As Sears And Kmart Shrink, Amazon Grows

Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart

Earlier today, we shared the announcement that Amazon and Sears would be teaming up to sell Kenmore brand appliances, beginning with air conditioners. The retailers have more in common than you might think, though.

Eight years ago, Sears and Kmart had thousands of stores, while Amazon had only a handful of warehouses. Now those proportions are reversing, with Sears Holdings spinning off or closing most of its stores, while Amazon builds more distribution centers, in-person bookstores, and local delivery hubs.

The Wall Street Journal lays this out in graphic form today, showing how Amazon today has as many employees as Sears Holdings did in 2009, and how Kmart has closed as many stores as Amazon has opened new distribution facilities, stores, and other outlets.

Sears Roebuck was the original Everything Store, especially in the first half of the 20th century when its catalog sold houses and everything to put in them, as well as cars and farm equipment.

The retailer gradually shifted its focus to stores in cities, then in malls, and closed its massive catalog distribution centers scattered across the country in the late ’80s and early ’90s, just a few years before Amazon was born.

If Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods goes through, Amazon will take over from Sears in a very literal way. The real state investment trust that Sears Holdings has sold many of its stores to, Seritage, has carved out parts of some Sears stores and leased them to Whole Foods.

That would make Seritage, of which the Chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings is a major stockholder, Amazon’s landlord.

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