Killing The Iconic Sears Brand, One Dollar At A Time

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.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. To quote Frank Zappa “Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho”
    Bad merchandise, dismal stores, cold-war era advertising.
    Except for maybe Craftsman tools, why would you go to Sears?

  2. Technically, Sears has not been primarily in retail for quite some time. Perhaps it’s not obvious because the public is only exposed to the retail brand.
    At one point (around the 1980s-1990s), Sears was making more money off its Dean Witter financial services and credit cards (including the Discover card) than its stores. In many respects, even back then, Sears became much more about financial services and credit than retail. The company’s alliance with Citibank is another example of the move away from retail.
    A lot of this was reported in a book titled “The Big Store” by Donald Katz — for anyone really interested in the topic.
    Not sure anyone’s killing the iconic Sears brand. Rather, they’re probably recognizing it’s dying (at least the retail portion), and seeing little reason to try to revive it.

  3. A few years back, they did try and revamp, much like Wal-Mart tried recently. People still think lingerie from Sears comes with a Craftsman logo on it.

  4. softer side says:

    Imagine what the Craftsman and Kenmore brands could do if they were available at Home Depot.