Sears Closing Stores is Our Warning

The story of Sears is about embracing the changing tides and one misstep can lead to closing the doors. The company started from profit over some unwanted watches which birthed a multibillion dollar business. Richard Warren Sears launched a mail order watch business in the beginning, expanded, sold the company, tried a career as a banker, got bored, started another business, moved to Chicago, and hit gold with the Sears Catalog or the infamous labeled "Consumer Bible". 

So how does a company that at one point was building the largest skyscraper in the entire world start closing their stores?  

Sears didn't embrace change one time. That's all it took.

Sears capitalized and thrived on change for a hundred years. That is impressive! It's easy to rag on someone who is down, but surviving 10 years is crazy let alone 100 years.  

The truth is many factors led to the downfall of Sears, but I want to focus on the digital. 

This issue isn't limited to Sears. Over the last eight years old strategy companies like Barnes and Noble, The Gap, JC Penney, Macy's, Nordstrom, Office Depot, & Sears all have started to close stores. Some of these brands will be unknown to my kids while others have learned slowly to adapt.

Why have companies like Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, and Target experienced growth during the bankruptcy of others? I believe these brands are adopting a new strategy that embraces the digital world and they did so years ago. They didn't see an online store as a competitor, but an ally. The interesting thing is now online companies, like Amazon, are trying to build physical stores and physical stores want online stores. 

Do you see it? Old strategy companies evolved into new strategy companies and online companies want to embrace the physical store.

It's not an EITHER/OR deal anymore. It's a BOTH/AND strategy!

Harvard Business Review reported on this trend way back in 2014 as "Digital-Physical Mashups". Some companies are really good at integrating a digital presence and others are terrible. The toughest thing about a digital-physical approach is most executives don't have experience in executing the strategy. I've had a similar experience working with churches and launching online ministries. Many in upper leadership at churches don't have the background with handling a digital presence and the default response is to ignore it. 

The greatest barrier to adopting fusion strategies is not skepticism about their promise but inexperience with their execution. Executives are intrigued by the possibilities and recognize their potential but are uncertain how to make them work.

Sears did try hard to compete. They didn't just rollover and die. Sears poured resources into their digital store. They thought about the online presences, but got beat by Walmart. My suspicion would be failure happened because of lack of experience and they waited too long to get into the online space.

Success is a catalyst for failure
— Hence Greg McKeown


1. Don't be like Sears and consider the digital space not a competitor, but an ally today (NO MORE WAITING)!

2. Integrate the digital into your ministry's strategy (BOTH/AND).

3. Seek advice from those with experience in executing digital ministry.

4. Create opportunities to test new ideas with failure being accepted (NEVER CHANGING IS DELAYED FAILURE).

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
— Colin Powell

Our doors have never been closed in 2,000 years and the internet won't be the thing that does it. 

You have the information. Be a good steward of it! 

StrategyJay KrandaComment