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Sears reports $748M net loss [pdf] (searsholdings.com)
88 points by grizzles on Dec 8, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

They raced to the bottom with their hallowed store brands, cut corners to make margins and in the end shattered the value of the name of appliances like Kenmore or tools like Craftsman.

If you've built a brand on the idea of durability and reliability, and then build shoddy products that coast on the reputation, that reputation goes away and leaves you with a brand that no one wants to buy.

I've been looking at a new fridge, and I'd consider a Chinese Haier over a Sears Kenmore, ceteris paribus.

It used to be that Sears was mighty because of the catalog; then they were mighty because of logistics; then they were mighty because of the iron-clad house brands. Now Amazon is the new catalog, Walmart beats them on logistics, and their brands are mud. Sears has nothing. You'll see a Sears bankruptcy within 5 years.

I've been looking at a new fridge, and I'd consider a Chinese Haier over a Sears Kenmore, ceteris paribus.

We've been buying most of our appliances from Sears.

We purchased a Kenmore refrigerator about a year ago. The thing to remember is that Sears doesn't build refrigerators, it simply puts the Kenmore name on them.

Our refrigerator had a "made in USA" sticker on it. It was built either by Whirlpool or by Amana (same thing). I like the new fridge better than the previous GE we had, but of course the book is yet to be written on its long-term dependability.

With Sears you must buy only when they are having a periodic sale. They often discount specific appliances as much as 30% or 40% during those sales. In comparison, at the time Costco was selling a down-featured version of our refrigerator for considerably more money than the Sears sale price. Also Sears will give you extras during these sales, e.g. free 1-year financing, free delivery, etc.


There's no such thing as free financing.

There might not be a way around the surcharge they put in place for paying up front, but that's not free financing, it's exploiting the fact that people are generally uninformed to charge more for a less expensive transaction.

I picked up some craftsman metric/SAE box and open's the other day from the discount section, the build quality is not bad at all. I would not compare it to Snap-On, but a whole other tier than that of HF.

Recently I've given up on craftsman all together. Harbor freight owns up to being Chinese junk, but still gives a life time guarantee on and hand tools now. So if they're half the cost of craftsman but break and replace the same, why buy their name brand Chinese junk when I can buy generic stuff from probably the same factory?

My tool buying methodolty is

1. Buy Harbor Freight Version....

2. If a break the Harbor Freight tool, then I will look at a SnapOn, Dewalt, Ridged, or other Contractor/Professional Brand

I have very fews tools in the #2 category...

Though waiting for number 2 might give you frustration in the mean time. There's more to a tool than whether or not it breaks. When that steel bolt has cold welded itself to the aluminum engine head, you're going to want the most precision-machined socket you can find. Because if you bugger it up, your day is about to get a lot worse while you ponder whether you can burn the bolt out with an acetelyne torch before you melt the aluminum. Granted, I don't run into that a lot now that I no longer turn wrenches for a living.

That said, I've got a lot of HF in my toolbox and can't say I've been unhappy with them. When I'm 100 miles from nowhere and my motorcycle breaks, it'll be HF sockets and Torx bits that get me back on the road.

I am mainly a Woodworker as a hobby and IT has a Profession

My Cars are worked on by Professionals so I do not have alot of Automotive tools or needs

shit man i snapped a cylinder bolt into my L-series head attempted to drill it out, went off center, now i gotta get Helicoil to repair it...... I should have just MIG welded another bolt onto the end, but that poses risk for warping the head.

That's pretty much where I've been on them for the last few years. I've got a bunch of old inherited Craftsman stuff that's just as good or smooth as expensive stuff is brand new today.

If I'm not investing in something I need to be very precise or efficient, it's harbor freight I go. Perfect example, my angle grinder was $30 from HF like 5 years ago and it's still humming along- I could've dropped $150+ easy going with a name brand.

If it's a really nice woodworking tool (like a block plane or chisel), I go direct to the specialized brands.

If it's something general but I want a 'nicer' or more reliable product, I'll go to the big box store and pick up Kobalt, Milwaukee, or DeWalt- mostly because that's already what I have.

REPLACE any Craftsman that shows wear. I had some sockets from 20+ years ago, some were rusted (yeah, it happens, sometimes my fault sometimes not). So, I packed em up, walked into the Sears tools dept., and exchanged them, like 20+ of them, one-for-one with new sockets. BEAUTIFUL, now I have new sockets, labeled more clearly, for free. And, if they ever rust again, I'll repeat the process.

I think douche replied with a well comment below, garage sales might be the best.HF is not bad, but sometime I find that even new CM are engineered better, like the HF box n open can't hit the exhaust manifold nuts on my car, but a CF one is able to do it due to the slight angle from the open part.

Idk always small things you find. Hopefully craftsman will still be around.

You really have to be careful these days, though. Sometimes you find stuff that is close to the old Craftsman quality, other times it is much shoddier. The consistency isn't there, in my experience.

That was my first time to ever read that. I lost it at the eye patch.

HP did something similar, from quality brand to race to the bottom cheap. Maybe there's just so much value you can extract out of quality.

The problem with quality is that short term extractions of value for shareholders invariably drops long term value. :(

It's not necessarily about "short term extractions of value". Sometimes you can't charge what quality costs because people won't pay it. In that case you have no choice but to compete in a lower quality tier.

> You'll see a Sears bankruptcy within 5 years.

Or it might be the most valuable company on the planet. Remember Apple in the 90s? They were lagging behind in technology, design and usability. Now look at Apple today.

Apple was never lacking in quality. Even in the 90s, what they did, they did well. Even at its lowest point, it was still respected as a desktop publishing platform.

> Apple was never lacking in quality.

Sorry, but I'm calling bs on that.

From Wikipedia [1]:

"At the time, the media viewed the problems with the PowerBook 5300 series as yet another example of Apple's decline.[4][5]"

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowerBook_5300

The Buffett Curse: Any comparisons to Warren Buffett will immediately result in disastrous investment performance.

In this case, hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert took control of Sears about 10 years ago, merged it with K-Mart, and 3 years ago installed himself as chairman and CEO. He's been selling off assets left and right to keep it afloat (real estate, Lands End, etc.)

Prior to this he had been compared to and called "the new Buffett" due to similar investment styles (if you squint real hard). Since then Sears has lost over 90% of its market value. Yikes.

For another example, see Bill Ackman, who has been absolutely slaughtered, and seems to be asking for more. It started almost immediately after Fortune put him on the cover with the slug line "Baby Buffett".

Wasn't this also a case of pretty spectacular mismanagement on CEO's part? I remember reading stuff like this: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-11/at-sears-..., it was rather fascinating. It seems from that that it wasn't just a case of overly rosy expectations.

Yeah, definitely. Smart investors with no management or operations experience install capable people as CEO, as Buffett has done on several occasions.

Arrogant investors seem to think, "running a business can't be that hard..."

> Arrogant investors seem to think, "running a business can't be that hard..."

Running a country can't be that hard...oh my god.

Indeed - Eddie Lampert seems to be very strongly driven by ideology instead of business.

> For another example, see Bill Ackman...

Guy Spier also comes to mind. He won the charity auction to have lunch with Buffett and wrote "Education of a Value Investor." You don't hear as much of him or Mohnish Pabrai after the Horsehead Holdings bankruptcy.

[1] http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/09/mohnish-pabrai-horsehead-ho...

They are currently fighting it out in the courts to not get their equity wiped out by creditors.

I actually really like Pabrai, and enjoyed his two books.

But I cannot figure out what he was doing in Horsehead. Three strikes: high debt, highly cyclical, commodity product. Any one of those would be a tough sell, but all three?

I thought after 2009 he learned his lesson with high debt companies, so I was really surprised to see him at it again. Not only to invest, but putting in such a high % of assets.

I thought I read his thesis had to do with Zinc prices. I like Pabrai too, but I'm so in awe of Buffett, and I can't get over that he turned Pabrai and Spier down for employment then turned around and hired Ted and Todd on the spot at their respective luncheons. I wonder, what did Buffett see that he didn't like in the former? Probably just a stupid bias on my part, but it makes you wonder...

I think it was similar to his shipping capacity play that made him a lot of money years before, where there was going to be a shortage of production once demand turned.

The part I don't get is with the debt load he was essentially betting on timing of a commodity price, and if you are going to do that you might as well just play in futures where the upside on a correct call is higher. The same setup with a lower debt load might make more sense, since there is no timeframe on the cycle turn and you can quietly wait for it (like he did with the shipping company).

I don't think Spier and Pabrai were trying to get jobs with him, although it could be they pretend now like they weren't, but they both were running their respective funds at the time.

My "relationship" with Buffett is like the proverbial parent / child relationship: first you think they can do anything, then you think they don't know that much, then you realize how much they really knew all along. It doesn't hurt that I made good money following him into IBM early this year after I sat down and tried putting together the pieces for myself.

The guy is packing some serious horsepower that I think is underestimated, even given that everyone knows he's super smart.

Someone like Buffet has an information advantage that 99.999% of people don't. And I don't mean insider trading. His businesses give him A LOT of information on trends, and his personal network as well. Plus his years of experience and savy. Make no mistake, he's go advantages over nearly everyone else, and knows how to use it.

Timing aside, the namesake for Berkshire Hathaway is actually a pretty striking parallel to Sears Holding and Lampert:

My first mistake, of course, was in buying control of Berkshire. Though I knew its business - textile manufacturing - to be unpromising, I was enticed to buy because the price looked cheap. Stock purchases of that kind had proved reasonably rewarding in my early years, though by the time Berkshire came along in 1965 I was becoming aware that the strategy was not ideal.

If you buy a stock at a sufficiently low price, there will usually be some hiccup in the fortunes of the business that gives you a chance to unload at a decent profit, even though the long-term performance of the business may be terrible. I call this the "cigar butt" approach to investing. A cigar butt found on the street that has only one puff left in it may not offer much of a smoke, but the "bargain purchase" will make that puff all profit.

Unless you are a liquidator, that kind of approach to buying businesses is foolish. First, the original "bargain" price probably will not turn out to be such a steal after all. In a difficult business, no sooner is one problem solved than another surfaces - never is there just one cockroach in the kitchen. Second, any initial advantage you secure will be quickly eroded by the low return that the business earns. For example, if you buy a business for $8 million that can be sold or liquidated for $10 million and promptly take either course, you can realize a high return. But the investment will disappoint if the business is sold for $10 million in ten years and in the interim has annually earned and distributed only a few percent on cost. Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.

You might think this principle is obvious, but I had to learn it the hard way - in fact, I had to learn it several times over. Shortly after purchasing Berkshire, I acquired a Baltimore department store, Hochschild Kohn, buying through a company called Diversified Retailing that later merged with Berkshire. I bought at a substantial discount from book value, the people were first-class, and the deal included some extras - unrecorded real estate values and a significant LIFO inventory cushion. How could I miss? So-o-o - three years later I was lucky to sell the business for about what I had paid. After ending our corporate marriage to Hochschild Kohn, I had memories like those of the husband in the country song, "My Wife Ran Away With My Best Friend and I Still Miss Him a Lot."


You are generally right, but there is one super key distinction: despite being a "bad" business, Berkshire was throwing of real hard cash, albeit in decreasing amounts. Buffett used that cash to invest in Washington Post and buy See's Candies, among other things. Buffett never let them do any serious reinvestment in the textile business.

Sears, on the other hand, has been a cash consumer, not producer. Just look at the FCF numbers from the past 10 years:

-2,175 -2,378 -1,657 -1,438 -681 -707 -311 1146 495 977 931

There was some money at the beginning, but not nearly enough to justify a $20B market cap.

If you want to be like Buffett, buying a dying business is a terrible place to start. It'd be like someone idolizing Steve Jobs, so they go get a woman pregnant then abandon the offspring.

disclaimer (both my sister and my mom worked for sears at one time)

I think Sears has lost its way because a new generation of shoppers don't see Sears as vital. Back in the late 1800' when it was founded the idea that you could look in a catalog and order something, only to pick it up at the store a week later was nothing short of a revolution. And as a result Sears because exquisitely good at logistics. For decades the ability to move product where it needed to be, when it needed to be there, at scale allowed Sears department stores to dominate the retail market. It was rare to go to Sear's and discover what you wanted was out of stock, and even then they could tell you to either come back in 1 or 2 days to pick it up, or they would deliver it to you. That service, that experience, was enabled and powered by logistics.

Old companies can get senile though and Sears did. They forgot they were a logistics company and started trying to compete with Internet retailers as a retail company. If instead they has offered white label logistics service for internet merchants Amazon wouldn't be Amazon, instead it would be a buying consortium that was shipping everything through to consumers through Sear's logistics infrastructure. Instead you've got Amazon of today re-creating what Sear's had 20 years ago but using more advanced technology.

> They forgot they were a logistics company

Sears was the Amazon of 80's. Peering through the lens of time, the concept of a mail order catalog was no different from the convenience of today's Amazon e-commerce experience. They are both points on an evolutionary timeline of the retail distribution experience. Sears disrupted retail, just like Amazon has disrupted Sears.

What's interesting about companies like today's Amazon is that they are scared shitless they'll end up becoming another Sears and eventually dead in the water, so they are constantly investing their own profits into re-inventing themselves (see Amazon Go and drone delivery for example). And hence why the PE ratios of these companies (Amazon, Google, Apple, etc) are catastrophically high.

The PE ratio of Amazon is catastrophically high (175.8) but Google & Apple are not.

The S&P 500's average PE ratio is currently 24.22 [1]. Google/Alphabet is a little higher than average at 27.9, and Apple is solidly in blue-chip territory 13.6

[1] http://www.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3021-peyield.html

>What's interesting about companies like today's Amazon like today's Amazon is that they are scared shitless they'll end up becoming another Sears

Let's wait until Amazon has been around for, oh let's say 100 years, before we talk about them "doing it better" than a company who has been around for 120+.

Funnily enough, we sell a lot on Amazon using sears for fulfilment (recently about 50k worth a month). I wish they'd partner officially, it would make stuff a lot easier. But even with the extra hassle of placing orders manually, they can offer better prices than Amazon on many items with enough room to make money.

Here's a relevant Reddit comment on Sears and Amazon: https://np.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/4hn9hh/til_in...

That comment/summary makes a good point about Walmart. Also not mentioned, is growing wealth disparity / shrinking middle class...

Anecdote: Recently I had a sears gift card number but not the actual gift card. Tried to buy vacuum in store with just the number not the card, and they said no way, even said they should call corporate security to investigate my scam. I went online to sears.com in the store, paid for my vacuum with the gift card number and selected in store pickup. Left with the vacuum.

For fun, you could buy a few more cards like that and see what kind of mess happens. Like what Steve Wozniak's does with his $2 bills (http://archive.woz.org/letters/general/78.html).

If you showed up to Cheesecake Factory and for the bill wrote your credit card number, expiration, and CVV on a napkin, do you think they would accept that? In all seriousness, how was that fun for you?

Straw man argument? Doing that doesn't sound fun at all, and is totally different than what OP was talking about in Sears. Trying to use the giftcard number to see how high their staff will escalate to deal with this "scam" is hilarious, otoh.

The difference is that when you place the order on the Internet, Sears can delay delivery if they discover fraud, and since they know the item is going, they stand a higher change of recovering from the fraudster later. If the fraud occurs in-store, they'll be much less likely to recover if they discover it after the fact.

When I see articles about how sears is now, I always think of this


Sears could have been what Amazon is today.

20/20 hindsight and all. Amazon still has practically no retail footprint. Sears' big business was bricks-and-mortar retailing, not catalog retailing. The catalog was shrinking and dying. Under the circumstances it was perfectly reasonable for Sears to shut down the catalog and focus on stores.

Also, Amazon did not start out being anything like what it is today. For years it was just books. I remember as they added departments, they would tack an extra tab onto the homepage--"CDs", "Video", etc. So what was Sears going to do? Instantly transport the entirety of a dying catalog business to a non-existing consumer Internet? That wouldn't parallel Amazon at all. Not to mention that Sears did not have access to a bunch of giddy investors who were willing to pump in money despite no sign of profitability.

Only under a superficial analysis could Sears have been what Amazon is today.

Many other large brick-and-mortar retailers have spun up relatively successful eComm businesses (Target, Walmart, Macy's). While those aren't to the scale of Amazon, I really don't think this is an excuse.

> While those aren't to the scale of Amazon

Since OP's point was

> Sears could have been what Amazon is today

it's quite relevant that Target, Walmart, Macy's are not nearly to the scale of Amazon.

Similarly (and probably off topic), Amazon is not nearly to the scale of Walmart when you look at overall sales. Walmart's overall revenue is about 5x.

It may seem like Walmart is following the footsteps of Sears, but they are not out of the game yet. They need to face the innovator's dilemma head on and do it quickly because the broader issue is their e-commerce growth rate is declining instead of accelerating and the way people shop is fundamentally changing. They need to be dominant in e-commerce to be a dominant retailer in the future.

Walmart is better positioned than anyone to take on Amazon online. Their massive distribution footprint is a huge asset they are not leveraging. They need to morph into a logistics company and announce an all-encompassing same-day delivery service. They also need to completely re-haul their web/mobile UX.

I would gladly buy from Walmart. Amazon is just a lot easier right now. In the end, Amazon is not all that differentiated and if Walmart had some strong technological leadership, they could certainly close the e-commerce gap.

walmart has a 2 day delivery program similar to prime for 40 dollars a year. they need to advertise better..no one knows (you didnt did you?)

Quiet ironically to this thread, Target for years was run by Amazon.com. Wasn't until 2011 IIRC that they went on their own. Similarly ToyRUs, marks and Spencer's also were at one point or another run by Amazon.

That explains why the search/filtering for products on Target's site was so terrible when I recently had to buy an item from there.

I don't think any transformation like that happens overnight, but you have to have a point of view on what the future will look like and then turn the ship towards it. A good example is Netflix. They did DVDs, won that battle but then turned a multi-billion dollar public company towards streaming. It wasn't easy, but the leadership was clear about what the future was and it reflected in the investments they made. Some other company or a combination of other companies would have been Netflix today if Netflix had failed to turn towards streaming.

> Sears' big business was bricks-and-mortar retailing, not catalog retailing.

Hardly - it was the logistics they had in place to power both of those.

> The catalog was shrinking and dying.

So was brick-and-mortar. Just not quite as fast. Jumping ship from the Titanic to the Exxon Valdez is not a long term strategy.

This is an incredible historical account. Thanks for posting the link.

>Sears could have been what Amazon is today.

How many companies that existed pre-Sears could have been what Sears was, but weren't? This is business.

Ha I just thought/posted the same thing!

"could" is used 100 times on that page.

Every time I read something about Sears troubles, it makes me remember this metafilter comment from 2007: http://www.metafilter.com/62394/The-Record-Industrys-Decline...


"...In 1984 [Sears] starts a joint venture with IBM called Prodigy, an online computer service, sort of a prototype AOL. In 1985, Sears launches a new major credit card, the Discover card. For the next eight years, the only credit card you can use at Sears is Discover.

At this time, the early 80's Sears is the largest retailer in the U.S.

By 1993, the 100th anniversary of the Sears Catalog, Sears had built up considerable goodwill in the mind of consumers. They weren't the lowest price, but they had what you needed at good prices and the service was second to none. […]

This is 1993. In quite possibly the greatest example of corporate shortsightedness, Sears shut down it's mail-order business in a cost cutting measure. It spins off Allstate that same year, and soon dumps Dean Witter and Coldwell Banker.

In 1993, Sears had the most extensive and sophisticated mail-order retail operation on the planet and they closed it.

Two years later, Amazon.com launched, and was soon selling everything that sears sold through it's catalog. By the late-90's Walmart's push of low-cost China imports killed Sears retailing. Online banking takes off. Credit card use surges as mail order and retail purchases are shifted online.

Sears had its own computer network in 1993. They had access to IBM, they should have understood the power of the internet. All they had to do was shift the catalog online instead of killing it off, promising in store returns and the same Sears satisfaction guaranteed. Discover could have been the credit card of choice for security and protection online. Dean Witter could have been what Schwab, E-Trade and Ameritrade became. Back in the mid-late 90s when many people were hesitant to use credit cards online, Sears could have been a familiar face online."

When sears killed their lifetime guarantee on wrenches, the local competition put an aquarium in their tool section. Throw in a "useless" sears wrench and you could pick up a free replacement with a life time guarantee. Seemed pretty effective, the clerk claimed they had to empty the aquarium every week or so for the first year.

Recently shopped at Sears in Vancouver. Zero to no customer activity. No good deals but also virtually no one helping me check the fuck out of there.

Waited hours only to see the fucking cashier or staff chatting it up with each other with a line queue forming.

Same experience in The Bay. I think these traditional marts are on their way out. I have zero sympathy, kill this fucking monstrosity.

Shopping at Sears was a depressing experience for years. They really let the stores fall apart, employees clearly didn't care, the products were crap, etc. I think they made most of their money off Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances.

Think Sears is bad, try KMart.

It's like something out of Mad Max. I had the misfortune of popping into one on the way to the airport for a vacation, after I realized I hadn't brought a watch. I swear there were tumbleweeds blowing down the aisles. While I was waiting to check out, I watched a toothless young lady harangue the cashier into selling her several sets of Boston Bruins towels that were clearly marked as $19.99 for $5 apiece. The cashier brought her manager over to doublecheck, shoulders were shrugged, and zero fucks were given. As I was leaving, a befuddled elderly lady was trying to return items she'd bought at a TJ Maxx. There was no TJ Maxx in this strip mall, nor within five miles. I got the hell out of there with my cheap wristwatch and resolved never to return.

The most anachronistic part of this comment is the wristwatch.

KMart was always udown market, which is why they took the Sears name (which historically had some associations with quality) for the merged entity when KMart bought Sears.

Shop smart, shop SMart.

They had a pretty good sale on men's shoes a few months ago so got some new ones. It is dead quiet though, and hard to track down staff, and looks like crap

I work right next to a Sears. I've tried to buy things a couple times and it's always a huge pain. I almost always have to wait or hunt down someone to check me out, they often get confused at the process, they ask me for irrelevant things like my phone number and email address to sign me up for stuff I don't want. The process just takes way too long when it's obvious I'm in a hurry to leave.

It seems like they won't even give a shit if people just walked out with the merchandise without paying.

You know things are bad when this is the type of news that boosts your stock price by 5%.

I kinda forgot they were still in business. What does Sears offer that no one else does?

Maybe Craftsman hand tools, but that's it. Those are well made, and the socket wrenches are lifetime warrantied (they will fail, but they will just give you a new one). Craftsman power tools are garbage; might as well get them at Harbor Freight.

We always bought appliances from sears, but recently the refrigerator was from Lowes, and the microwave and oven from Amazon.

They don't stock appliances (very long waits for refrigerators) and the sales people can be horrible. The fridge we bought recently sight unseen, online.

The checkout process at Sears is fully fucked up. A convoluted connection of iPads, credit card swipers, and ancient IBM registers.

Best Buy also sucks, so it's not like they have much local competition.

I swore I'd never buy a large appliance from Amazon, but the in-wall oven was just fine, and I installed it no problem. If you can do your own appliance installations, I suppose online is the way to go.

Sears is a jack of all trades store that doesn't have much value these days. Before Home Depot and Lowes were everywhere, Sears was a good option for appliances, lawn care, power tools, etc. They were good for fitness equipment before Dicks. They were good for electronics before Best Buy. I suspect a place like Kohls took over their clothing audience as well.

Of course the internet didn't help them much either.

I'm sure someone will gladly buy up Craftsmen when it goes up for sale but I agree with you that it's their only exclusive asset that sets them apart.

Sears died for me when the internet replaced the catalog.

As a kid, we'd spend literally hours pouring over the Sears Catalog to circle christmas/b-day gifts (each kid with a different color pen), and we'd actually fight each other to get to it first.

That culture doesn't really exist anymore, and Sears really didn't adapt to it. Amazon would be the modern version, I guess.

The Sears catalog and the JC Penney Christmas catalogs. Such an amazing time of year.

I still get a bit of a thrill from the Quadratec and Cabelas catalogs, but nothing on par with that. It was really the best.

My first Nintendo came from that Sears Christmas Catalog :)

Someone may buy Craftsman, but all they'll get is a name. It's a house brand Sears puts on tools that are manufactured by a number of other companies, and whoever buys the name will need to make sure those business relationships continue. It probably wouldn't be easy.

Craftsman used to be a good name, now it's just the same (or worse) house-brand tools you can buy at any big box retailer.

I have a 20+ year old Craftsman socket set that I use regularly... then a couple years ago I bought a new set for a project at work -- I broke one of the sockets within 2 days trying to loosen a tight fastener, and then the snap-ring that holds the socket head together came out a week later (not sure if it broke, or somehow worked itself out, I never found it), and the socket head fell apart.

Sears did refund my purchase price, no questions asked, but I'm no longer buying Craftsman.

Last time I broke a ratchet, they gave me a rebuilt one that they had under the counter in a box.

You can buy Craftsman at other stores:


They also stopped going out of their way to honor the warranty.

They killed the lifetime guarantee on tools.

Hand Tools still have a lifetime warranty

Power Tools and Specialty Tools have limited time warranties

And killed the only reason to go in there.

When I bought my house, I had to buy some appliances... fridge, washer / dryer, etc. I bought them at Sears because my Dad said, "If you ever have a problem, Sears will make it right..." So anyway fast forward a bit... everything was delivered by contractors (not Sears employees) and Sears did nothing to remedy the situation when one of the appliances (a dishwasher) was installed poorly and leaked because they bolted it in on the sides and stretched the frame out. Something like 50 emails with photos and calls, and Sears did sent a new dishwasher but didn't schedule an installation... so I had an extra dishwasher sitting in my living room and was told I couldn't do the install myself or it would void Sear's warranty of the work... like 3 months this crap went on. I finally just said fuck it, installed the other dishwasher myself and since they never came back to pick up the old dishwasher I left it on the curb for large item trash day. Total debacle.

When I bought a new oven, I bought it from Costco.

If you paid with a credit card, a lot of them will do a chargeback if you didn't get what you paid for. Worth asking about.


Please comment civilly and substantively on HN or not at all.


I don't understand this comment at all.

They still have prime commercial real estate but that's it.

Ehhh. The local Sears here is in a mall with two empty anchors already. I don't think anyone is clamoring for that third anchor location.

They need to streamline the stupid checkout process where you get hammered with incessant questions and wait for 3-feet of receipts to print out.

incessant questions

You mean like "do you want to apply for a credit card?"?

There's a reason for that. The associate gets $2 for every store credit card and $4 for every bank credit card sign-up. It's a big deal to a kid making $10/hr. But it certainly doesn't help the overall experience for those people who don't want another credit card.

I'm glad they get a commission on those. Unlike the poor folks at Best Buy who get nothing for upselling the worthless warranty extensions. I last asked a few years ago so this may have changed.

And they phased out their catalog. If they had waited a few years, they could have put it online and been Amazon. Reminds me of a smaller chain called Service Merchandise. You could order from an electronic kiosk in the store, and your product would come out on a conveyor belt a few minutes later. If they had hung in a bit longer, they could have phased the kiosk ordering to the internet.

> a few minutes later

If you were lucky.

Sears mostly has a big marketing issue. I almost never see them online. No online advertising. No social media. Nothing to show they are at all connected to the real world. My guess is they are still doing TV adverts and I think a lot of people do not watch traditional TV anymore and it is costing them mind share.

They are waiting for you to come to the mall so they can engage in personal face to face selling.

Isn't this that CEO who actually believes in Ayn Rand?

He is.

I remember reading that article some times ago : https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-11/at-sears-...

It has been posted a few time to HN.

>believes in Ayn Rand?

Ayn Rand is a real thing.

Such a shame really. I get how they were blind to it, but sears ran a successful mail order business for decades before the Internet was widely available. What a missed opportunity, usurped by a clever computer tech from the fincial industry. Even when it was clear books were working, sears sat on the sidelines with their print catalog oblivious to the online world.

It breaks my heart what this guy Eddie Lampert did to this company. I used to work as a consultant for Sears and have fond memories of my time then.

Sears was, for as long as I know them, been mismanaged by their executives. They would spend insane money to hire consultants and developers, only to change direction after less then a year and fire everyone.

I didn't know for sure they were still in business.

Who shops at Sears? For what reason?

This is genius! They won't have to pay taxes for the next 20 years! Brilliant!

If I had a crystal ball and could look into Amazon and Sears's respective C-Suites, this is what I imagine I'd see:

Amazon Manager to subordinate: How is the progress going on our new jet and drone fleets?

Sears Manager to subordinate: Why the HELL aren't our website sales up?!?!

All you're describing here is how effective Amazon's marketing department is.

I don't think they bought a fleet of jets for marketing. My point is about their respective cultures. Amazon's culture is just flat out better.

Amazon just entered the retail grocery business. When they did it, they looked at the process and noticed that in the existing process everyone was double handling merchandise. Once when they select it, and once when they checkout. So Amazon decided to make it a single handling process, making life a bunch easier for consumers. That also decreases purchase friction, which is great for Amazon.

That thought process illustrates why Amazon is the leader and will continue to humble it's rivals. It will take a huge culture change, and a probable industry consolidation before the likes of Sears will become competitive again.

Underestimating on the grocery thing. Handle each can of beans

   taking from the shelf to the cart
   from cart to checkout belt
   from belt to bag (ok they help with this one)
   from bag to car (several at once)
   from car to counter in pantry
   from bag to shelf
and later

   from pantry shelf to kitchen counter
   from kitchen counter to trash/recycle bin
   from bin to curb
Taking just one of those out is not much benefit, marginally?

> I don't think they bought a fleet of jets for marketing.

I think their point was that the reason you think Amazon's culture and competency are so strong is due to marketing and isn't the truth. I have no idea if this is actually true or not though.

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