The Sad, But True, Human Story Behind The Dismantling Of Once Iconic Sears

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Brian Sozzi of Belus Capital Advisors,

Catching up on emails and came across the one below from a now former Kmart employee.  It really tugged at me, and it joined the 1000s of other disturbing emails I have received from former and current Sears and Kmart workers over the past six months.  Visiting stores and combing through the financials are one thing, but to hear the human toll of decisions made by executives not engaged with the stores except to pick those that need to close due to their lack of action through the years is something else entirely.

A more complete picture has been formed for me as to what’s REALLY happening inside this once iconic national retailer, and the REAL economic trends (not jacked up government GDP figures and retail sales) on the ground across the U.S. four years post-recession, from reading all of this outreach.   Friends, say hello to the REAL economy and the REAL story of a disintegrating, once iconic, national retailer Sears.


“Hello Mr. Sozzi,

I am a former employee of Sears Holdings/K-Mart.  I live in Streator, Illinois and our store was “liquidated” in early 2013.  There are a lot of “ironies” affiliated with our particular store closure that I would like to make you aware of.

First, after yearly inventory in 2012, SHC signed a five-year lease at our location, assuring us employees that we would NOT be included in the list of store closures that were going on at the time.  We were told that it would stay open for at least the next 3 years because of this lease.  Sadly, that was not the case.

On a final note, I don’t want to hear SHC whining about their 250,000 employees that they clearly care NOTHING about. Ask any one of them to recall the last time they got an EARNED pay raise. At my store, there hadn’t been a raise given in over 6 years.

Simply put, you cannot expect productive employees to thrive on part-time/minimum wage. Top that off with the lack of investment on the store level and one would have to agree with you – they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

You are welcome to visit out Facebook page (Goodbye K-Mart 9804) to get a sense of how this has affected not only the former employees, but our community as a whole. In a city of 13,000, K-Mart was a life line for some of us, since there aren’t many options here. There were employees who had been at that location for 20+ years, and were tossed out like garbage.

As for Eddie Lampert, I hope he enjoys his exclusive island mansion and all of the perks that he’s afforded off the backs of people like me. I just hope I can find another job soon because I’m clearly one of the “little people” in his world that would just like to know my light bill will get paid.”

What Happens When a Kmart Store is Dismantled

Source: Goodbye K-Mart 9804 Facebook Page

Kmart 9

Voices of those Impacted

Source: Goodbye K-Mart 9804 Facebook Page

Kmart 77

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slotmouth's picture

I hear the Alabama chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is willing to pay top dollar for used Big K signs.

TheCanadianAustrian's picture

Is the person who wrote this letter secretly Alanis Morrissette? Cuz I'm still trying to decipher the irony.

JLee2027's picture

Me too.

Boo Hoo, I lost my miniumum wage job, so now I can collect unemployment for more at least 18 months.  Brings it to over 3 years, as Sears promised.

Bananamerican's picture

clearly the downsized guy and the other 250,000 employees should have become broad-shouldered CEO's like Mr Lampert himself.... In fact, EVERY amerikan should be a mansion owning CEO. After all, there is nothing preventing this happy status in the bot strapping land of Horatio Alger and Jamie Dimon except one's own deficiencies....

Dare to dream...BITCHEZ

Big Slick's picture

As a nation, when we made the decision to globalize markets, to import cheaper goods made in other countries, we made the decision to import a lower standard of living as well.

You can’t have one without the other.

What you see here is the standard of living catching up with the goods. 

Chuck Norris's picture

How much you want to bet nearly every one of the folks laid off voted for the politicians who brought the very economic policies that have forced them out of a job?

No tears from Chuck.  Chuck Norris never cries.

Bananamerican's picture

Fuck Chuck.

When the Chuck Norris goes to sleep at night he checks his closet for Bananamerican.

pods's picture

Chuck Norris mines Bitcoins in his head.


Skateboarder's picture

I like how the author of the email mentioned many ironies (that I was expecting to read), listed the first irony, and went to a final note that spanned most of the letter.

edit: the machine doesn't care how long you've faithfully served leviathan in your little role. 20 years at min. wage at a place that doesn't give a shit about you is 20 years at min. wage at a place that doesn't give a shit about you. What, you actually believed that 'everyone is a valued team member' corporate crap?

Handful of Dust's picture

No irony here, just facts. The Fed's ZIRP+TARP+Stagnant Wages+soaring joblessness+Globalization(flood of low wagers into america and/or moving millions of jobs overseas, [for ex]) extinguished the traditional Middle Class, i.e., those who would shop at Sears, jcp, and so on.

That Sir James Goldsmith interview by Charlie's Rose that cynicalskeptic posted on ZH (it's on Youtube) summed it up way back in 1994.

jcaz's picture

Sears was dead more than 20 years ago, and if you stuck around that pig this long, you deserve to go down.....

Call it payback for raping their customers back in the 70's.....

James_Cole's picture

Sears was dead more than 20 years ago, and if you stuck around that pig this long, you deserve to go down.....

Yeah, dumbasses in Streator should've worked for GS instead. 
Lost Word's picture

A Jew in Skull & Bones?

Jewish Freemasonry shadow fraternity.

That Skull & Bones fraternity membership explains destruction of America, which seems to be the entire purpose of their existence.

Manthong's picture

..just wait until the same story hits Continental, er, United oh whatever, Airlines. is all about financializing and synthesizing the alleged assets.

Headbanger's picture

I agree.  Sears lost touch with the post boomer consumer a long time ago thinkinjg we all were still watching Bonanza, Donnie & Marie, Lawrence Welk and wore leisure suits!

Sears could last only as long as the GI Generations was still buying from them.

NidStyles's picture

They sell tools, what the hell are you people talking about they lost touch? Tools are not fashion accessories.


What really happened is that the EPA crushed everyone's dream of owning a nice car that performs well, and made it excessively hard for anyone to work on their own car. That is what killed Sears, not this lost touch bullshit nonsense.


Headbanger's picture

Oh duh.  You still wearing that leisure suit huh?

NidStyles's picture

Sear has always been about the tools first and everything else second. Every grown man should be aware of this. Even you young retards that wouldn't know a impact from an air driver.

pods's picture

Sears tools had the same fate as everywhere else (MAC and Snap on possibly excluded).  Cheaper until barely usable.  I have two broken ratchets sitting at home. Plastic switch instead of metal.  

Pick up any power tool from the last 5 years versus 15-20 years ago.  Lighter, and not just from the casing. Barely enough in the windings to do the job.

Craftsman lost it's shine, and then you just have another tool.  We used to hammer the shit out of wrenches knowing that if we broke one, we could walk in and get another. 


A Nanny Moose's picture

Seriously. Glad I held on to my old tools. My 25 year old Craftsman Torque wrench still works like a champ.

jerry_theking_lawler's picture

What? They were only trying to keep up with inflation with Hedonics.  I blame everyone born after 1953....why? Because you had a chance in 1971 to make a difference and vote all of the vile scum out that closed the gold window. That was probably our only shot.....wishing my great grandparents had revolted in 1913 is another one.  Why don't I revolt you ask? I am darn ready (and doing so in my own way). Ready to take up arms if someone will lead........ 

StychoKiller's picture

Most 18 year-olds (male) were in Vietnam in 1971, with M-16s...

Vendetta's picture

Yep.  Fighting the communist threat with the lives of our brothers and fathers that our politicians handed our manufacturing infrastructure to without blinking an eye.... we got a panda bear in exchange.

Lore's picture

You have a point, but on the other hand, when's the last time you shopped for tools at Sears?  That section is going the way of big ticket televisions.

OTOH, I still have my 20 year old Sears Craftsman drill, circular saw, jigsaw, band saw, grinder, blower, mower, pump, wrenches, screwdrivers, etc.  They never wear out, and if you bust something, they STILL honor their warranty. 

I'll be sorry to see Sears go. They used to be a good store with good stuff.  It was a FUN place to go for lunch and shopping, like Woodward's in Canada.  Lately though, it's just shitty garbage clothes from Bangladesh, shoes from India, etc. 

Ba-bye Sears!  Don't let the door hitcha on the way out.

NidStyles's picture

I buy almost all of my hand tools from Sears. The Craftsman brand is really good compared to the other garbage you can buy for the same exact price or more.


Unfortunately the warranty doesn't look like it will last much longer, but everyone will notice the drop in quality of tools when Sears is gone. Sears was a serious game changer in tools for a long time.

cynicalskeptic's picture

My FATHER's Sears tools (circa 1960-70) are great.  Thin strong sockets and box wrenches that fit where nothing new will.  The power tools are heavy metal ones that live forever.  Even the table saw I bought 30 years ago is unkillable - nothing new is built like it.  

BUT (like damn near everything else) the quality dropped significantly in the last 20 years.  Thicker sockets that still break whereas the old ones never did.  Can't fit the new wrenches in some spots - they're that much bigger.

With big box home stores like Home Depot and Lowes, Sears got competitors they never had - and as another pointed out - Fed rules ahve made it damn near impossible for shadetree home mechanics.  Not many people work on their own cars anymore, almost none under the age of 30.  I (closing on 60) can completely build/rebuild a car from anywhere up to the early 70's - after that.......not as easy.  Lots of complex electronics.

But even when you WANT to shop at Sears these days... forget it.  Had the freezer in my basement die.  Needed a replacement - that day.  BIG local Sears had nothing in stock.  nothing.  Got one at a local appliance chain down the road.  

Lore's picture

Good posts. Glad to know I'm not alone. 

Visiting most department stores nowadays is a very depressing experience.  Christmas shopping was easy, because there was nothing worth buying.

We're at the point where if you find something really good, you buy 2 or 3 for backup because you don't know if you will ever get another chance!

nmewn's picture

You're not alone Lore.

Well made tools hardly ever die, most of the time they just get buried under the cheap shit in the bin at the local pawn shops.

(Shhh, our little secret)

DaveyJones's picture

another great example of the ironies of collapse. Good tools and the skills that come with them are hard to come by but will soon be vital

Vendetta's picture

"Christmas shopping was easy, because there was nothing worth buying"

Our family went on strike for christmas in protest of nothing worth buying and that it is made elsewhere like pakistan or vietnam.  There used to be clothes that I actually would want to buy, not much out there anymore.  Ill fitting and poorly made by some 5 cent an hour slave

Lore's picture

I took a walk through the local Sears today.  It is not the same Sears we know from 25 years ago.  About 2/3 of the main floor is Cosmetics, deserted. The remainder is overpriced, badly-made third world clothing, with the recent addition of racks and racks of stale winter inventory down the middle of the aisles with "TAKE AN ADDITIONAL 40% OFF" signs.  Going upstairs, the second floor was likewise deserted, with a bunch of shitty styrofoam Christmas decorations marked "90% OFF" a month after Christmas, and tables in other departments filled with shitty old inventory.  Hardware has almost dwindled to nothing, downsized, with empty shelves and bored staff standing around the cash register.  THERE WERE NO CUSTOMERS.


Very depressing.  Funny thing is, most of the smaller specialty stores in the mall are the same: old, shitty, disgusting inventory at deep discounts, and nobody shopping.  The only activity was in the Food Fair. 

Ironically, I went to Wal-Mart later, and the aisles were crowded with shoppers.  The main cashiers had 7-10 people lined up in each row, and the express line was backed up into the Pharmacy.  And man, they rang those people through quickly. SHOPPING CARTS WERE LOADED. PEOPLE APPARENTLY HAVE MONEY TO SPEND, BUT NONE OF THE OTHER RETAILERS CARRY WHAT PEOPLE WANT. They've lost touch with their markets, and deserve to fail.

MeBizarro's picture

Tools are a small part of their overall sales and looked at what happened to their Sears Hardware stores.

John_Coltrane's picture

Still have all my made in america craftsmans wrenches and circular and jig saws from 30 years ago.  Still better than any of my newer Bosche made in Germany tools, though those are the only ones I'd consider buying now-a-days.  Made is China stuff is really crappy.

Blue Boat's picture

@James - thanks for digging up that video. Incredible interview. Goldsmith was SPOT ON!


Skakeboarder,        I worked for ALLSTATE in the 70's,80'and 90's.  All the ALLSTATE agents were terminated in 2000 but were allowed to convert to contractor status without any benefits.  I opted to leave at that time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ALLSTATE was part of SEARS but greed allowed them to spin off and allow one of THEIRS to run it. If you are in the CLUB you get these things in life.  If you are not in the club you are just another goyim.                                                                                                                                                                                          So, we have some important life lessons based on being a team player and faithful employee.  WATCH your back at all times in the world of business,and yes it was all CORPORATE CRAP.

Skateboarder's picture

Respek man. I often find that I learn my lessons the hard way, but I was fortunate enough to opt for small business quite early in my path.

eatapeach's picture

In his office, nobody ever asks for the three-hole-punch. Nobody.

acetinker's picture

Chuck Norris has a bear rug.  It's not dead- it's just afraid to move.

I stole that offa one of y'all, that's how good it is.

Make_Mine_A_Double's picture

Chuck Norris does not do push ups. He's pressing the earth down.

sodbuster's picture

Before the boogie-man goes to sleep, he checks under the bed for Chuck Norris!!

Confused's picture

This place is becoming strange.


"He must have voted for....." 


Must be hard to be so intellectually superior, yet feel the need to assume an internet meme (aka group think) into your personna while perpetuating the left/right bullshit. Keep up the good work. 

DOT's picture

Well, the city of Streator is in Illinois, so I agree with the assertion.

spankfish's picture

Yes, condolences for living in Illinois.

Lost Word's picture

Illinois would be a good place to live if the Chicago and Springfield Democrats did not exist.

booboo's picture

People don't vote with their heads, they see D or R and pull the straight ticket. My parents were that way, straight ticket D "cause they are for the little people".

James_Cole's picture

Must be hard to be so intellectually superior, yet feel the need to assume an internet meme (aka group think) into your personna while perpetuating the left/right bullshit. Keep up the good work. 

Politicians of both parties have sold out the people. In Streator I'd bet there isn't an option to vote against the interests of k-mart executives (or equivalent enterprises). 

R or D doesn't matter.

Headbanger's picture

Confused:  You just convicted yourself with that condemnation.