As I read about the record-breaking Internet sales being reported this Christmas, I remember s0metime around 1985 I was asked to co-chair a task force at Sears headquarters to come up with ideas about how the retailer should leverage the use of the Internet.
I don’t remember all the recommendations of the group, but I remember the main one: “We are a retailer; we should utilize the Internet to sell merchandise.” We recommended that Craftsman tools would be the test. Everyone knew the quality of our Craftsman brand, and customers wouldn’t need to hold it in their hand to realize the value.
The recommendation was rejected as unworkable and flawed. “No one would enter their Sears credit card into a form on the Internet.” The idea never saw the light of day. It was too bad, because Sears had a vast source network and certainly would have little trouble mastering the logistics that we see today at Amazon.
Change is a funny thing; we have to be forced into implementing it. Until our future is in peril, we cling to our current ways. I guess my beloved company believed it could continue to be successful with the model upon which it’s success had been built. Times do change, and those who fail to embrace change get left behind.
Sears will finish the year with about $40 billion in sales; Amazon finished the third quarter with about the same number, so it will undoubtedly end the year with more than $60 billion in sales. Amazon does this volume without the cost of a chain of retail stores.
It has been a great run for the fine company Richard Sears founded in 1886. Through most of this time, it has been an innovator and has always treasured its customers, following the guiding principle: “Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back.”
The company taught us to respect everyone whether they were employees or customers, and always there was the emphasis on integrity. I am grateful for what I was taught by Sears. In the satisfaction policy training, we were taught that it’s a smart business policy and it’s the right way to run our business.
So the point is to know what to change, and what must remain unchanged. I think I have it sorted out. As we move into a new year with new realities, change strategies — but never change your values.
Happy New Year!
Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the bi-books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. (More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.)