Here’s an interesting article from the Washington Post about Sears and its chairman, Edward Lampert.
Lampert bought Sears in 2004. He has no retail experience. Actually, he’s a Wall Street guy. So he’s taking the money he makes from Sears and is turning it into a hedge fund while letting the stores die:
But, if Sears the Retailer is ailing, Sears the Hedge Fund has never been healthier. Hedge funds are massive unregulated investment pools typically open to only institutional investors and wealthy individuals. The company’s stock soared 45 percent in 2006, driven by high-risk trades that produced $101 million, or a third, of Sears Holding’s pretax income in the third quarter. These investments did not perform well in the fourth quarter, and the firm had to sell off properties to cover its losses, according to a Morgan Stanley report.
Under Lampert, Sears has spent far less on its retail business than competitors. Gone are the days of heavy television promotions such as the “softer side of Sears.” The Sears Roebuck Foundation, the firm’s charitable arm, has dried up in generosity, several Chicago-based institutions such as the Children’s Museum report.
Whether or not Sears as a store is worth saving, well, that’s debatable. But there’s an interesting lesson here for any business, brand, even an agency: The business will always be run and managed as a reflection of whoever owns it. In this case, Sears is no longer worth much as a retail brand, because Lampert isn’t a retail guy.