Sears | Sears Modern Home | A Trip Through Sears, Roebuck & Co | Craftsman
1898-1930 | 1931-1960 | 1961-1993
The 1943 Sears News Graphic wrote that the Sears catalog, “serves as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living.”
In addition to recording the changing scene in America, the Sears catalogs represent the work and efforts of thousands of Americans. Edgar Rice Burroughs, who later wrote the Tarzan series, worked for Sears. Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Gloria Swanson, Susan Dey, Cheryl Tiegs, and Stephanie Powers all appeared on the pages of Sears catalogs as models. The catalogs also featured Roy Rodgers, Ted Williams, Al Unser, and Gene Autry. Because the catalogs accurately reflect the styles and furnishings popular through the years, producers of Broadway shows and Hollywood movies frequently refer to them.
Sears issued only two major catalogs (Big Books) per year. In order to keep the collection a reasonable size, only one book per year was chosen for this collection. Also the basic design of the cover for the first few years were virtually identical, so those redundancies were not included either.
Spring 1961, Catalog No. 222A (75th Anniversary 1886-1961)
Spring 1962, Catalog No. 224K
Spring 1963, Catalog No. 226A
Spring 1964, Catalog No. 228K
Spring 1965, Catalog No. 230A
Spring 1966, Catalog No. 232K (19 year old Cheryl Tiegs)
Spring 1967, Catalog No. 234A
Fall 1968, Catalog No. 237H
Spring 1969, Catalog No. 238A
Fall 1970, Catalog No. 241H
Spring 1971, Catalog No. 242A
Spring 1972, Catalog No. 244K
Spring 1973, Catalog No. 245A
Fall 1974, Catalog No. 249H
Fall 1975, Catalog No. 251G
Fall 1976, Catalog No. 253H
Spring 1977, Catalog No. 254A
Fall 1978, Catalog No. 257H
Fall 1979, Catalog No. 259G
Spring 1980, Catalog No. 260K
Fall 1981, Catalog No. 263G (Cheryl Tiegs Collection)
Spring 1982, Catalog No. 264K
Spring 1983, Catalog No. 266A
Spring 1984, Catalog No. 268K
Spring 1985, Catalog No. 270A (Stephanie Powers Collection)
Spring 1986, Catalog No. 272B (100th Anniversary 1886-1986)
Fall 1987, Catalog No. 276
Fall 1988, Catalog No. 277
Spring 1989, Catalog No. 278
Spring 1990, Catalog No. 280
Fall 1991, Catalog No. 283
Spring 1992, Catalog No. 284
Spring 1993, Catalog No. 286
New York Times, January 26, 1993
Sears Eliminating Its Catalogues and 50,000 Jobs
By STEPHANIE STROM
Sears, Roebuck & Company announced yesterday that it was pulling the plug on its “big book” catalogues, the tomes that have staked a place beside the family Bible in rural American homes for 97 years, as part of an extensive revamping that will close 113 of its stores and carve 50,000 jobs from its payroll.
The huge overhaul effort, the most extensive of Sears’s many attempts to halt the decade-long decline of its retail business, is a big step toward making Sears nimble enough to compete in today’s lean retail environment, where stores like Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us and Home Depot brag about their low cost structures rather than their sales.
It also sounds a death knell for the entrenched bureaucracy that resisted change at Sears for years, and rings in the reign of Arthur C. Martinez, the outsider hired to revamp Sears’s retail businesses. For those who doubted his ability to engineer a turnaround at the nation’s third-largest retailer, yesterday’s announcement showed that Mr. Martinez has the authority to slaughter Sears’s sacred cows.
“I feel this is a definitive restructuring of the merchandise group,” Mr. Martinez, chairman and chief executive of Sears’s merchandising group, said in a telephone interview. “It gets us out of a number of unprofitable businesses and frees up the playing field for us to move forward.”
He said he did not want to go down in history as the catalogue’s executioner, but would instead “like to be known as the guy who got Sears back on its feet.”
The catalogue had $3.3 billion in sales last year but losses of as much as $175 million. Analysts and consultants said Sears had little chance of revitalizing the operation without making significant investments of time and money. Richard Grunsten, president of GSP Marketing Services Inc., one of the largest specialty catalogue publishers and a one-time Sears consultant, said Sears’s catalogues made a profit in December after about 20 straight years of losses.
In spite of their abysmal record, the demise of the “big books,” with their 1,000-plus pages devoted to everything from farm implements to dresses, evoked waves of nostalgia. The catalogues were the cornerstone of the Sears retail empire, which in its heyday was to the industry what Wal-Mart is now. Sears now ranks behind Wal-Mart, which is No. 1, and Kmart. ‘The World Has Changed’
“To see it die gives you a little, well, your heart skips a beat because it was something that was so American,” said Robert F. DeLay, editor of the DeLay Newsletter, a direct-marketing newsletter. “Nonetheless, the world has changed, and the catalogue has not changed with it.”
The “big books” were among the last catalogues to adopt the use of an “800” telephone number for taking orders. The operation, which also published 50 small specialty catalogues, only recently began accepting Visa and Mastercard for purchases, and for many years, customers had to pick up their purchases at a Sears store even though other catalogues would mail items directly to homes. The merchandise pickup counters were closed last year, and the 2,000 catalogue stores are now set to close. Customers may still order from the catalogues until the end of this year.