What Really Happened to Sears

You might think you know the story of the downfall of Sears, but you really don’t.

Dennis Sanders
4 min readAug 20, 2021
A former Sears store in Maplewood, MN. Photo by Dennis Sanders.

Updated January 5, 2022

For over a century, Sears was one of this nation’s leading retailers. In the 1920s, you could literally buy a house from Sears. The postwar years saw Sears moving into malls across the land. KMart started in 1962, the same year two other discount retailers, Target and Walmart opened their doors. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, KMart was the go-to place for finding things at a good price. Shoppers were on the lookout for their famous blue light specials. In 2005 Sears and Kmart merged to create Sears Holdings.

But then something happened. Over the last decade, hundreds of stores were closed and the two chains are basically defunct.

The common story is that Sears and Kmart didn’t keep up with the times and they couldn’t compete with Amazon. Now the online retail behemoth does have a role in the demise of Sears, but it's only a small role. Actually, the reason Sears and Kmart have vanished from American retail is because of one man- the one-time CEO of Sears Holdings, Eddie Lampert. This is a saga that very few know.

I’ve had an odd obsession with the downfall of Sears and Kmart for quite some time, reading an odd story here and there…



Dennis Sanders

Middle-aged Midwesterner. I write about religion, politics and culture. Podcast: churchandmain.org newsletter: https://churchandmain.substack.com/