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Richard Warren Sears, Term Paper Example

Pages: 9

Words: 2480

Term Paper

Introduction

Richard Warren Sears, the founder of Sears Roebuck & Co., is an important influence in American history and in the formation of the retail industry in the United States in its earliest phase. Sears was a critical figure in the company’s inception, and his ambition to support his family and to earn income supported his focus, motivation, and strength in the business world (Sears.com). It is necessary to consider Sears’ impact on the organization, including his vision for the future and his overall direction in meeting its needs in a leadership capacity. This is a reminder of Sears’ tenacity and drive in order to accomplish the intended objectives with the chosen business model. Sears’ own drive began with his desire to sell watches that were provided by a local jeweler in order to earn income, and the success of his efforts contributed to his ability to sell watch products successfully (Sears.com). His ability to understand how to sell products in the marketplace in a new format was an important lesson towards the discovery of the means to be successful in the retail sector and to be effective in meeting the needs of the local population in a positive manner. Sears was a visionary in many ways and represents a means of understanding the retail sector and its specific objectives in a manner that has influenced this industry for many generations.

Body

Richard Warren Sears was born on December 7, 1863 to parents James Warren and Eliza Sears in Stewartsville, MN, but also lived in Spring Valley and Mankato, MN during his early years (Sears.com). Sears learned much from his father James who was a blacksmith and wagon-maker by trade, and who also held a relative amount of wealth for a period of time until he lost his earnings in a failed stock venture involving a farm (Sears.com). Therefore, James Warren and the rest of the family faced financial struggles for a number of years as they struggled to survive in a difficult environment (Sears.com). Recognizing that his family was struggling at a high level, Richard took it upon himself to earn income of his own to support his family and to provide additional resources to meet their needs; therefore, he learned the skill of telegraphy and held positions with the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroads, as well as in the role of station agent in North Redwood, MN (Sears.com).

It during his tenure with the railroad that Sears began to sell watches when a jeweler did not want to accept a consignment of these products, thereby giving him an opportunity to earn some extra cash among his fellow station agents (Sears.com). Since his venture was highly successful and he began to sell watches at a very successful pace and his income level was high, he left the railroad business and moved to Minneapolis to focus on a mail-order venture that he anticipated would provide him with much success at this stage (Sears.com). At the age of 22, Sears began to sell watches full time through a mail-order format and named it the R.W. Sears Watch Company, which was the earliest inception of what would come later with his retail enterprise (Sears.com). In 1887, Sears began a business relationship with Alvin C. Roebuck, an man with experience in repairing watches, and Julius Rosenwald, a man with a strong financial background in 1895 (Sears.com). The organization known as Sears, Roebuck, & Co. was founded in Chicago in 1893 and by 1908, the company had earned $40 million in revenues and was a huge success (Sears.com).

In the early days of the venture prior to its origination as a retail giant, Sears was an important figure in the development of a successful mail order business, whereby he not only sold watches, but other types of jewelry to consumers that were of interest in meeting their needs (Biography.com). Once the business became a huge success after several years, Sears “decided to cash in on his successful run, selling the firm for $100,000 and moving to Iowa with plans to become a banker. The mail-order business was in his blood, however, and just two years later Sears headed back to Minnesota and established a new catalog business” (Biography.com). This was a significant leap forward for Sears’ business, particularly as he sought to expand upon the retail concept from his substantial earnings as a mail-order expert (Biography.com). His efforts paid off when he was able to start the new company and to experience a high level of success in this venture with his partners in tow (Biography.com).

Sears’ experience at a relatively young age supports a greater understanding of the dynamics of entrepreneurship that have their roots in prior centuries, particularly when businesses and individuals struggled at high levels for different reasons, perhaps due in part to new business models and innovative ideas that were ahead of their time. Based upon his early successes at a young age, however, Sears recognized that his business model could be a potential goldmine and represents a high degree of tenacity and strength in a challenging and increasingly complex world. Sears sought to recognize and sharpen his selling skills with this venture and was an important driving force in the development of new ideas to increase traffic and revenues because he realized that individuals were interested in products that were for sale in this manner.

Sears was a visionary in many ways because he was able to predict and foresee what consumers might be interested in with respect to products that were attractive in meeting a void that existed in their lives. This realization was significant because Sears was able to recognize that consumers throughout the United States with some degree of disposable income were interested in different types of products that would accommodate their needs and support their interest in high quality and attractive products to use or wear in public where others might see them and also gain an interest with the intent to purchase. This phenomenon was somewhat challenging on many levels but supported the demand for different types of services that would engage Americans and their enthusiasm for different types of products. It was turning point for the development and growth of the retail sector and continues to have significant impact on this industry in countless ways that have continued to influence how retail behaves in the 21 Century throughout the United States.

In the earliest stages of the company, Sears was successful in his advertising acumen and his relative understanding of the consumer population, noted as follows: “Sears was the architect of numerous innovative selling strategies that contributed to his company’s development. In addition to his club plan, for example, he came up with what was known as the “Iowazation” project: the company asked each of its best customers in Iowa to distribute two dozen Sears catalogs. These customers would then receive premiums based on the amount of merchandise ordered by those to whom they had distributed the catalogs. The scheme proved to be spectacularly successful” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History). In this context, Sears became largely successful in his efforts to promote the company and its catalog infrastructure by recognizing the profitability of this venture for its consumers and the company as a whole. However, during this early period, Sears also struggled with long hours and stressful working conditions: “While Sears was a brilliant marketer (he wrote all of the catalog material), he lacked solid organizational and management skills. He frequently offered merchandise in the catalog that he did not have available for shipment, and after the orders came in he had to scramble to find the means to fill them. Workdays were frequently 16 hours long; the partners themselves toiled seven days a week. Fulfilling orders accurately and efficiently also posed a challenge” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History). Under these conditions, Sears faced a number of difficulties that demonstrated his lack of understanding of how an organized approach to the business might be helpful in its level of success over the long term (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History). Therefore, it was important for Sears to recognize his own limitations and weaknesses and to learn from these errors in his efforts to improve the overall direction of the business and its influence on consumers throughout the United States. These efforts required Sears to emphasize his core strengths and minimize his organizational weaknesses in an effort to be successful at this stage of his career. This was an important reminder of the need to recognize the value of consumer growth and opportunity in order to engage them in the company’s focus and primary purpose at this stage.

At the time of the original inception of Sears, Roebuck, & Co., the following was observed: “In 1893, A.C. Roebuck & Company became Sears, Roebuck and Company and its headquarters were moved to Chicago. At this time, the Sears, Roebuck catalog ran nearly 200 pages and sold such goods as sewing machines, saddles and musical instruments. By the following year, the catalog had reached 507 pages, and Sears himself wrote nearly every word of it” (Biography.com). For many generations moving forward, the Sears catalog as it became known to the masses was a significant part of the Christmas holiday season, as many children of all ages waited in anticipation of this catalog on an annual basis so that they could choose the items that they wanted for their wish lists. In some ways, this was a rite of passage for many children, particularly those where there were several children, as the group developed their own lists of products that they wanted from Santa or from their parents. The Sears catalog was an institution in American retail for many decades and represented an opportunity to develop new ideas and to generate interest in different types of products that would interest the consumer population across different age groups. This catalog also served as a form of unity for many families in that they would communicate and share information that surrounded the catalog and its products.

In many ways, the Sears catalog was an American staple in its own right and represented a means of understanding one segment of the retail sector and how consumer behavior set the tone for understanding the dynamics of the retail industry in the late 19th and 20th Centuries. It is important to identify areas where Sears’ influence was significant, particularly in the early 20th Century, since it served as a reminder of the strength of the industry and its overall capacity for growth and change, particularly as the field became more crowded and created new concepts to sustain consumer interest. However, in the early years, Sears, Roebuck & Co. served as the staple for the retail marketplace and provided much enthusiasm and enjoyment for much of the consumer population in the United States.

In evaluating the success of the company in its earliest stages, it represents a success story in many ways because Sears recognized the value and need for the retail sector and how it would impact consumers in different ways. This served as a reminder of the continued growth and development of retail concepts and advertising that would influence how consumers viewed this sector and its influence on early 20th Century America and those with disposable income and resources who could afford the different types of products that Sears had to offer to its customers in a catalog format and also through the in-person retail experience. In this context, Sears filled a significant void that required further analysis and consideration because it had a significant impact on the consumer-buying population and those who wanted to purchase high quality products at competitive prices.

Sears was a visionary because of his mail order concepts and ideas; however, he gained much notoriety and strength for his ability to advertise in unique and innovative ways for the period in which the company was conceived and began to grow into a dominant enterprise. Therefore, it is important to recognize Sears’ contribution to the entrepreneurial world and how it shaped the early period of the 20th Century. These considerations support the strength and viability of the retail sector and the concepts within that began in many ways with Sears’ own vision and mission to make the company the best it could be, given the circumstances surrounding the business, the type of products that it had to offer, and how it would grow in scope and presence throughout the United States in the early part of the 20th Century and well beyond this period.

Conclusion

It is important to recognize the benefits of Sears’ early success as part of a larger framework that supported the growth of the retail sector in the United States, given the challenges of developing and sustaining a successful business model that would be successful over time. It was important for Sears and his leadership team to establish a vision that would have a lasting impact on the industry and in understanding what would attract consumers to the business through a combination of products that would be most desirable to meet their needs. In this context, Sears’ vision was palpable and demonstrated his tenacity within the industry and its overall level of achievement at the end of the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century. Sears’ ability to sell products to the consumer marketplace in a successful manner demonstrated his motivation, his understanding of the business, and his overall ability to recognize how consumers might respond to the products that were sold. This level of engagement in the retail sector also supports the drive and ability of business-minded individuals who have achieved optimal success within their respective industries.

Sears is one of a long line of successful entrepreneurs who put his stamp on the earliest stages of the retail sector as it is now known and represents a unique and formidable challenge to the consumer marketplace. Although the concept of the big box store has struggled in recent years with the growth of online businesses, it remains an important and meaningful facet of the retail industry for many Americans and represents a means of understanding how an organization responds to adversity and remains viable, in spite of challenges to its current business model. This tone was established by Sears early on and supports his ability to realize a vision that would eventually contribute to a high level of success for the organization and its business model. Most importantly, Richard Warren Sears’ remains a recognizable force in the retail sector, and although the company has struggled significantly in the 21st Century world, it remains a household name and has established the tone for many other businesses seeking to achieve success within the retail industry at a very high level.

Works Cited

Biography.com. “Richard W. Sears (1863-1914). 16 March 2015: http://www.biography.com/people/richard-w-sears-9477666#sear-roebuck-and-company

Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. “Sears, Richard Warren.” 16 March 2015: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3406400838.html

Sears.com. “Richard W. Sears (1863-1914). 15 March 2015 http://www.searsarchives.com/people/richardsears.htm

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