When I was a kid, the Christmas holidays started for me in October when the Sears catalogue came out. My mom would sit me down at the kitchen table and open up this beast of a publication to the last pages of it which always featured all of the toys that were available at that time. Then she would ask me what I wanted for Christmas. I would flip through those pages, looking at the various toys and games featuring the smiling kids always having fun playing with them, and wish I was in that situation at that time. My mom would take that list and I would always think that she would mail it along with the ones that my brothers and sister made to Santa Claus. I would never make the connection that the trip to Southglen Mall’s Sear’s pick up station had something to do with that moment at the kitchen table a couple of weeks earlier.
It all started with this giant of a retail store. In fact, growing up, Sears was a very important part of my life. If we needed new tires, we went to Sears. During the summer, when we needed to get tools to keep the yard clean, we would find them at Sears. Before school started every year, we would get our uniforms delivered to us at Sears. And of course, the holiday season always started with the delivery of that huge catalogue that showed everything that you could get at the store. Every mall in America had one of these stores in the corner of the parking lot that would always be packed with cars because that would be the first place that people would visit when they went to the mall. They dominated the retail market and nobody could be bigger.
I never thought about it until recently as other stores tried to chip away at the hold that this giant had on the market. WalMart would be the perfect example of this. Many people were offended that there was some store out there where you could get everything all in one place. They complained that it would destroy the ma and pop stores because they would never have a chance to compete against that. But they were just taking after the Sears model and adding a grocery store to it. People should not have thought that this was a new idea that revolutionized the market. In fact, it was only until recently that WalMart decided to allow for delivery of their items to happen and Sears had been doing that since it inception. And the only reason that WalMart decided to do that was because they were starting to struggle when they had to compete with the new giant, Amazon.
All of this hit me yesterday when I went to visit Sears for the first time in a decade. It showed me that there was always a time where the giants of the world would start to lose their power and a new entity would emerge to take its place.
I have known for quite some time that Sears was going out of business. The writing had been on the wall for years. The once packed packing lots of America’s mall was the perfect place to fins a spot these days, and there wasn’t always a Sears connected to every new mall made. The commercials selling their power tools no longer dominated the television screens during football games, and I can’t remember the last time I saw the epic volume that was their catalogue arrive in the mailbox. It was only a matter of time when they gave it up and let people come in to take the last pieces made available before they shut down their door forever.
Yesterday, I found that perfect parking spot as I went to do some Christmas shopping in one of America’s various malls and took a stroll through the dying days of the local Sears. It was probably the most packed I have ever seen one of these stores because people were there hoping to find that last deal before the death rattle. But there was not a lot to offer. The clothes were horribly out of date and the sizes were the weird ones that only fit a lucky few. The shelves were bare except for a couple of items that would only be sold during the holidays such as fake plastic trees and their lights. It was a little depressing, but it was also the nature of the beast. It was just Sears’s time to go.
But Sears’s destiny should be a lesson for all other companies out there. It is the fate of all of them. If you do not believe me, go to your local Blockbuster and ask them how they are doing right now. WalMart is also starting to show its age as it has closed down a few of its grocery stores, and no longer can claim hold to the American economy anymore. Even giants like Anheuser-Busch are trying to find ways to hold on to what they once controlled. I have been lucky enough not to see any commercials over the last couple of years because I have lived out of the country, but the Bud Light marketing campaign is a direct example of this. Budweiser, the self-proclaimed king of beers, has seen a huge portion of its market shares cut as smaller local breweries keep on finding more and more success. They have started putting characters into their commercials that are snobby about their beer consumption, and the king eventually goes with the beer of the masses, Bud Light, instead of the mead. In truth, Budweiser is having a problem because people demand a beer with more taste now instead of the bland, over-produced swill that they have been shilling for over a hundred years. They need to make fun of those beers in the hopes of gaining back the market that they once dominated. It is nothing more than a sign that the once mighty giant has fallen.
Not every company can accept that this will eventually happen to them. It is the way of the world. We no longer are under the rule of the Roman empire, and Spain no longer controls the world. There would always be a time where the mighty must fall. Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, recognizes this as he told his employees recently that even this company will see this fate as well. It is just a matter of time, but they should enjoy their success while it is still happening. They just need to not complain when thing start to fall apart. Instead, they should carve out a small slice of the market that they once so comfortably controlled, and enjoy what they have left, instead of always trying to be the giant.
It is a difficult lesson to learn, but one of greatness must always embrace.