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How Sears Industrialized, Suburbanized, and Fractured the American Economy

The Iconic Retail Giant Turned Thrift into Profit, But Couldn’t Keep Pace with Modern Consumer Culture

A Sears Outlet Store in Downers Grove, Illinois shuttered its doors in September, 1993. Photo by Charles Bennett/Associated Press.

By Vicki Howard
July 20, 2017

The lifetime of Sears has spanned, and embodied, the rise of modern American consumer culture. The 130-year-old mass merchandiser that was once the largest retailer in the United States is part of the fabric of American society.

From its start as a 19th-century mail-order firm, to its heyday on Main Street and in suburban malls, and from its late 20th-century reorientation toward credit and financial products to its attempted return to its original retail identity, Sears has mirrored the ups …

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Ideas

Why the Supermarket Was Born in Los Angeles

The City Has Long Been a Diverse Laboratory Where Retailers Study Consumer Behavior

Davison on supermarkets Ralphs

By Benjamin Davison
November 17, 2015

In 1926, Los Angeles grocer George Ralphs opened the first supermarket. His property diverted from many of standards of the time, offering off-street parking, a selection of fresh meats and produce, and an environment amenable to middle-class women.

Nearly a century later, Ralphs’ creation has become a quintessential institution of American capitalism, representing national abundance and insatiable material desire. Yet for such a central part of daily life, Americans know very little about how the supermarket as a retailing concept came …

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