Atlantic has an article on the history of Sears, and Amazon’s strategy:
Lessons learned from Sears growth, and how what we learned applies to Amazon. Some clippings & excerpts below:
- Why is Amazon looking more and more like an old-fashioned retailer? The company’s do-it-all corporate strategy adheres to a familiar playbook—that of Sears, Roebuck & Company. To understand Amazon—its evolution, its strategy, and perhaps its future—look to Sears.
- Like Amazon, Sears started with a single product category—watches, rather than books. But, like Amazon, the company grew to include a range of products, including guns, gramophones, cars, and even groceries.
- From the start, Sears’s genius was to market itself to consumers as an everything store, with an unrivaled range of products, often sold for minuscule profits. The company’s feel for consumer demand was so uncanny, and its operations so efficient, that it became, for many of its diehard customers, not just the best retail option, but the only one worth considering.
- In the 1920s, Sears “saw the country moving from farm to city, and then from city to suburb. His plan: Follow them with stores.”
- Sears was not content to be a one-stop-shop for durable goods. Like Amazon today, the company used its position to enter adjacent businesses. To supplement its huge auto-parts business, Sears started selling car insurance under the Allstate brand.
- Sears showed that physical retail doesn’t necessarily cannibalize the mailing business
- Although Sears eventually became a dominant physical retailer, the transition was bumpy as they learned to change the store design to focus on the entire family
- Amazon may find, like Sears, that size can be both an advantage and a bull’s-eye as they expand to new regions
- Amazon, too, will thrive as long as it uses American demographics as a roadmap and takes advantage of new personal technology, like mobile phones for shopping and AI assistants for the home