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The Sears Saga

The retailer’s journey from catalogue innovator to retail powerhouse to bankruptcy.

• In 1886, Richard Sears starts the R.W. Sears Watch Co. in Minneapolis. The following year, Sears moves to Chicago.

• Alvah C. Roebuck joins the business as a watchmaker.

• In 1893, the company changes its name to Sears Roebuck & Co.

• In 1895, the catalogue, a 532-page magazine for apparel, wagons, fishing tackle, stoves, furniture, china, saddles, firearms, watches and jewelry, is produced.

• Sears goes public in 1901.  

• Kenmore is introduced in 1913.  

• In 1925, the first Sears store opens at a Chicago mail-order plant.

• In 1927, Craftsman is launched.

• In 1931, Sears’ retail stores account for 53.4 percent of the total $180 million in sales.

• In 1945, sales top $1 billion.

• In 1967, Diehard launches.

• In 1976, Sears introduces its “Where America Shops” campaign.

• In 1985, Sears rolls out Discover credit card.

• In 1986, Sears turns 100.

• In 1990, ground breaks for new headquarters at Hoffman Estates, Ill.

• In 1993, “The Softer Side of Sears” campaign launches. U.S. catalogue operations are closed.

• In 1999, Sears Direct is launched, combining specialty catalogues, telemarketing, direct mail and Internet operations. Sears.com debuts.

• In 2001, the Sears flagship on Chicago’s State Street opens, adding to the 850-plus unit department store chain.

• In 2004, Kmart and Sears Roebuck merge into Sears Holdings Corp., the third-largest U.S. retailer with $55 billion in annual revenues.

• In 2005, the merger is completed. Edward S. Lampert is named chairman.

• In 2007, Sears’ stock hits an all-time high of more than $195 per share.

• In 2013, Eddie Lampert is named Sears Holdings ceo.  

• In 2014, the Lands’ End spin-off generates a $500 million cash dividend. Sears completes a $625 million senior rights offering.

• In 2015, Sears transfers 235 stores to Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust, raising $3.06 billion. SHC enters joint ventures with Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties and Macerich involving 31 stores.

• In 2017, Sears discloses that “substantial doubt exists related to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” That same year, the company also sells Craftsman for $900 million and sees Sears Canada liquidate.

• In early 2018, Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL, offers to buy the Kenmore brand for $400 million.

• In October 2018, Sears’ stock price drops under 50 cents.

• On Oct. 15, 2018, Sears files for bankruptcy and Lampert steps down as ceo, ceding the responsibility to an “office of the ceo.” Mohsin Meghji, managing partner of M-III Partners, is named chief restructuring officer.

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