Another old friend is passing on

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Sears is dying a slow, painful death. Many of us are complicit.

When news broke Thursday afternoon that Coeur d’Alene’s Sears store in the Silver Lake Mall was going to be shuttered in a matter of weeks, part of the latest wave of Sears and Kmart store closures, sad reminiscences no doubt spread across America. Just as Ford and Chevrolet dominated the automotive market once upon a time, so did J.C. Penney and Sears tower over other coast to coast retailers.

Think about it: Where did you purchase your first refrigerator? Your last washer and dryer? Your lawn mower or your best set of tools?

Ever buy a suit from Sears? A Sunday-best dress?

The Sears epitaph will likely include mention of the printed word and pictures, once-powerful weapons that seem to be losing the war under a crushing assault of limitless digital images.

Are you old enough to remember the anticipation with which families awaited the latest Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog landing in the mailbox? Now people can’t wait for almost instant delivery. Then people in a hurry went to their Sears store and sifted through pages at a catalog desk if what they wanted wasn’t in stock.

According to Sears archives:

“A master at slogans and catchy phrases, Richard Sears illustrated the cover of his 1894 catalog declaring it the ‘Book of Bargains: A Money Saver for Everyone,’ and the ‘Cheapest Supply House on Earth,’ claiming that ‘Our trade reaches around the World.’”

That’s the same man who asserted, “We Can’t Afford to Lose a Customer.”

Now Sears can’t afford to keep the lights on.

Just as the catalog has retreated into a dark corner of Americana covered in dust, so, too, are the bricks-and-mortar legacy businesses following. It hurts. Maybe not the younger shoppers so much, but for those whose “trading” habits were forged by reciprocal loyalty over so many years, exchanging hard-earned dollars for quality merchandise at fair prices, the demise of Sears further shakes something once thought unshakable.

Yes, change is inevitable. Those who don’t keep up get left behind.

Right now, though, it’s impossible to see this as progress.

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