By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Businesses die for many different reasons – changing consumer habits, mismanagement, neglect of customer service. It’s nothing new or even that unusual. But when an iconic business like Sears goes belly-up after 125 years in business for all of those reasons and more, attention must be paid.

“Sears has been dying for many years. It’s been obviously improperly run for many years and it’s a shame,” said President Trump.

That’s right-on analysis from a man who knows a little something about bankruptcy. But it’s the way Sears was run into the ground that makes their story a cautionary tale for Amazon, Target and other latter-day Sears wanna-bes.

Unlike other businesses that didn’t see how online commerce would cannibalize their sales, Sears jumped into web commerce early this century, when Amazon was just a baby. But Sears was already getting its lunch eaten by Walmart, which had replaced Sears as the nation’s biggest retailer by offering lower prices and superior customer service.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Sears hired a big-time Wall Street hedge fund artist as CEO, but it turned out his fiscal savvy didn’t translate into retail very well. He split the company into dozens of different divisions, promoting inefficiency, self-dealing and waste. Employees were mistreated, and guess what kind of asset becomes hard to find when you do that?

When was the last time you even thought to shop at a Sears? And how was the customer experience when you did? Sears was the original Amazon back in the day, but they botched their shot at becoming what Amazon is now. If I were Jeff Bezos, I’d be paying close attention.

Talk back to me via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Jon Keller

Comments (2)
  1. You forgot the private equity firms – including local Bain Capital – that loaded Sears (and Toys “R” Us, The Limited, Eastern Outfitters, and most of the other huge bankruptcies) they stripped out cash and loaded the company up with debt paid and themselves in expenses and fees.

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