Sears Canada stores have been part of Canada’s culture for decades.

Sears Canada stores have been part of Canada’s culture for decades.

The closing of Sears department stores the end of an era

Iconic catalogue is something that will always stick in the minds of people from the chain’s heyday

When I was a kid, one of my favourite memories was when the new Sears catalogue would show up in the mail every fall.

I lived in a small bay community in Newfoundland at the time and there were no major shopping centres or malls anywhere in the vicinity.

So the thick Sears catalogue that arrived at my family’s house provided an insight into another world where merchandise beyond my imagination was readily available.

Christmas was already in the air when the catalogue was distributed, as I’m sure Sears management planned accordingly, so I would spend hours going through the large toys section circling everything I wanted Santa to leave under the Christmas tree.

I remember it as a magical experience and, while I didn’t really expect to receive the multitude of toys I circled, I was always pleasantly surprised by how many of them my parents would actually send for each year.

I know I was supposed to believe that it was Santa who was actually in charge of the presents, but I think I knew deep down, even at an early stage, that it was really my hard-working parents who delivered the goods.

It was an annual tradition for many rural kids like me right across the country years ago, and that’s why many in my generation look with regret to the demise of such a prominent department store chain that has served communities across Canada for more than six decades.

Sears Canada is now looking to close 74 full-line stores and eight Sears Home stores as it undergoes a second liquidation process after it couldn’t find a way to stay in business.

This liquidation, the second in as many months, is expected to affect 12,000 jobs.

As part of the ongoing process, the Sears Hometown Store in Duncan announced in August that it will soon be closed as well.

Owners Tessy and Robin Mayo decided to shut their doors on their own, outside of the official liquidation of Sears.

Tessy told me at the time that the business, which the couple has operated for six years, had always been successful, but they foresaw problems dealing with and buying from the Sears corporation with all the downsizing that is occurring.

The large Sears location in Nanaimo North Town Centre, which was the shopping centre’s largest tenant, has announced it will also soon be closing.

I once met the young and newly appointed executive chairman of Sears Canada, Brandon Stranzl, who stepped down in August as the company continued to implode, at the Nanaimo location a few years ago.

Major renovations at the store, a cornerstone tenant of one of Nanaimo’s main malls, were recently completed and Stranzl told me he was confident that Sears, which was already reporting financial problems at the time, would weather the storm and come through smelling like a rose.

With so many jobs on the line, I wanted to believe him.

But with the empty aisles and workers trying to look busy even as the company’s executive director was on tour of the location, it was clearly apparent that Stranzl’s optimism was overblown.

To his credit, Stranzl did his best to turn the company around in his short tenure with the help of a fresh logo, renovated stores, a revamped website and IT platform and a new off-price section of the business that was intended to compete with the discounts offered by competing stores.

But it was too little, too late for the iconic Sears empire.

It’s the end of an era as this titan of merchandising shuts its many doors for the final time.

All people like me are left with are good memories.

Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen. He can be reached at Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com.