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Sears then and now: A look at the last 100 years

In this article:
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Yahoo Finance’s Jared Blikre looks back at Sears from the 1920's to now.

Video Transcript


- Final day of our "Then and Now" series. So let's take a look back at a true fallen titan of the 1920s. Yahoo Finance's Jared Blikre joins us to discuss a distinctly American company that has seen better days, to--

JARED BLIKRE: That's right.

- --really say the least here.

JARED BLIKRE: It's Sears and Roebuck, so no drum roll on this one. By the way, this is the fifth and final installment of our "Then and Now" series for 2021. I have a feeling that we're going to have a lot more of these in the year and years to come.

But back to Sears, ushering in the modern era of American consumerism, Sears and Roebuck got it starts in the 19th century as a mail order firm. And by the early 20th century, it was a household name, dominating the rural retail market with its huge catalog, selling everything from clothes and jewelry to entire homes. And those huge catalogs had a lot of other purposes besides ordering goods. Hint, hint.

Now, on the Wi-Fi Interactive, I do have some numbers up here. At the close of 1922, Sears was reporting an annual revenue of more than $182 million, which broke down to around $4.88 per share. Now, Sears reported total assets for the year at well over 152 million. This was a drop compared to 1922-- excuse me, 1921, which the company at the time attributed to smaller inventories and a sharp reduction in accounts receivable. A lot of the language that they're using back then pretty much applicable today. And by the mid-1920s, Sears was making inroads in urban areas, as well, opening up its first department store in Chicago in 1925.

Now, I want to switch to a chart here. And we can see that Sears does not have an impressive price profile right now. It's trading at a whopping $0.02. And that's because of a bankruptcy action.

Now, here's a year-to-date view of what's going on. Losing 91% year-to-date. And in the modern era, it has been a slow and steady decline for the once vaunted retailer. Billionaire investor Eddie Lampert famously took control of the company in 2013, but was not able to reverse its fortunes.

Now, most of us know what has since become of Sears. The franchise's ownership company declared bankruptcy three years ago. And Sears survived the filing, but its decline has continued, along with its sister company, Kmart. As of now, there are only 21 Sears stores open in the US.

And before I go, I just want to thank our producer, [? Devin ?] [? Burress, ?] for putting all of this information together. And we have an article, she and I, coming out tomorrow. And it covers all of these companies that we've been covering this week, all five of them. So look out for that on YahooFinance.com tomorrow. Guys?

- Jared Blikre bringing us the latest there. It's been a great week of all those lookbacks as we celebrate the close of what I think, I hope, will be a next roaring '20s here in 2020--