in the retail, automotive and consumer markets that we felt would be around forever.

David Von Drehle had some interesting thoughts on this in his article Cherish the demise of Sears.

Sears has an especially sweet spot in my heart because of the different catalogs they sent us every year.  We would spend hours looking through them at toys, sporting goods, outdoor gear and cool clothes – dreaming of how, if I only had those things, I could catch the big fish or the cute girl!  Pages were read and re-read until the next catalog arrived – and then the adventure was able to start all over again.

Included in these memories were the trips to the “big stores” at the start of school, Christmas holiday or just any Saturday my folks wanted to hang out there.  Wandering the different floors and looking at everything from clothes to appliances, furniture and automotive was an adventure.  We got to eat popcorn, have soft drinks and even smoke (my dad did, anyway) all while we shopped.  Spilling and greasy fingers apparently weren’t a concern.

Sears brought everyday and unique items to the average American while we were still developing as a nation.  They brought new and innovative ideas into consumerism taking advantage of the latest technology of their time for their success.

One idea they introduced was bundling.  Putting together everything you may need to for an activity – fishing poles, reels, tackle, nets, etc. – all at price you couldn’t believe.  Heck, if you needed a house, they could deliver everything you needed for that too.

Today’s technologies have made Sears’ revolutionary approach obsolete.  Everyone’s catalog is now available anytime of the day for both browsing and purchases – with next day delivery fulfilling our “immediate needs” – all with the click of buttons.

Even at HL Group, we have customers research and receive demonstrations of our mobilePLUS solution on-line, with proposals, contracts, delivery, training and support all completed remotely.  We’ve delivered this way for small organizations and large ones; for single user solutions and those with multi-thousand dollar investments – all with critical business impact – and without any actually physical meetings.

Today’s world has all of us doing a large percentage of our research, shopping and purchases online.  This includes everything from normal consumer goods, to cars, homes (my neighbor from Canada bought their house that way) and even business solutions!

In the software world, we’ve also adopted the “bundling concept” for subscription-based decisions.  All you have is one easy, periodic payment and I’ll even store it (host it) for you!

Yes the world is changing, and ever more rapidly as things continue to progress.  And yes, Sears and my childhood adventures are no more.  But I now have Amazon and CarMax, smart phones and the internet, and FedEx in my neighborhood all day long.

When it’s all said and done, we’re constantly getting the opportunity to live in a better and more vibrant world.  When you embrace it, there is more good to be gained than challenges to worry about.

Change has been a critical part of our success at HL Group.  I still have my happy memories of the role Sears played in my earlier life.  But there is something to be said about the convenience and appreciation that I can order my anniversary gift today and still get it delivered by my anniversary tomorrow.  Not that I forgot about it or anything.

Thank you Sears for the role you played when it was needed most!



Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management, RFID and supply chain solutions.  He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.