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The times, they are a ‘changin’

April 5, 2017
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Many years ago, an annual highlight of life for my family was the arrival of the heavy, treasure-filled Sears-Roebuck catalog.

When the colorful "window on the outside world" finally came, the normal pattern of life was suspended for a time. Everyone in the household stopped what he or she was doing in order to look over each tempting page.

As the youngest member of the family, my turn at the wonderful book always came last. By that time, the colorful catalog was dog-eared and marked with notes left by Mom, Dad or one of my older siblings. But, nothing could dull my excitement when, at last, I could browse through the amazing offerings myself.

My focus was on the toy section. The realistic baby dolls held no interest for me. After all, by age eleven, I felt much too old for such childish things. Instead, I repeatedly studied the collection of more mature dolls. Each was dressed in a gown fit for a princess. They inspired fairy-tale dreams.

Another favorite section of the catalog displayed the rolling toys........wagons, trucks, cars. They were standard equipment when all the neighborhood kids got together. And the selection I found in the big book was more extensive than anywhere else.

There was scarcely any item desired by man, woman or child that wasn't listed in the Sears catalog in those days. From dresses to doll houses, from canning supplies to chain saws, from work boots to window shades, there seemed to be no end to the treasures in the magic book. In fact, it even offered some of the first pre-fabricated houses. The Sears-Roebuck catalog had everything.

But, that was then.

Today, Sears, like many other traditional retailers, is feeling growing pressure from e-commerce as well as the inroads on sales due to sprawling discount retailers.

These changes in the retail picture led to Sears recent announcement to investors that there was substantial doubt about its ability to stay in business. In fact the once-powerful retailer has decided to shutter about 150 Sears and K-Mart Stores. (Sears owns K-Mart.)

The closing of these large anchor stores is having a serious affect on malls and shopping centers across the country. The only retail hubs not badly affected are those in upscale communities.

Today, competition is increasing from internet giants like Amazon, massive neighborhood stores like Wal-Mart and membership discount outlets like Sam's Club. As a result, Sears' once-bright star is fading.

But, if I close my eyes and go into a nostalgia mode, I can recapture those long-ago days when that weighty, magic-filled Sears Roebuck catalog brought the world to our house.



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