Success feels amazing. Extended success feels even better. Getting to the top can be the goal of a lifetime, but staying there is the challenge of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the longer you stay on top the easier it can be to turn a blind eye toward a changing marketplace. To drive that lesson home, let’s take a look at Sears.
Once the undisputed champion of all American retailers, Sears stood tall for decades, becoming, in the process, a true American institution. Several of its brands were synonymous with American quality and stability. Just ask any Boomer about Kenmore appliances or Craftsman tools. You will hear stories of long-term quality and deep consumer confidence.
But then the market began to change. Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes began to peel off Sears’ tool and appliance business. Specialty clothing stores, other department stores, and even Wal Mart began cutting into its clothing sales. Department stores across the country began to struggle as the age of the Big Box dawned. Still, Sears continued on doing things the same way they had for decades.
Then, Amazon killed catalog sales, not just for Sears, but for everyone. Still, Sears soldiered on. Then, in 2004, the company merged with another flailing brand – Kmart. Profits plummeted as rival Wal Mart and the aforementioned home stores surged.
It’s a stark lesson in reality that the company has been learning the hard way for years now.
Sears has been losing money since 2011. Revenue dropped ten percent, more than $500 million, last quarter. Catalogs and massive department stores are not what the American consumer is looking for, but Sears doesn’t seem to know how to manage its snowballing downhill slide.
The company does not seem to understand how to adapt to the current marketplace. Yes, online sales are a difficult nut to crack, but they are a reality. Even with Sears’ somewhat older target demographic. It may have been a go-to anchor store for decades, but those days are over. Now it must deal with the present and future market realities.
What’s the lesson? Resting on what got you where you are is not a healthy position to take. You have to be ready and willing to grow, develop, and change with your customers. Because you can bet someone else out there already is.