A Sears store in Lancaster, OH

Credit: Mike Kalasnik

Is Sears Going The Way Of The Wooly Mammoth?

April 4, 2017

The company that operates Sears has "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay in business, it announced in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday.

Sears Holdings, which also owns Kmart, has suffered from a number of ailments, including competition with online retailers.

"What happened to Sears happened to other retailers," said Harvard historian Nancy Koehn during an appearance on Boston Public Radio today. "E-commerce came to play an enormous role in people's lives."

She said Sears' struggles are consistent with those faced by mid- and lower-tier malls all over the country.

"Sears has been an anchor location in hundreds and hundreds of malls across the United States," said Koehn.

But, it's not just bad luck that drove Sears to this point, according to Koehn.

She also referenced unwise business decisions like the chain's merger with Kmart.

Koehn said Sears generally fell victim to "a series of extremely bad, consistently poor managerial decisions in what to do with a storied American department store in the midst of all kinds of turbulence."

Nancy Koehn holds the James E. Robison Chair of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio link above.

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