- In its heyday, Sears was not only the biggest retailer in the world, but it also owned and founded multiple companies and brands offering everything from car insurance to kitchen appliances.
- Several of these companies and brands still exist to this day, while others have either been shut down or sold.
- Here’s what happened to them.
In its heyday, Sears was far more than the crumbling department-store chain we see today.
In addition to being the largest retailer in the world, Sears owned a wealth of different brands offering services from car insurance to real-estate advice. Many of these businesses were shed along the way as the company came under pressure, sales slid, and it was forced to sharpen its focus on retail once more.
This week, Sears narrowly escaped liquidation after a more than $US5 billion bid from former CEO and current chairman Eddie Lampert was accepted. Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments said last week that its bid, which still needs to be approved by the bankruptcy court, would allow the company to keep some 400 stores open and save up to 50,000 jobs.
There are still a handful of brands and companies that are owned by Sears and that it managed to hold on to throughout its bankruptcy. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sears would be holding on to Kenmore and DieHard. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on this.
Find out more about these brands:
Sears merged with low-cost store Kmart in 2005. The deal was masterminded by Lampert, who was chairman of Kmart at the time and owned a 50% stake in its business through his ESL Investments hedge fund. He was also the largest shareholder in Sears at the time, with a 15% stake. After the deal went through, he became chairman of Sears Holdings, the combined company.
Today, Kmart is still part of Sears Holdings.
Kenmore launched in 1913, selling sewing machines. By the start of this century, it had become one of the biggest appliance brands in the US and was sold exclusively at Sears.
As Sears began to collapse, the brand came under pressure. As Sears tried to cut down on costs, it reduced funding for research and development at the Kenmore brand, which means that it increasingly failed to stay competitive and keep up with rivals.
The company is still owned by Sears. According to The Journal, the brand has been acquired in Lampert’s bid. A spokesperson for Sears declined to comment on this.
But as sales slid at Sears over the following decade, Lands’ End was spun off as a separate publicly traded company in 2014. ESL Investments got 15.4 million shares, or nearly half of the company, at no additional cost.
According to The New York Times, ESL and its affiliates subsequently bought six million more shares as its stock price climbed. They now own 67.1% of the company, according to company financials from April 2018. Neither Lands’ End nor ESL Investments responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Lands’ End continues to sell at Sears stores and via the Lands’ End website, catalogue, and growing store fleet.
Sears launched its iconic Craftsman tool brand in 1927.
In January 2017, the brand was acquired by Stanley Black & Decker for $US900 million. This was spread across several payments with an initial lump sum of $US525 million, a further $US250 million after three years, and a percentage of annual payments of new Craftsman sales for the next 15 years,CNN Business wrote.
After it was purchased, Stanley Black & Decker announced it would launch 1,200 new Craftsman items to be sold at competing chains such as Lowe’s and Amazon. It is still sold at Sears.
DieHard was introduced in 1967, selling batteries for automobiles. It has since diversified to offer tires, jumper cables, and work boots.
The company is still owned by Sears. According to The Journal, the brand has been acquired in Lampert’s bid along with Kenmore. A spokesperson for Sears declined to comment on this.
After taking part of the company public in 1993, Allstate eventually went fully public two years later. At the time, it was the nation’s second-largest insurer of homes and autos, after the State Farm Group.
Today, it is one of the largest insurance providers in the US.
Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group
Sears acquired Coldwell Banker in 1981 for $US179 million in cash and stock. At the time, it was the US’ largest independent real estate broker.
Sears’ then CEO, Edward R. Telling, said that this acquisition was in keeping with its goal to become the nation’s “largest consumer-oriented financial service entity.”
But in 1993, Sears sold the company (along with Allstate) to focus on retail.
Orchard Supply Hardware
Sears bought San-Jose based Orchard Supply Hardware in the ’90s to expand its home-improvement business. At the time, the decision was praised by analysts as a good way to break into the California market, where it didn’t have any home-improvement stores.
In 2012, Orchard Supply Hardware was spun off into a separate company. Less than two years later it filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Lowe’s.
In August, Lowe’s recently appointed CEO Marvin Ellison said it would be shutting down the business entirely; its stores are slated to close by February.
Monark Premium Appliances
Sears launched Monark Premium Appliance Company in 2015.
The company offers appliance showrooms for architects, builders, designers, developers, and homeowners to browse.
The company is still owned by Sears.
Sears acquired Wally Labs in 2015. The company provides technology for home safety, security, and loss prevention.
“Its customers use its devices, in connection with its monitoring service, to discover and alert themselves when a harmful event occurs in their home,” Sears wrote in a recent press release.
The company also partners with ServiceLive, a division of Sears Home Services that offers repairs.
The Great Indoors
Sears opened its first Great Indoors store in Denver in 1998. The store was aimed at shoppers with household incomes of $US50,000 or more – people who didn’t want to shop at Home Depot or Lowe’s but also may not have been able to afford shopping at higher-end homeware stores.
But it didn’t work out as planned, and Sears was forced to wind down operations in 2012.
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