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Sears is flailing. As it fights for its life, here’s a look at the company’s rise to becoming the nation’s top retailer, and its fall.
1886: Richard W. Sears, a railroad agent, starts selling watches as a side gig in Minnesota. Later that year, he founds the R.W. Sears Watch Company in Minneapolis.
1887: A watchmaker named Alvah C. Roebuck answers Sears’ help wanted ad. Sears moved his company to Chicago.
1888: The medium the company would be known for, the catalog, debuts. The first one had only watches and jewelry.
1889: Sears sells his watch business for a profit of $72,000.
1893: The two men join forces again, call their new venture Sears, Roebuck.
More: Sears may file for bankruptcy as debt payment looms, reports say
1894: The catalog’s page count jumped to 322 and included everything from sewing machines to sports equipment.
1895: Roebuck exits the company.
1906: Sears offers stock in an IPO.
1908: Co-founder Sears retires.
1925: Sears opens its first store. It was in Chicago.
1927: Sears creates Kenmore brand for appliances and Craftsman brand tools.
1931: Sears introduces Allstate Insurance.
1933: The Christmas catalog debuts
1941: Sears stops offering groceries by mail order.
1945: Sears tops the $1 billion sales mark.
1946: Sears launches plan to build stores in suburbia.
1953: The Sears credit card is introduced.
1967: Sears creates DieHard batteries.
1968: The Christmas catalog is re-christened the Wish Book.
1973: The Sears Tower, then the tallest building in the world, becomes Sears’s new home in Chicago.
1975: Sears becomes the exclusive supplier of Pong.
1981: Sears buys stock brokerage Dean Witter and real estate chain Coldwell Banker.
1985: Sears introduces the Discover Card.
1991: The company loses the distinction of being the nation’s “top-selling retailer” to Walmart.
1992: The corporate headquarters relocates to Hoffman Estates, Ill.
1993: Sears stops producing the Big Book catalog. The company also sold Coldwell Banker and Sears Mortgage Banking Group as well as close to 20% of Allstate and spun off Dean Witter.
1994: Sears sells the Sears Tower.
1995: Sears spins off Allstate into a separate company.
1998: The Christmas catalog website, wishbook.com, debuts, one year before Sears.com goes live.
2002: Sears buys Lands’ End.
More: Sears ‘must act immediately’ to extend life, Lampert’s fund says
2005: Kmart and Sears merge.
2013: Sears sells its $30 billion credit portfolio to Citibank.
2014: Lands’ End is spun off.
2015: Sears raises $2.7 billion by selling stores to Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust
Jan. 4, 2018: Sears announces a $500 million loan from CEO Edward Lampert’s hedge fund. The company had already gotten loans of hundreds of millions of dollars previously.
Jan. 5: Sears reveals its plan to sell Craftsman to Stanley Black Decker for an estimated $900 million.
March 9: The company announces it lost $607 million during the fourth quarter.
More: Sears, Kmart closing more stores as retailer’s struggles continue
Aug. 14: Lampert offers through his hedge fund, ESL Investments, to buy the Kenmore house appliance brand for $400 million, as well as $70 million to $80 million for the home improvement arm of the Sears Home Services Division – a deal Lampert says is “critical.”
Aug. 23: Sears says it will close 13 Kmart and 33 Sears locations in November.
Sept. 23: Lampert’s hedge fund says in a proposal that the retailer “must act immediately to have sufficient runway to continue its transformation.” It recommends $3.22 billion in asset sales, including $1.47 billion for real estate which ESL Investments would buy after a year if no other buyers stepped up.
Oct. 3: Sears says it will close at least two Kmart stores and one Sears location, according to layoff notices filed by government authorities.
Oct. 9 and 10: Reports say that Sears is working with advisers to prepare to possibly file for bankruptcy, as soon as this week.
Oct. 15: Deadline for a $134-million debt payment.
Source: Sears, USA TODAY research
Charisse Jones contributed to this report.