Sears Canada [multiple media]

  • Record Information – Brief
    Hierarchical level:
    Type of material:
    Textual material, Photographs, Art, Objects (including medals and pins), Sound recordings, Moving images
    Found in:
    Archives / Collections and Fonds
    Item ID number:
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    Context of this record:
    • Sears Canada
      Sears Canada 
  • Fonds includes:
    5 lower level description(s)
    View lower level description(s)
    Bilingual equivalent:
    Click here
    Place of creation:
    8.12 m of textual records.
    50,167 photographs : b&w and col. prints; b&w and col. negatives; contacts; transparencies ; various sizes.
    11 drawings.
    2 metal markers.
    2 plastic cards : 8.5 x 5.5 cm.
    17 architectural drawings : b&w ; various sizes.
    1 caricature : b&w ; 18.5 x 12.5 cm.
    1 print : poster ; 30.5 x 40.5 cm.
    1 magnet : 3.7 x 10.1 cm.
    2 nametags : plastic ; 8.5 x 6.5 cm.
    1 postcard : col. ; 14 x 9 cm.
    1 breast cancer awareness ribbon : pink.
    1 clothing tag : 5.5 x 9.5 cm.
    15 audio discs (2 hr 22 min.) : vinyl ; 33 1/2 rpm ; 30 cm.
    30 film reels (7 hr 4 min.) : 16mm, 35mm.
    7 audio reels (3 hr 33 min.) : 7 mm.
    65 audio cassettes (18 hr 46 min.).
    6 optical discs (39 hr 37 min.) : DVD.
    3 laser discs.
    215 video cassettes (57 hr 48 min.) : Umatic, Betamax, VHS.
    1 scratch-and-save card : paper ; 9 x 9 cm.
    1 drawing : ink ; 22 x 23 cm.
    88 storyboards : cardboard ; 50 x 35 cm.
    Language of material:
    Scope and content:
    Fonds includes material relating to Sears Canada's parent companies: Simpson's, Simpsons-Sears and Sears-Roebuck, as well as Sears. It consists of textual documents, photographs, scrapbooks, drawings and architectural blueprints, audio-visual material, and some artifacts.
    Biography/Administrative history:
    Sears Canada: Sears Canada was an icon of the retail industry through the second half of the twentieth century, with stores in cities large and small, and a mail-order catalogue that spanned the country. The Sears department store often anchored local shopping malls, the Wish Book Christmas catalogue was familiar to Canadian families, rural and urban alike, and consumers were used to pricing big-ticket items like mattresses and appliances at the store. Several brands of merchandise carried by Sears were themselves household names, including Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, Silvertone electronics and the Jessica clothing line. U.S.-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. entered Canada in 1952, by partnering with the Canadian-based Robert Simpson Company (Simpsons), to create a new company, Simpsons-Sears Ltd., which operated a mail-order business worth $100 million in its first full year. This new company opened its first store in Stratford, Ontario in 1953, and then expanded its retail stores to cities across the country. The new shopping experience offered by Simpsons-Sears challenged most notably the other Canadian retail behemoth: Eaton¿s. Together these enterprises drew millions of Canadian shoppers to their stores and their catalogues, and touched Canadians in their work and leisure pursuits. It was the catalogue that remained the mainstay for the Sears company, eventually outperforming Eaton¿s, Dupuis Frères, Hudson¿s Bay Company and all other department stores in the mail-order retail business. In the late 1970s, the company dropped the Simpsons name, in the 1990s, it purchased some of Hudson Bay Company¿s stores, and it acquired the Timothy Eaton Company in 1999. According to Sears, by 2003, more than 90% of Canadians lived within a ten-minute drive to a Sears location. The company launched its toll free phone number in 1992, and a decade later it was the most called telephone number in the country. It launched its website in 1996, receiving millions of visits each year, but the catalogue remained popular into the twenty-first century. Sears Canada had a familiar home in suburban shopping malls across the country, until its announced closure in 2017. As a long-standing transnational private enterprise, Sears Canada touched Canadians¿ economic and social lives through employment, income, finance, leisure and consumer products. Sears Canada sponsored charitable organizations, cultural festivals, concerts and other performing arts, and in its appeal to shoppers, it diffused messages about leisure pursuits, consumer culture, fashion and suburban living in Canada. By 1972, with the expansion and growth of Simpsons-Sears in urban centres, the hyphenated company name gradually gave out, and the public came to refer to the store and its catalogue company simply as Sears. In 1973, the company had its first billion dollars in sales. In 1978, Simpsons and Simpsons-Sears were talking about merging their businesses, rather than continuing to operate as separate entities. They were waiting on the Foreign Investment Review Agency approval that Sears, Roebuck would be the primary shareholder and they would buy out the Simpsons Limited shares. But before the deal could be approved, Hudson¿s Bay Company made a counter offer and bought the shares held by Simpson¿s Limited. The Bay eventually sold the shares back to Sears, Roebuck. The stores held by Simpson¿s Limited were left as Simpsons stores for a while, but eventually became stores under the HBC banner, like Zellers and The Bay. By 1984, the company name was officially changed to Sears Canada Inc. Between 1983 and 1985 a first wave of refreshing, remodelling, and transforming stores took place. This transformation was announced as the ¿Store of the Future¿. By 1991, the Bay had finished merging their stores and the remaining Simpson¿s stores became The Bay. In 1999, Eaton¿s ¿ Canada¿s oldest department store ¿ went bankrupt and Sears Canada bought the assets, the name, and the locations of previous Eaton¿s stores. This purchase allowed Sears prime downtown real estate in major cities across the country, including the flagship store in Toronto, Ontario. In 2000 ¿ Sears Canada relaunched the store logo, with the ¿eatons¿ brand, at several stores across the country, featuring products ranging from mid- to higher-priced items. The merchandise included luxury items and brands that may not have been found at Sears stores. The new ¿eatons¿ stores opened in major cities across the country where Eaton¿s stores used to exist ¿ Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Victoria, and Vancouver. By 2002, 'eatons' had had mitigated success and the stores were converted to Sears. Media coverage and retail analysts suggested the failure of the newly re-launched Eaton's stores could be attributed to changing purchasing patterns of customers who were looking for a bargain and were being pushed out by big box warehouse stores instead. In 2011, Sears introduced a three-year plan to re-vamp and refresh Sears, catering to the new buying market. The plan proposed investing in select stores in major cities, and emphasized departments where Sears had historically excelled, including clothing, appliances, and mattresses. In 2016 the company underwent another rebranding, dubbed Sears 2.0. At this time, Sears Canada had 94 department stores, 23 Sears Home Stores, 10 Sears Outlet stores, 64 Sears Hometown stores, as well as 900 catalogue stores, and approximately 15,000 employees. It published a popular catalogue seasonally until the end of 2016, and offered online shopping until October 2017. In 2017, Sears Canada initially made cuts and then declared bankruptcy, announcing that it would be closing its stores across the country. In October 2017, select retail stores began to liquidate merchandise. The last Sears Canada store was closed in January 2018.
    Finding aid:
    (Electronic) MSS2629 (99 99: Closed pending processing)

    Additional information:
    Arrangement note:
    Processing work is ongoing. Material will be added to description, and access updated, accordingly. Note to researchers : the photographs in volumes 76--80 and 171--173 were originally (or are still) attached to storyboards, usually labelled with the name of the store. The name on the storyboard has been used as the file title. The photographs are, in some cases, loose and fragile, and should be handled with care. In other cases, part of the storyboard itself is missing. Any loose photographs have been placed in an envelope, inside the storyboard covers, as appropriate.
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