For generations, Sears served the middle market of working-class homeowners hoping to buy high-quality products, but who could not afford to make the purchases outright without Sears monthly installment programs.
Nobody offers payment plans now because they dont trust nobody, said Bob, a 15-year employee of the Sears outlet store as he helps his friend load a La-Z-Boychair into his truck. That said, Bob warned Sears was not to be messed with if buyers dont meet the monthly payments. Sears will come in your house though and take that shit back if they want to. Sears aint like the rest of them, they gonna come steal that shit.
However, with the rise of Amazon, the advent of discount shopping on the internet and competition from stores like Walmart, Sears target audience has drifted elsewhere.
I feel upset because I like Sears, says Mark Vesei, who signed up for a store credit card. Vesei regularly buys tools for his auto detail business in the nearby neighborhood of Swissvale.
Sears tools gained a great reputation among craftsmen like Vesei who saw them as being dependable.
I used to come to Sears with my dad back in the day because of the Sears Craftsman lifetime guarantee, said Trevor Thomas as he picked up a refrigerator he purchased at the stores Columbus Day sale.
The 125-year-old department store operator was once the worlds largest retailer. It has been controlled by hedge fund billionaire Eddie Lampert for some 13 years. Lampert has slashed costs, cut stores and lost millions trying to turn the company around.
Sears merged with Kmart in 2004, at which point the holding company had more than 3,500 locations. About 250 of its best-performing stores were spun off into a new company, Seritage, while others were sold or closed, leaving Sears managing around 700 locations, many within struggling shopping malls that face the prospect of another dark anchor a shuttered major store if their Sears closes. It last made a profit in 2011 and losses now top $11bn.
Under the bankruptcy plan another 200 stores will close this year, costing thousands their jobs. The company currently employs 70,000 people and has shed 200,000 jobs since 2007.
Store employee Bob saw one upside to Sears failure. When I saw it on the news, I was like they arent gonna be no more jobs for me tomorrow, said Bob. Then I was like, let me go buy this chair. Its $100, you cant beat that.