Sears Hometown Store

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Business Analysis III During the early years, Sears sold only watches and other jewelry. However, its founders, R. W. Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck, quickly developed the company according to the mail-order retail model pioneered by Montgomery Ward, which used newly constructed railroad networks to ship a variety of goods at low cost to small towns and rural areas. Offering a steadily increasing variety of items in its annual catalogs, Sears provided cash-strapped Americans with an alternative to relatively expensive general stores and dry-goods merchants during the economic depression of the 1890's, outstripping the sales volume of other mail-order houses. By the early twentieth century, the company offered thousands of items, ranging from the most modest of household goods to automobiles and homes. After assuming a dominant position among mail-order retailers serving rural markets, Sears began making headway into urban retail markets, opening its first department store in Chicago in 1925. Several more stores in the Chicago area opened during the 1920's and early 1930's. The increase of suburban neighborhoods in the United States led to a shrinkage of both urban and rural retail markets, forcing Sears to alter its business plan. In addition to opening a number of large anchor stores in suburban shopping malls, the company sought to solidify its hold on mail-order retailing by establishing catalog stores in small towns. In these stores, some large items such as appliances could be purchased in-store, and other items could be ordered from catalogs with the assistance of salespeople. The company also began producing its own merchandise under various brand names, including the popular Craftsman line of hand and power tools. Sears also extended its diversification outside the retail sector, establishing the Allstate Insurance Company in 1931 and purchasing the Coldwell
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