Almost one hundred years ago, in 1925, Sears moved beyond its catalog business and opened its first department store in Chicago. Now, the chain's last Illinois department store is shutting its doors.
The company was officially founded as a mail-order business in 1893, targeting rural Americans. When more Americans moved to suburbs after World War 2, Sears Department stores did too. The first store opened in 1925 and by 1931, in-store orders surpassed mail orders. It was an astronomical rise that has been compared to that of Amazon. Over the century, the department store company founded Allstate insurance, a mail-order car called the "Allstate", and the Discover card. In the 1990s, the company said that one out of seven Americans either worked for Sears or had once worked there.
Walmart surpassed Sears as the nation's largest retailer in 1990, and the next three decades saw major restructuring and eventual downfall. In the early 2000s, the company shed its financial services offerings and merged with Kmart to form Sears Holdings Corporation, with hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert as its chairman. By October 2018, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
There currently are 300 Sears and Kmart stores still open in the US, down from nearly 700 in October 2018, when Sears declared bankruptcy. At its peak, the company operated more than 3,000 stores.CNN Business
My most prominent memories of Sears are wandering around the store after my Sears drivers ed classes in West Michigan. My friend were fourteen and didn't know how much anything cost, and we would wander the aisles guessing the price of the appliances ("A washer is $700?!").