The History of Sears and Its New Financial Problems

An American business icon could soon be headed for the history books.

Sears says it has substantial doubt it will be able to keep their doors open, possible ending a business that has been around since the 1800s.

A regulatory filing says Sears lost $2 billion last year. Online retailers are seeing profits soar and the brick-and-mortar stores are having a much harder time.

In the 1800s, railroad worker Richard Sears started shipping goods by mail to farmers who had few shopping choices. As cities grew, so did Sears. Eventually the mega department stores were in almost every major city. The catalogs grew, too, as every kid made sure to have a Sears wishbook at year's end.

Ironically decades later the pioneer of shopping at home may shut down, largely because of our desire to shop at home.

Online shopping has stung Sears.

But the first blow came from deep discount stores like Wal-Mart and Target, which have also been affected by online shopping. Target unveiled sketches this week of a redesigned store headed to Texas to lure online shoppers back.

Sears hasn't turned a profit since 2011. It just sold its iconic brand, Craftsman Tools, but most of the money will go to make pension payments.

Sears executives say their only chance at survival is getting more people through those doors or shopping on their sites online.

It's a market dominated mostly by Amazon, whose growth and profits are soaring as Americans ripped up their wishbooks for Amazon Prime accounts.

The online giant seems to be beating that visionary 1800s railroad worker at his own game.

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