They threw it all away, ending catalog operations in 1993 a year before Amazon.com opened in 1994. They owned part of Prodigy in 1984! Yet somehow thought it was a better move to expand into bigger box retail. Anyone remember The Great Indoors from 1997? It was going to have huge potential.
What a waste.
The reason Amazon is successful is not because you can shop online (from a catalog) and receive items in the mail. The reason Amazon is successful is because you can do those things and receive your items within two days. Before Prime existed, Amazon had very quick fulfillment, and after Prime two-day it became even better.
The Sears catalog ended in 1993 but the Sears Wish Book continued to exist after that. In 1999 I remember ordering something from the Wish Book required 3 weeks to receive the item. If they didn't have the desire to improve that, then they would never have become Amazon.
> If anything, Sears was the worst positioned to become Amazon. What they had was just completely wrong and more of a burden than a benefit. Had they tried to retool with their massive catalog it likely would have been a disaster. Amazon had a real benefit starting small with just books which let them learn the ropes on the cheap. 
I think this is especially relevant here on HN because it shows how startups are required to solve problems. For many problems, a behemoth company has no reason to improve, and a lean startup can rush to a solution faster in many cases.
The reason why Amazon was successful early on was selection and pricing. They had _everything_ rather than the generally limited selection most people had from local stores and the pricing, especially for things like technical books or genre publications, was often very favorable. Yes, some people lived in major cities with awesome bookstores but for most of us in suburbia the selection was what the local supermarket / drugstore carried or a non-trivial drive.
Amazon was 40% less than list for books -- which was a massive amount, even if you lived in Barnes & Noble markets (and B&N wasn't as pervasive in 1996/1997 as your average mall bookstore was), where there were similar markdowns.
And of course, you could get any book you wanted from Amazon.
And then Amazon very quickly moved into media like CDs and DVDs. I used to order DVDs from various online retailers in the late 1990s and although Amazon wasn't my go-to in 1999/2000 (there were plenty of startups that sold at ridiculous losses and coupons that 16 year old me took advantage of), I appreciated their selection -- not to mention the gift certificates.
I think a lot of us forget that Amazon wasn't the only big e-tailer in the late 90s, it's just the one that survived. There were lots and lots of bigger and smaller places that straight up went out of business after the .com crash, but Amazon, despite taking a massive beating, survived.
Price was a huge reason for its success -- but I agree with others who point out that Sears and other incumbents had a chance to take them on, if not on price, than on selection and speed, way earlier than they did.
Instead, many businesses chose to partner with Amazon (Borders, Toys R Us) for a time, to their ultimate detriment.
In 1996, Mom had been screwed over by phone reps for CompuServe's attempt at a true ISP stealing her credit card to order shit from Tiger Direct (told you this was a 1990s story) and was leery about anything online for years after that (and Tiger Direct was technically a mail-order catalog but it had a website).
But you're right that eBay and Amazon were two of the earliest trusted, in part because they were the two biggest/first to market. (And also, both proved themselves to be trustworthy, which was important in the age of fly-by-night e-tailers).
The same is true for PayPal.
By contrast I refuse to send my credit card number in an email or post it on a non-SSL site.
Guess which way I’ve only ever had my credit card number stolen?
This so much. I remember people's fear of filling in their Credit Card info online. And people who thought sharing Uber with a Stranger would be a no no.....
How time changes.
Furthermore, it's easy to forget just how hard it could be to track down even an in-print book and how long it could take to actually get your hands on it. Some big city bookstores were better but, in many cases, (assuming the bookstore would special order books at all), it would basically be put into the next batch order from a publisher which might be a month or two.
The crazy thing was, once the semester was nearing the end, we'd pack up all the unsold books (some classes had many unsold books) and ship them back to the publisher, at a significant loss from what I remember.
The student union was run independently from the university as a non-profit and was running a big deficit. However, the office people upstairs had humongous 24 inch CRT monitors, ones that surely cost a pretty penny. In 1998, 17 inch CRT sold for nearly a thousand dollars. I just looked it up. But I digress.
Above reasons contributed to quite a bit of the books not getting sold.
But yeah, I had to uncrate the dang books, and a few weeks later, crate the same books to ship back to publishers.
I bet I'm one of the very few of the student body who learned how to work with Pallet trucks.
But even for pure list, Amazon didn't pay sales tax so had a 5-8% advantage.
Amazon killed all the technical bookstores in short order because of that pricing advantage that they didn't deserve.
To a certain extent the price didn't matter much because it was the only way to buy a lot of books.
Perhaps on certain things like accessories- IE cables that stores normally had huge margins on- you could find generic equivalents for cheaper prices, but not in a general case.
Until maybe 2009 or so, it was always about selection. I spent a good portion of the 2000s using their recommended book list to figure out what I was going to read next, and when I was almost done with my current book, giving my self a ~5 day lead time to order the next, because that's about how long it generally took. It was an easy tradeoff to make, since a few clicks was a lot less effort than going to a store. I was also reading a lot of somewhat specific programming books in those days that weren't carried by most stores.
One other neat thing was international availability — Amazon.co.uk had Terry Pratchett books months ahead of the US release, so I could read them at the same time when people on Usenet were.
Eventually book stores started to create their own websites but by then it was too little too late.
Toys R Us did this too and as a result, never built a really solid e-commerce strategy. In fact, when Toys R Us left Amazon in 2006 (after years of litigation to get out of the contract) , it had the unenviable position of being behind from a tech perspective in a massive way. Not only that, the experience was considerably worse than it had been under Amazon.
Knew a couple other folks at Borders, and visited them at work a couple of times. Borders was just clueless at tech, and BN was starting to take a lead in tech, which helped them with sales a lot more.
It's my opinion that The Dot Com Crash is what created Amazon.
I worked in Redmond Washington during the crash, and there were thousands of people who lost their jobs due to that. I knew so many people who were struggling to find work.
This was Y2K, when Seattle wasn't the tech powerhouse it is today. T-Mobile didn't exist, Google hadn't opened any offices in Washington, and tech companies were failing left and right.
I think that the crash gave Amazon an opportunity to hire people. There was a lot of talented people out of work.
Arguably, this may also explain why T-Mobile has become so huge. I worked there before they were T-Mobile, and I can remember how tiny we were. You could fit our entire operations team into a conference room.
Nowadays, T-Mobile is HUGE and I think a lot of that may be a combination of geography and timing. In 2003, Sprint was bigger than T-Mobile, but they're based in Kansas and the Seattle area just has a much larger pool of engineers to support a company like that.
I suppose the lesson is that there is a lot of value in being a distributor as I also know someone who is a part owner of a brewery and he says the same thing.
The two main mall bookstore chains (Waldenbooks and B. Dalton) were, despite keeping their names, owned by and integrated with Borders and B&N respectively by the time Amazon existed.
Amazon itself seems to have forgotten this; reviews used to be very useful, but either they're not trying very hard to combat fake reviews or they're not up to the challenge, because they're almost useless now for big-ticket items.
Yeah, 'big ticket' wasn't the right word; probably I meant 'commodity'. I meant to exclude things like reviews of obscure books, which sellers apparently usually don't bother trying to game, since they seem to be reasonably reliable (at least, last time I checked, which was a while ago …).
That's not to say that Amazon didn't execute well. And their selection was excellent. It's just really easy to compete on price when your checkout total is 5+% cheaper than an in-state competitor even when the items were priced the same. Of course, this only applies to states that levy a sales tax, but that's still a large portion of the US.
Setting that aside, my point was Amazon had a built-in price advantage that brick & mortar retailers did not. Use tax really should have been the normalizing force there, but no one declares it and it's hard to enforce. So, all things being equal, consumers would shop where they could realize a price savings. The story of brick & mortar retailers transitioning to e-commerce is more nuanced than some titan resistant to change being taken out at the knees by some peppy up and comer. Amazon was quite aware of this and fought very hard against any change in rules regarding collection of sales tax.
There were several popular books written on the subject of Amazon's customer service model (or ones that used them as a key example to their thesis) that were written long before Amazon ever offered prime and even before they really started taking off. The Amazon of the mid-00's was a major player, but still small enough that they had to differentiate themselves from competitors (at the time) like Ebay and Newegg. Outside of selling media (books, CDs, DVDs, games etc), Amazon's inventory was still mostly limited to the kinds of goods one could also find on those sites (clothing, accessories, electronics) which had them stuck competing on price. What eventually began separating Amazon from the pack was the fact that they would go to extraordinary lengths to take care of the customer. Their return policies were why I stopped shopping exclusively on price well before Prime became a thing as the confidence that I could teturn an item in reasonable condition (as in I could still return something after discovering a flaw after opening it) for free (in almost all reasonable circumstances) and without having to do anything more than print a label and drop the box back by a UPS pickup location was a gamechanger in building my confidence in online retail. It was to the point that making s return with Amazon was easier than making a return to a store and thar was the edge they needed to convince consumers fo choose Amazon over not only other online retailers, but ohysical stores as well.
The rise of 2 day Prime shipping undoubtedly fueled their exponential growth and made Amazon what it is today. However, I doubt they would have ever had the ability to build the infrastructure needed to make Prime work if it wasn't for the initial wave of consumers becoming loyal customers due to their reputation for customer service.
Keep in mind, his long term goal is to put people on other planets. So he's definitely playing the long game. Blue Origin is a huge factor here.
In this case, the thing that made Amazon so great, before Prime existed, was that it had the "Things you might also like" section.
AFAIK it was one of the first online stores that used machine learning to recommend new and related items you didn't realize you wanted and to have user ratings for each item.
It was especially powerful for books/movies/music just due to the sheer volume of different titles that makes it hard to find new content you might like.
There are a lot of retailers that had the logistics and infrastructure for online sales, but the kind of marketing that Amazon did for up-selling was wholly new and something that could only be done online. So even if Sears could do it, it wasn't obvious back then to anyone that they should do it or how to do it.
Even now, the Walmart and Target web stores recommendations are just ok compared to Amazon. Even eBay seems less comprehensive in its recommendations.
I know why they got rid of it - and Amazon has this problem all over the place, but some products just sit, while others, with really no difference just fly off the shelves.
But if you just bought 1984 for example, there's a good chance you'd also want to buy WE, Brave New World, Erewhon, etc. The algorithm made sense for the book store, but it makes less sense for the "Everything Store".
My recommendations right now have seven separate ten-dollar tire valve extenders, two screen protectors from the same brand (only one of which is for my phone- and that one I already bought!), a $1,000 drone i accidentally clicked an ad for last week, two more screen protectors from other brands, four Qi chargers, and five cases for my phone (I already purchased a case for my phone through Amazon).
Instead, the thing that got me to use Amazon was that it provided you with access to a long tail of books—and later, other stuff.
Bookstores and record stores did do "special orders", but there was a lot of friction in the process. You'd have to find out about the book, visit the store (twice!), and if what you wanted was even available, you would wait a few weeks for your order to be bundled in with the next shipment from the publisher.
Amazon removed all of that—and the reviews even made it less risky. Want to read the next book in a series? Check out the reviews and if you want it, done deal! Need some obscure technical title? It'll be AT YOUR HOUSE next week.
When I was much younger (pre-teens and teens), I was a voracious reader and would spend a lot of time at the library. But even there, I would mostly stick to the long-running series that I knew well, or prolific authors that I knew I liked.
Some places feel "well-curated": they may not have a ton of books, but it seems like the books they do have were carefully chosen. Maybe there are "theme" collections (local authors, ghost stories for grownups, Russian authors", etc) or well-read staff members making recommendations. I love browsing these places.
Other places seem to go with the "pile of books" approach. There's a lot of them, roughly organised ('fiction') and many of them are obvious tat ('Lose Weight the Dr. Oz Way' or something. I find it easy to leave these places without buying anything.
I'd really be interested in a graph that showed some growth metric like revenue or number of orders plotted against a timeline of when Amazon introduced certain features. I remember seeing one for Facebook that was really illuminating.
These days I find the recommendations pretty useless and have a slightly different opinion of buying products there just to help out the company.
That's generally not a useful bias to base beliefs off of :)
Before shopping at Amazon ramping up, right around 2000, I remember Sears logistics starting to break down with kafkaesque calls into Sears service and parts departments. I guess the point is, I think the decline of Sears mostly had to do with internal complexity and breakdown of effective management than anything directly to do with Amazon.
My mother, back in the late-nineties came to me one day and told me how she had figured out how to get stuff from the jcpenny and sears "even faster". Because she could just search Amazon, "and they actually deliver it to me by the end of the week!"
"I bet you thought they only sold books right? It's something new they have!" yada yada yada blah blah blah. She was pretty proud of herself to be telling me about the new stuff on the web, but I digress. Point is, she was like a kid in a brand new candy store. Only a candy store that sold toys and video games too, and opened up across the street from the kid's house.
My own conclusion reading this is that Amazon was just highly competent across the board. They were online in the mid-90s. They were quick with shipping (eventually, if not right at launch). They were competitive on pricing. They quickly had a huge inventory. They had the "you might also like..." algorithm that's impossible to get from a print magazine. They had online reviews. They offered Prime in 2005.
Their stores were also a hodgepodge of junk all randomly mixed, and they never made their store a desirable place to stroll.
I think it requires something very special for an organization to accept to canibalize itself. Apple is the only exemple that I would see at a behemoth scale.
But most of these issues are plaguing every other major site. Ads that stick with you for days and days whatever site you look at are becoming the norm.
No ec site review system can be trusted in my opinion, they are usually way to easy to game. For anything that actually matters reputable and dedicated review sites end up to be the most useful.
Different sellers and different price are fine to me, it actually helps to mitigate the knock off issues in my experience.
All in all amazon has degraded a lot in these aspects, but I feel the whole industry took the dive and don’t see competing retailers coming up with fresh ideas.
How are they doing?
Other things I've stopped buying from Amazon are the frequently-counterfeited categories of items (USB chargers, etc etc). I'll just go to Microcenter or Walmart or wherever local whose supply chain I have more faith in.
Agreed that Sears never moved much beyond the 1970s in store layouts and merchandise display/organization.
Sears died because Eddie Lampert spent years systematically looting the company. If not for Lampert's dismanagement , Sears would be in roughly the same position as other department stores like Macy's or JCPenney. Yeah, sure, they're not doing super great, and Amazon is kicking their asses, but they're still keeping their heads above water.
 Sic. I'm trying to coin a neologism here. Dismanagement is to mismanagement as disinformation is to misinformation. Mismanagement and misinformation come from incompetence; dismanagement and disinformation come from malice.
I've seen “malmanagement” used the way you seem to be trying to set up “dismanagement”, by analogy to the distinction between misfeasance and malfeasance. (Dictionaries seem to view it as a simple synonym of “mismanagement”, though.)
Pretty much. Jurvetson calls it the luxury of being a new entrant. It's very hard to steer the Titanic away from an iceberg.
Admittedly, that was only part of it: there was some mismanagement behind Sega's decline too. Actually, you could say the same thing about Sears: the final nail in their coffin wasn't Amazon learning from Sears's lessons but rather Eddie Lampert's deliberately and systematically looting the company over a period of several years. If not for Lampert, Sears would just be another Macy's.
This is 50% of the thesis of The Innovator's Dilemma, the book that introduced MBAs to the the word "disruption".
The other half if why this happens to behemoth companies, which is that they are listening to their customers. In this case, the customers are those who are OK with waiting 3 weeks and would just like a wider selection or lower prices. People who would but if delivery were faster by definition aren't customers.
Startups have to address the non-customers because otherwise they'd have to pry them away from their existing supplier -- generally a much tougher task.
When I lived in the UK, I discovered retail shop hours at 9 to 5, except Thursday and Saturday when you have to fight crowds. Also, things were more expensive. So Amazon won again.
All the monopoly complaints aside, the rest of the retail world doesn't compete very well.
I bet when Amazon's fulfillment speed was brought up as a competitive advantage, the Sears execs looked at some spreadsheets, did some calculations, and said, "This is stupid. They're losing a ton of money shipping stuff so fast. They won't get far before some adults take over and force them to smarten up."
Amazon started as purely a book store in 1994 and stayed that way for a good while; it was not immediately obvious to sell every damn thing imaginable. Bezos was cautious about what to try selling online. In 1998 they announced they would move beyond books, but without specific.
Amazon did not turn a profit until 2001; they really took it on the nose in the beginning, and had to weather the dot com bust.
Before Amazon expanded into things other than books, the site most known for that was eBay. In popular culture, every meme and joke about anyone buying or selling anything online was about eBay for the longest time.
It used to be the place where you could get anything for a good price in 2 days and trust the quality.
Now the selection is getting iffy in favor of house brands, Prime has a ton of strings attached (add-on, pantry, now) if it's offered at all, Amazon delivery is awful, the prices aren't nearly as good as they used to be, reviews are mostly fake, and you have to work to avoid knockoffs.
Most people I know have dropped Prime and significantly reduced their orders. They haven't stopped entirely, but it seems to be more of a "Wal-Mart" in their minds - a quick and easy necessary evil, not something they particularly enjoy.
It probably doesn't signify their decline yet, but it certainly seems to be a new stage in their lifecycle.
Whoever thought the operational cost reductions of "commingling" was worth the loss of trust in the Amazon.com was wrong in my opinion. I think people with disposable income would rather pay a little extra to guarantee they get a legitimate product, and it's not hard to google the model number or product name and select from Target or Lowes or Best Buy.
> "Amazon is not too big to fail ... In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail," Bezos reportedly said when addressing a question about Sears recently going bankrupt. "Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years."
> "If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end ... We have to try and delay that day for as long as possible."
I spent about $9,000 on Amazon across 139 orders in 2018. I buy a lot on Amazon. I've never had a problem with receiving knockoff products. I don't understand how this can be such a prevalent issue when I've not run into it, given how much I use Amazon.
The only thing I can think is that, if I'm buying something expensive, I'll strictly only purchase items "Sold by: Amazon.com Services, Inc" or alternatively, I'll use a marketplace seller if the seller is the manufacturer of the item I'm buying.
If you are trying to avoid counterfeits, that's not really helpful, since the problem with counterfeits is magnified by commingling, by which items sold by Amazon itself, and FBA sellers that do not opt-out of it are mixed and orders fulfilled with goods that may have been sourced by any of the sellers.
Most users don't think to check for that, though. I know my mother-in-law doesn't...
But I still buy laptops and other electronics from Amazon.
But, if i order from an account without prime, they wait 11 days to ship, thus giving me 12 day delivery (just within their promised 2 weeks). If i order from an account with prime, it alternates between next day and two days.
Editing to add:
Last order without prime, Dec 28. “Shipped” yesterday (usps shows it arriving to them at 4:35 this morning from amazon, out for delivery today).
There was an article  from 2017 about USPS couriers lying about packages being delivered to keep up their Amazon delivery statistics. This routinely happened to me.
UPS/USPS do great in my area, while if it's Amazon or FedEx I'll get it a week from never.
After 3-4 packages arrived a week or so late because of the same issues, they finally blacklisted amazon delivery. Since then, it’s been usps.
Google may have a strong position driven by search, but disruption will come for them, too.
that's quite a leap. and i don't see how that follows from what you've said.
Cannot succeed without both.
This can't be understated, and is something a lot of new companies don't understand. If people know your brand and trust your company, they will hand you money.
Anecdata: My parents were massive Sears loyalists. When they bought an appliance, my father researched the various GE models, then bought the Kenmore version. When he wanted a video game console, he researched and decided he wanted an Atari 2600. Then he went out and bought the Sears Tele-Games version.
Half of their house addition was built with Sears products. If Sears had a lumber yard, it would have been closer to 90%.
The difference between Walmart and Sears through is that Walmart pushes manufacturers to build the cheapest possible product so their versions are worse rather than better then the manufacturer's own branded products.
In a way, they did.
I wonder if there is some sort of design trademark on them. I would love to build a house like these in Australia.
They could well have done more optimizations with time... but they had no interest in the internet, and felt the web would be just another fad after Prodigy failed.
I knew it was the beginning of the end for Sears when they shutdown their catalog division and call centers. Just as the internet was ramping up and mail order was going to become huge.
We're talking two decade of basically no profits. Risk free rate of profit (ie, bonds) was something like 5% for a lot of that period, although there is obviously a lot more to consider. This is longer than long term from an investment standpoint - compare it to jobs who took Apple from "return the money to shareholders" to "most profitable company in the world" in a bit more than a decade.
I get the impression from Sears and other big companies that lose their way that they become the playgrounds of big management egos that want to leave a mark and get written about in business publications, whether or not their ideas work.
And you can't operate a mega-chain on premium customer service since the average customer shops on price or convenience.
Department stores have been dying for a long time.
I've never understood this line of thinking. I worked in engineering at Sears, and I left the company in 2000. So I was there when Amazon was getting big, and I quit Sears to go work for a company in Redmond Washington.
Sears just didn't have the engineering manpower. When I'd wander around the Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates, I saw tons of people working on marketing, clothing, and advertising. There weren't a whole lot of people working on the Sears website.
From my perspective, in 1999 our engineering team was mostly concerned with whether the cash registers worked (Sears was ahead of the curve when it comes to the sophistication of their registers) and whether customer service worked (we had over five thousand customer service representatives working out of a series of Regional Credit Card Operation Centers AKA RCCOCs.)
Competing with Amazon isn't trivial; even in 1999 Amazon employed thousands of people.
More importantly, Amazon lost a ton of money to get where it is today. In 1999, Amazon lost something like thirty cents on every dollar that they sold.
As someone who actually worked at Sears, it's inconceivable to me that Sears could have stomached the idea of losing that kind of money. And I don't see any scenario where they'd make the kind of investment in people, even if they could find them.
Is there anything people don't buy online these days?
Clothes -- I like to try them on first.
Tools -- I like to see if they are well made and how they feel in my hand. Photos on a website don't provide this.
Food -- I want to check produce and meat before I buy it. And it's easier to stop at shops I'm passing on my way home anyway.
Household supplies -- I don't want to deal with disposing of shipping boxes, styrofoam peanuts and air pillow packs for stuff I can just grab off the shelf at the local Target.
Big-ticket items (appliances, furniture, etc) -- I want a local business standing behind the product and the warranty.
Stuff I buy online are typically things like books (no local bookstores anymore) and odd items that are hard to find locally (like the mic/audio splitter cable my kid needed for his X-box controller).
Even for clothes, yes offline stores do give us the ability to ability to try, but online offers more choices, colours, fabrics, sizes and brands than any one physical clothes store could possibly offer, so I do think online has an edge.
The cost is usually covered by the manufacturer, but the local retailer is usually a point of service.
I will say, I try to never buy monitors online... I've just experienced too many that die prematurely and would rather have someplace I can take back to the same day. My current monitor is actually a 42" UHD TV. I had bought a monitor in that size (40") but it was DOA, and didn't want to wait the round-trip for a replacement. Not the first time I've had monitors die young either. At least they don't weigh over 70 pounds anymore.
Tons of stuff. [ADDED: e-commerce is 10% of retail in the US.] Ironically, especially in the categories that Sears was best known for selling. Major appliances, lawn equipment, home improvement generally, (to a lesser degree) clothes.
I had an electrician come out and look at it. He opined that, due to the way the house was wired, it would be a pretty major undertaking to fix the underlying problem. So I just went along with turning lights off when I cooked.
I finally sold the house, but couldn't pass this problem off to the next owner.
The only place I could find that still sold a microwave so old and feeble that it wouldn't overload my circuit, was Sears.
Thank you Sears! Hopefully I will never need that again, but I am thankful for your help.
As someone who's had his share of problems passed on to him when buying a house, I'd like to know (1) how the next owner found out about the problem and (2) how they managed to strong-arm you into fixing it.
All of my Christmas presents this year were bought on Amazon and delivered direct to my family who live 400 miles away within a day of me ordering them.
Even some of the categories of things other people have listed as things people don't buy online are things I do buy online. Tools for example, if I'm buying something to get a job done I'll pick up something from the catalogue type stores (Screwfix / Toolstation in the UK). On the other hand if I'm buying a decent tool to last I'll pick it out online, usually after reading and watching reviews, and then looking around to find the cheapest price for the exact model.
I was buying a pair of trainers for my partners Christmas. She picked them out on a big department stores website. I went to the store and they didn't keep them in stock. I tried 3 other stores in one of the UKs largest shopping centres and they didn't have them in her size. I tried another shop in a different part of town which didn't have them and finally gave up and ordered them on Amazon. They arrived 2 days later (this only a week before Christmas).
I know you said "supply chain", but do Sears really have much presence outside the US?
I'm asking because I never heard of Sears before coming to the US. Might not be zero (I find there is Sears in Mexico at least), but definitely not strong compared to Walmart, Carrefour, etc.
Depends how you count it. Sears Canada had about double the number of stores per capita as Sears USA. By the end, they were mostly a separate corporate entity from Sears USA, and shuttered all their stores over a year ago.
Not sure Uniqlo should count though, lots of similar brands in fashion have massive global operation (H&M etc.).
That said, Sears could have stuck around for many more years with better management and not being sucked dry by wall street.
This is why I’m so fascinated to see which carmakers can transition to electric. Lots of people think it’s easy the automakers just don’t feel like it. I’m curious if that’s true or if there’s an inertia thing going on.
At that time in the industry sure, but they failed to pivot. This supply chain by todays standards would be laughable.
Widely considered one of the worst-run businesses of all time. No wonder they thought expanding into bigger box retail was a better move.
To be specific it was a Coleco Telstar Marksman.
Amazon is really a software company.
Sears was not.
Software is eating the world.
So my father and these Yankees told Gates that Microsoft should meet with these clueless Sears guys, since they'd probably move a number of computers over the next couple years and it would be helpful for them to think "Computers? Microsoft." So he begrudgingly did.
In the meeting someone brought up investment and Gates said they could have 20% for $8m. You never know how all these things go. Sometimes someone you never heard of tells you something true and your relative position stops you from seeing it.
"how do you view that phenomenon [laugh] that Amazon is worth more than Sears!? [condescending laugh]"
"a couple of geeks [laugh laugh], who sketched out some software, could destroy Sears Roebuck [laugh]"
same 60 minutes "expert", telling young Bezos, Amazon stock was wildly expensive
"Amazon is worth more than a major industrial company, like Texaco ... that didn't blow your mind?"
In fact they were only saved because he had secured financing mere months before the collapse, had that not happened Amazon would be listed among the likes of Pets.com.
But, the 60-minutes reporter didn't justify his claims based on risk or on math. He was skeptical because Sears is huge, and to him it was laughable [and yes, he did literally laugh many times in that interview] that Amazon can someday be worth more than Sears. To him it was "messed up", and a sign of things wrong with the world
Two years later it was trading at $10, and didn’t recover until 2007.
The interviewer was right; Amazon was over valued.
The reporter is supposed to be an expert in this field. That's why 60 minutes hired him, instead of someone else, for the job. I am sure there was no shortage of applicants who wanted this job.
Why couldn't he be more open-minded and supportive of a startup like Amazon? Instead of constantly laughing at Amazon and Jeff Bezos (like his choice of cars)
So why be a snob? As you said, no one knows what will happen. Why laugh at the little guy? You don't know what's going to happen
Being open minded and supportive is probably a stretch when something sounds so outrageous that you simply can't believe it's anchored to reality in any way. I assume this is how it felt back then. Probably there were situations where you yourself became derisive of certain things you simply couldn't conceive could be different only to be proven wrong some time later.
We are a seattle-native family. Through people we knew at the time, they asked her to invest in their company and she could have 10% of the company if she gave them money.
She discussed it with my grandfather and they both agreed: "Nobody is going to drink that much coffee." and rejected Starbuck's offer.
So if Sears invested in Microsoft in 1980, Sears of today could've been like Yahoo, whose investment in Alibaba kept Yahoo afloat a few more years but ultimately continued down the downward spiral?
I gather that the few people at Sears who were aware of the investment invite from Bill Gates may not even be alive, considering it was 39 years ago.
How is that in the interest of sears?
There were so many good ideas in the early 80s but Gates was such a genius that he understood how to separate which ones were coming first. He thought about things from first principles in a way that Musk does today. The Yankees knew databases and stuff, but they didn't know the future, but they knew that my dad thought in the same way. That he thought about the future. My dad was more of a telephony guy than a computer guy and he saw how much of a genius Gates was, so he roped him in to help out his Yankee friends.
Yikes, you just reminded me of a TV ad I saw in the late 90s, of a housewife using a device like that. I remember a CRT-style monitor, but it's faded enough that I can't remember any other details.
Couple of HN links with the opposite slant to this article:
Probably far too little, far too late...
I strongly disagree; 30 years ago, 1989. KMart had the popularity and store count in the SE that Walmart didn't. Sears was the top destination (and even still had its booming catalog business)
20-25 years ago seems more accurate.
This brings me to Sears: did he ever shop at his own stores, or was he busy pouring over the books and figuring out new ways to implement corporate versions of The Hunger Games? Because the shopping experience at Sears was never great, IMO, and it only got more depressing when Lampert took over. Tool quality went to shit, appliance quality went to shit, and the shopping experience sucks. You can juggle books all you want, but that won't get customers in the door. And if I do make it in the door, the lack of service and the dingy store will ensure that I never return.
So in summary, I argue that Lampert either got lucky with AutoZone, or what worked there did most certainly not work for Sears because at the end of the day customers ask themselves, "do I want to shop there?" And Sears in recent years gave customers very little reason to say, "Yes".
As a sidenote, WTH is he willing to throw good money after bad with his $4.4 billion bid? I'm stumped as to what rabbit he thinks he can pull out of that hat.
I could see Lampert doing the first part, stop the bleeding, but once that was done perhaps he was stumped with the "now what?" part. OTOH, AutoZone has been going big guns for a while now, what do I know? :-)
It's all about knowing who makes the part that goes in the branded box. At present their "blue boot" ball joints are the only way to get Spicer ball joints.
>Also, they always seemed to prioritize their garage delivery service over their walk-in customers.
Varies by location. It's a franchise model after all. Napa uses probably the longest leash of all the chain parts store franchises.
Their oil filters are similar if not the same as Wix.
More "customer focus", (no more haggling on warranty, less pushy upsells, "sure ma'am, we'll install your wipers for you" ,etc, etc.) and they greatly improved the house brands and logistics. Basically they dumped a bunch of money into their product lines and stores with the idea that people would shop there more if the parts weren't shit and the service didn't suck. They also own Alldata which they probably turned into a massive cash cow around the time Lampert was there (which was when electronic service manuals started becoming a real thing).
I personally thing it worked well. They're basically the McDonalds's of auto parts. The customer service experience is pretty much the same in any store and part quality is consistent and you almost never get the really, really terrible stuff that you sometimes get when you buy the cheapest parts online.