Why is Amazon looking more and more like an old-fashioned retailer? The company’s do-it-all corporate strategy adheres to a familiar playbook—that of Sears, Roebuck & Company. One hundred years ago, a retail giant that shipped millions of products by mail moved swiftly into the brick-and-mortar business, changing it forever. It’s easy to forget how transformative the company was exactly 100 years ago, when it, too, was capitalizing on a mail-to-consumer business to establish a physical retail presence. From the start, Sears’s genius was to market itself to consumers as an everything store, with an unrivaled range of products, often sold for minuscule profits. The company’s feel for consumer demand was so uncanny, and its operations so efficient, that it became, for many of its diehard customers, not just the best retail option, but the only one worth considering.
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THE ATLANTIC 9/25/2017