In Insight, Retail

Is retail history repeating itself? The Atlantic takes an interesting look at how the history of Sears predicts Amazon’s growth. A retail giant that ships millions of products by mail expands into the real world through brick-and-mortar outlets, changing it forever. Does this sound familiar? It’s the year-by-year history of Sears. Given the current state of the Sears business, it’s hard to remember how disruptive the company was 100 years ago when it capitalized on a catalog business to establish a retail footprint.

In the decade between 1895 and 1905, Sears’s revenue grew by a factor of 50, from $750,000 to about $38 million, according to Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s 1977 book The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. (By comparison, in the last decade, Amazon’s revenue has grown by a factor of 10.)

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