AM I NEXT? Is Retail Dying?

Am I Next? Is Retail Dying?

Updated September 9, 2018 — Sears engages bankruptcy, workout, and turnaround experts.

As Sears prepares for a potential bankruptcy filing, many readers have noted that Sears fall from the retail pantheon was the result of Amazon and Walmart.

I disagree. In my opinion, it was the arrogance, incompetence, and self-dealing, asset-stripping tendencies of Sears’ Chairman and CEO, largest creditor, and larges shareholder — Eddie Lampert who destroyed the company. Once regarded as a financial genius, Lampert continues to treat Sears poorly.

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Amazon and Sears are both in the news these past few weeks. Sears due to store closures and employee job losses; Amazon because it is said to be the prime retail killer.

When I was much younger visiting a Sears store in Santa Monica California was a treat, an experience to explore the wonders of tools, toys, and unimaginable things. As I grew older, my favorite shops disappeared one-by-one. Kerr's Sporting Goods, the Abercrombie & Fitch (the old sporting goods outfitters, not the clothing company) of Beverly Hills, California A cornucopia manly things like guns, fishing gear, barbecues, and all types of gear for almost every sport imaginable. Where you were introduced to a salesman and made a friend for life. Where you were among sportsmen, who walked the walk as well as talked the talk. Jerry Knight, who sold me my first target pistol, shot a massive charging Cape Buffalo off one of the most famous of African Hunters, Peter Hathaway Capstick. I later asked Capstick about the incident, and he replied, "Beats me, I was face down in the muck under half the animal. I am alive now, so it must have gone well." 

Likewise, I miss Mr. Bonaparte, the impeccably dressed lord of Desmonds, the clothing shop in Westwood, California. Where you not only purchased "recommended" clothes but were subtly instructed in how to be a young gentleman. And there were many others, mostly specialized stores driven out of business by rising rents and real estate prices and a general drop off in business as the new generations had their own idea of "the good life." I am not quite sure what would have been Mr. Bonaparte's reaction if I walked in dressed in dirty jeans, a torn tee-shirt, and sneakers. Somehow, I get the feeling that a long lecture would be forthcoming. 

Times have changed. The pace of life has increased exponentially as we find ourselves responding to the electronic slave callers we carry around in our pocket. Yes, I can buy something on the internet, and I frequently do use Amazon Prime's second-day delivery. But, other than branded merchandise, it is a crapshoot with customer reviews taking the place of a genuinely knowledgeable salesperson. 

So I ask you, how much are you willing to pay a premium for the happiness of the personal touch and experience of a knowledgeable employee at a brick-and-mortar store? Or are you going to be a weasel and visit a retail store for information and then purchase the same merchandise cheaper on the internet? 

The way you answer this question might just be a clue to the things that are to come that will affect your life and livelihood.