Retail Analyst Burt Flickinger said Sears would be Amazon if it were better managed. They aren’t even good comparisons – Amazon has a completely different model.
Last week on Bloomberg Surveillance, Burt Flickinger made the comment that “Had Sears been better managed, Sears.com would be what Amazon is today.”
I’m a bit flummoxed by this one – I really can’t imagine any circumstance where this would be true.
To be fair, I’m really only familiar with Sears to the degree that it’s portrayed in case studies (which it shows up in quite a few). But it seems like Sears was truly a retailer first. It more so had a first mover advantage in retailing, but its competition pretty quickly caught up – even on the catalog retailing side.
So to that end, they were a retailer first, and a real estate holding company (because of their broad geographic footprint) second. That has sort of flipped today, but that legacy is still in tact.
Amazon, on the other hand, was built around a completely separate purpose. They are truly a technology company first, an operations and logistics company second, and a retailer third. Jeff Bezos has always had the idea that Amazon will be a lifestyle company that touches (or at least tries to touch) every moment of the end consumers day. Amazon doesn’t want to sell toothpaste and diapers – they want to sell a subscription for toothpaste and diapers, so you, the consumer, don’t have to worry about buying them. They want to take the retail experience out of retail.
What Amazon sells isn’t the end goal – it’s the means to an end. For Sears, their inventory – which was broader and more dynamic than any retailer before them – was their core strategy.
And this doesn’t even mention that established companies generally have an incredibly hard time completely changing their strategy – say, turning an outdated catalog retailing business into the premier ecommerce platform.