Revitalizing Sears Roebuck and Co.

Once the nation’s top reseller, today Sears announced it was considering filing for bankruptcy. How tragic is that? Sears has historically been a diverse and all-in-one company - they sell high quality products, from appliances to power tools and athletic equipment. Founded in 1892 by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck, Sears has been iconic with American working class products for over 120 years.

The eminent restructuring of the company has made me think, what would I do if I were the new CEO? Of course as an architect I thought back to the years when Sears was known for their innovative Catalog Homes. From 1908 to 1942 Sears sold well-designed small to medium size homes that could be purchased as a kit of parts, delivered by boxcar train, to be assembled by the buyer. If I were CEO I’d bring back the pre-fab home but create a new modern standard for innovation. Think of it, Sears sells just about everything that you need for a home - appliances, HVAC equipment, water heaters, power tools - all at a high level of quality. Sears could outfit a complete home or simply sell the shell and homeowners could choose how to finish-out the home to their own taste.

There’s certainly a demand for small well-crafted designer homes that’s not being met. We at Element 5 Architects have several tiny homes in the works. We have our own portfolio of tiny homes (also known in these parts as Accessory Dwelling Units), ranging from small (600sf), medium (900sf) and large (1100sf). All are quite liveable and desirable among the younger generation and older generation alike. While these homes tend to be more affordable because of their size I think that’s only a part of their appeal. People simply find it appealing to live in compact accomodations, a part of the small carbon footprint and living simple movements.

 Typical Sears Catalog Home

Typical Sears Catalog Home

I would start with just that - a series of well-conceived, complete package designs in small medium and large sizes, all compact and innovative. The homes would offer modern technology that’s not typically seen in homes these days. Smart thermostats, lighting, voice-recognition, passive and active heating and cooling, tight ergonomics, modern fixtures. Think along the lines of Backcountry Hut Company, Kasita or Drop Structures…even some of the work we’re doing at Element 5! Here’s to hoping Sears reads our blog and finds inspiration to revitalizing the company.

These are just a handful of examples of tiny homes E5A has designed over the years.

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