The Long, Hard, Unprecedented Fall of Sears

In 1989, Sears Roebuck & Co. ruled America as its biggest retailer. It loomed over rivals from a perch high above Chicago, inside what was once the world’s tallest building—one bearing the company’s name.

The fall from that height may finally be nearing an end.

Over the course of almost three decades, the company experienced what industry observers described as one of the most monumental collapses in business history. Despite its union with Kmart—the second-largest retailer from that era—and a stated belief that it can still turn things around, Sears is teetering on the edge of disaster.

The latest bad news was revealed in March, when Sears acknowledged “substantial doubt” about its future, sending the stock plummeting, its worst decline in more than two years. S&P Global Market Intelligence declared Sears the U.S. retailer most vulnerable to defaulting in the next year. A Fitch Ratings study of retail bankruptcies also listed it as a company with a high risk of failure.

The combined decline of Sears

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