CORNELL UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICEMarch 23, 2017Demise of Sears tears fabric of consumer culture

Lawrence Glickman, professor of history at Cornell University and an expert in American consumerism, says that up until the 1970s Sears – which this week acknowledged the possibility of bankruptcy - has been a key component in American economic culture.


Glickman says:

“The demise of Sears would be a hugely important loss to the fabric of our economic and consumer culture.

"Sears was, for many years, the quintessential American company. From the late 19th century through the 1970s, Sears was for the United States, what Amazon is today, America’s premier vending site. But the comparison to Amazon is an understatement.

“In many rural homes, the Sears catalog and the Bible were often the only two books in the house. With the rise of rural free delivery in the late 19th century, the cornucopia represented by the catalog was available to people even in the most isolated communities.

“Sears sold a vast range of products - including houses - but, more importantly, it sold dreams. Moreover, Richard Sears invented so much of the vocabulary of modern marketing, he urged readers of the catalog to trust him and his company - based in far-off Chicago - over the local merchants, whom, Sears assured his readers, were ripping off consumers left and right.”

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