Why Sears Failed…….”It Begins with Arrogance”


From the May 20, 2019 Fortune article: Sears’ Seven Decades of Self-Destruction, we see this passage:

……It begins with arrogance, which Sears developed at mammoth scale. Until the troubles of the 1970s, Sears’ retail operations had never hired a consultant, believing no outsider could possibly tell them anything of value. “Searsmen” didn’t attend retail industry conferences, considering themselves members of a higher caste.

Arrogance erodes discipline, and discipline is central to Collins’s analysis of decline. Cost discipline is often the first to go; it certainly went at Sears. Outsiders long assumed that economies of scale would forever give Sears an unassailable cost advantage in pricing merchandise, but it wasn’t true. The company could indeed buy goods for less than anyone else—but its profligate corporate overhead was so massive that its total costs were bloated far beyond the industry average.

Success creates growth, which spawns bureaucracy, which subverts discipline. “The what replaces the why,” Collins says. “You have to make sure not just 10 or a hundred or a thousand people can do something, so you give everyone the recipe book. The irony is that all those people don’t know why they do it this way. It becomes dogma rather than understanding.” At Sears, the problem was as big as the company; the employee manual reportedly ran to 29,000 pages.

Today, where all companies compete as supply chains, what is the sound of one hand clapping? At our 2015 Annual Conference, our keynote speaker, Seth Godin, said, “Because of the internet, there are no secrets today”.

The AAPN has evolved, thanks to a 9 year string of brilliant pounding presidents, into a ‘networking platform for apparel professionals’. We learn from ourselves, the chain. Many of us grew up together in this network and we trust one another. Until you have trust, you’ll never have speed. Trust crushes arrogance allowing our interaction of ‘why‘ to explain and help us take advantage of the ‘what’.

THIS is the start of another great day in the industry’s world class network – yours – AAPN.


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