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EDITORIAL – Sears died because we’ve become too lazy to go shopping

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE CLOSING of Canada’s last Sears stores on Sunday can’t be allowed to pass unlamented, so let’s pause for a moment of reflection.

Most of the stores that closed yesterday were in Ontario and Quebec but a couple were in B.C. The Kamloops store closed in October. In all, 12,000 people lost their jobs, 83 of them in Kamloops.

Sears has been a familiar and comforting landmark in communities across the country since it began as Simpsons-Sears back in the 1950s. The arrival of the big printed catalogues was a major event for families back then.

You could buy just about anything from Sears, from lawnmowers to dishpans to refrigerators, and their stuff always worked — or when it didn’t, their service department fixed it for you.

In recent years, something went terribly, terribly wrong as Sears forgot to keep up with the online age, a remarkable thing since so much of its early business was based on mail-order delivery.

Sears wasn’t the first to feel the sting of changing times — Eatons, K-Mart, Woolco, Woolworth’s, Zellers, Target Canada, for example. Some have closed, others have been merged or absorbed, some survive elsewhere.

If we can believe the experts, Sears won’t be the last to go, either. More vacancy signs are likely to go up in shopping malls, and the malls themselves face challenges.

The problem, and the answer, as explained by the experts, is an inexorable move toward Internet shopping. Retailers who don’t get on the online bandwagon are doomed to fail. These days, it’s all about Amazon and eBay.

I think the experts are right, but I’m of the belief that it all comes down to our own intellectual and physical laziness. We’re becoming a nation of sloths, too damn indolent and indifferent to get off the couch — whether it be to go shopping or to the voting booth.

We want everything brought to us, to our doorstep. Sears, and our Canadian way of life, are paying the price.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (6184 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on EDITORIAL – Sears died because we’ve become too lazy to go shopping

  1. If there ever was a great example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, this would have to be it.

    Sears came about as mail order. If there was a company that knew something about creating advertisements, accepting orders and shipping goods, it should have been Sears. But the period of time between being heavily mail order and heavily online, when they relied on bricks and mortar almost exclusively, did them in. They forgot their roots and failed to anticipate the future.

    Sears could have been Canada’s Amazon. They had the ability to create thick catalogs with photos and descriptions…which would have transitioned smoothly to the digital age. And they knew how to package and ship. But that was then and this is now. They mistakenly thought they could exist as bricks and mortar forever and that cost them.

    Frankly, I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did. I can’t recall the last time I actually bought something in the local store…their buyers lost touch with what the consumer wanted a couple of decades ago – or longer.

  2. I try to support local business whenever possible. Sears became over priced, messy and under staffed. The staff gave the impression they were just too busy or just not interested in helping the customer. I’m old enough to remember the days of excitedly waiting for the Sears and Eatons Catelogues to arrive in the mail. Sears died because became a dinasor. I’m just learning how to shop on line. Why not lear to be wise in the use of my resources. I’d rather not but it seems to be the way things are going. I’m far far from lazy andI do enjoy my couch in the am and pm watchcing the news.

  3. Eatons, K-Mart, Woolco, Woolworth’s, were all gone before the digital age, and it wasn’t for lack of customers, it was poor management mostly. Zellers went because it wouldn’t compete with other stores, you could go a short distance down the road, and buy the same item for almost half of what Zellers was priced at. Their customer service really sucked also. Target failed because they thought they could just march into Canada, charge high prices, and not have a supply line in place to restock the stores, not to mention, they had extremely poor management. And Target Did have an online presence. Sears had an online presence also, and a catalog. When it was purchased by a hedge fund whose only interest was cutting costs, raising prices, and charging an outrageous amount of money for delivery, and lining their pockets instead of maintaining their stores is when it started to go downhill. You can’t blame Amazon, and eBay for their woes, any of them. Malls also charge more than outrageous rents, and I’m surprised that any business can maintain a store in one. Blaming the internet is a lazy man’s excuse.

  4. And the environmental impact of all that online shopping is huge! From the emissions and related traffic woes with all them delivery trucks criss-crossing each other on our streets on their way to package delivery, to the packages themselves. Granted cardboard is recyclable but other packaging material is not, plus recycling itself gobbles up huge amounts of energy.
    But you can’t blame it entirely on shoppers either. Local retailers often don’t have stuff, or it is overpriced or the staff is less than enthusiastic in helping the customer.

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