UNTIL 1991, SEARS WAS THE LARGEST RETAILER IN the United States with more than 500,000 employees. By the mid-1980s, its market share had fallen 15 percent from its high in the 1970s, and the stock price had plummeted. The CEO at that time, Ed Brennan, tried to change the company’s strategy, largely without success. As one observer notes, Sears was like “a runner with a 50-pound pack and Army boots competing in a marathon.”1 Service was problematic and customers fled to competitors such as Wal-Mart. One shopper in 1991 claimed after visiting Sears, “It’s like shopping at a store in Russia. The people are unhelpful, the stock’s not there, and you have to wait in line forever to pay.”2

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