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Narrative History of Sears
  ⋅  1886 1925
  ⋅  1887 1930s
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  ⋅  What is the official name of Sears?
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  ⋅  Rosenwald School Program
Sears & Art
  ⋅  Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art
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Fast facts

In 1980, Sears, Roebuck and Co. announced the formation of a corporate office and plans for major restructuring. This resulted in renaming the retail business the Sears Merchandise Group and the insurance business Allstate Insurance Group in early 1981. When Sears acquired the Dean Witter Reynolds Organization, Inc. and Coldwell Banker & Company later that year, it formed the Dean Witter Financial Services Group and the Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group. The following year, Sears formed a world trading company. It became Sears World Trade, whose activities were reduced and transferred to the Sears Merchandise Group in 1986.

The financial services strategy worked. The corporation --plus the Discover Card introduced in 1985--grew into the 1990s, with revenues reaching $59 billion in 1992. That year Sears announced it would again reshape the company to give it greater strength and marketing focus and to give its shareholders a better return on investment.

As part of this restructuring, the Sears Merchandise Group, reorganized around its apparel, home and automotive businesses, closed many of its under-performing retail locations including some mall-based stores. Its unprofitable general catalog operations also were closed in 1993, leaving a smaller -- but successful -- direct-response business.

In early 1993, Sears also completed an initial public offering (IPO) of 20 percent of its Dean Witter organization, then called Dean Witter. In the second largest stock dividend distribution in U.S. history, Sears spunoff its remaining shares of Dean Witter to Sears shareholders. Later in the year, Sears established another financial milestone through the IPO of 20 percent of Allstate's stock. At the time, it was the largest IPO in U.S. history. The remaining Allstate shares were distributed to shareholder in 1995. As the result of these actions, shareholders of Sears then owned shares in three separate and non-affiliated companies: Sears, Roebuck and Co., Allstate and Dean Witter Discover & Co. (now Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.).

In addition, Sears sold the Coldwell Banker Residential Services, the Sears Mortgage Banking Group and the Homart Development Company. Total proceeds from these transactions, about $4 billion, were used to reduce overall corporate debt. With its diversified companies divested, Sears, Roebuck and Co. had returned to its retailing roots.

In 1997, Sears sold its majority interest in Sears, Roebuck de Mexico.

A major expansion of Sears.com in 1999 heralded a new era of enhancing the customer experience through Web-based technology. With Sears.com, the company began serving as a single national "clicks and bricks" resource for researching, buying, delivering, installing, maintaining and repairing the top brands of home-related products - major appliances, home electronics, heating and cooling systems, lawn and garden equipment, jewelry and watches, recreation/games, power tools, repair parts and select apparel items.

Sears Today

At the close of its 2000 fiscal year, Sears operated 863 mall-based retail stores, most with co-located Sears Auto Centers, and an additional 1,200 retail locations including hardware, outlet, tire and battery stores as well as independently owned stores, primarily in smaller and rural markets.

The company's services operations include product installation and repair services; service contracts; selected installed home improvements; and direct response. Direct response includes direct response marketing, clubs and services memberships; and merchandise through specialty catalogs. 

Sears, Roebuck and Co. also is the majority owner of Sears Canada Inc., one of Canada's largest retailers. Sears Canada operates 125 full-line stores, 176 specialty stores, and 1,550 independently owned catalog agents and hometown stores.

 

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