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Fast facts

Sears Expansion

Gradually, a comprehensive code of retail operating techniques was worked out, enabling store managers to concentrate on two essentials - selling and proper ordering. The new techniques were as vital to retail as the time-schedule system was to mail order.

Another milestone was passed in 1932 when Sears established the store planning and display department. Before merchandise had been fitted into buildings, now buildings were built around merchandise. The first store to be built from the inside out was the Glendale, California store opened in 1935. The new store planning and display department concerned itself with all elements of the store - tables, fixtures, space requirements for the different merchandise lines, customer flow and width of aisles. The store shell was built around the selling floor plan.

When Sears opened its Pico Boulevard store in Los Angeles four years later, a rival merchandising executive paid tribute: "In my long experience in the retail field," he said, "I have yet to witness a retail unit which equals Sears Pico Store in practical efficiency, merchandise engineering, operation, layout and presentation of merchandise."

Another important approach to urban customers was made through catalog sales desks, which were installed in the retail stores. In another move, Sears opened catalog sales offices in towns too small to support retail stores. Two decades later, the company launched an additional catalog operation - the independent catalog merchant program - in which a person operates his or her own store to sell Sears merchandise.

In 1942, the company opened its first store in Havana, Cuba, its first permanent retail outlet in a foreign land. But due to shortages created by World War II, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, fans - all the hardlines so familiar in Sears stores - soon disappeared from the new Havana store. In 1947, with war shortages disappearing, Sears opened a store in Mexico City. In subsequent years, Sears opened stores or sales offices in Central and South America and Europe. In the early 1980s, Sears divested itself of many of its foreign retail operations.

Sears expansion south of the border was matched in 1953 by its expansion north of the border. Sears joined a pioneer Canadian merchandising company, Simpsons, Limited to form Simpsons-Sears Limited. The Canadian subsidiary now is known as Sears Canada Inc.

In 1969, Sears announced plans to build a new headquarters building in downtown Chicago. The 110-story Sears Tower became the world's tallest building at 1,454 feet when it was opened in 1973. The staggering amount of materials needed to construct the building included 76,000 tons of steel, 2 million cubic feet of concrete, 16,000 tinted windows, 1,500 miles of electrical wiring and 80 miles of elevator cable.

 

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