Sunday, October 21, 2018

The End of Sears Should Be Mourned by The Supply Chain Community

If I described to you a retail entity which did the following what would you say?

  • Took orders nationwide over multiple channels (whatever technology was available) - phone, mail, store
  • Delivered to your door most items
  • You could buy anything - a belt for your suit or a complete home for your empty lot as you came back from fighting for America
  • Had a complete after sales service network which reached just about every town in America
  • Had brands which leveraged contract manufacturing so you always had the "store brand" but behind it were the best manufacturers available
You likely would say, "Wow, that must be Amazon".  Then if I added this:
  • You could order any product at the store and when you ordered it you could immediately, at the cash register, set up a delivery appointment.
  • They delivered everything, installed it and provided great after market service
  • They did this anywhere there was a store.. which literally was everywhere.
Now you would say, "Wow, that is Amazon combined with XPO in one grouping.  The technology (inventory, scheduling final mile routing etc.) must be amazing!"

But, of course, what I am describing is what Sears was literally doing 25 years ago.  Sears Logistics Services was a pioneer in all things omnichannel and all things final mile delivery. I personally always shopped at Sears as I was in the military so I moved a lot.  However, every town I went to had a Sears, they all serviced you great, they would deliver where ever I lived and I could always count on them. 

Many stores today are just warehouses which are full of "stuff" to buy.  Sears sales people were experts at what they sold.  Ask a person in a "big box" today about an appliance they are selling on the floor and likely they will go over to it with you and read the sign (which I can do) and then start filling in gaps with what they "think".  They have no knowledge beyond what I have and in some cases, a lot less. 

When you went into a Sears store the appliance person (using appliances just as an example) had manufacturer training, likely had worked for an appliance company and were actually old enough to have owned a few themselves.  Pure expertise. 

So, while we all can sound smart about all the dumb things the modern leadership of Sears did we should not forget their logistics and supply chain expertise.  When I read what some of the retailers are doing today to make their delivery network more available and efficient for the consumer I can only think, "hmmm, that looks like Sears 25 years ago".

Reminds me of a great quote "Want a new idea, read an old book".