AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
- 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 $5 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.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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, catalog, and growing store fleet.
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