A set of interior views typical of larger Sears stores from the mid-1950's. From the end of World War II up to that time, the company opened over 100 stores in new locations and had relocated more than twice that number of existing stores to larger, suburban facilities.
Sears’ sales by this time were more than double that of their arch competitor, Montgomery Ward. Their approach to expansion under the leadership of General Wood was diametrically opposed to the extremely conservative stance of Ward under their nearly 80-year old president Sewell Avery. Avery predicated Ward’s go-slow approach on his firm belief that America faced the strong possibility of another depression in the years following WWII. Obviously, this did not materialize, and Avery’s caution, which had served Ward so well during the 1930’s now held the company back. Avery was finally forced into retirement in 1955, and Ward would impressively ramp up their growth in the very late 50’s and early 60’s, but would continue to be dominated by Sears (in 1958, J.C. Penney would pass Ward as number two, but that’s another story).
Another key edge for Sears in competing with Montgomery Ward was their much broader offering of hard lines – tools, sporting goods, lawn and garden equipment and so on. A major tenet of Sears’ merchandising approach was the belief that they needed to provide items of interest to male shoppers to peruse while their wives shopped. This philosophy would eventually lead to the development of the Ted Williams line of sports and fishing equipment and later the (Sir Edmund) Hillary line of camping gear. Sears also placed a much heavier emphasis on large appliance sales with their Kenmore and Coldspot lines. Sears' Coldspot line, for example, was manufactured by Whirlpool and was America’s largest selling freezer line for many years. Ward was much slower to diversify beyond their traditional soft lines.
Most of the photos are circa 1956, including the great shot of the towel display, showing an array of diamond-pattern towels that would be welcome in many a retro fan’s home, the Silvertone radio and TV display, the quinessential Craftsman tool department and the great boating line-up. Sears’ Elgin brand outboards were made during this time by West Bend manufacturing. The escalator shot, from the Nashville, Tennessee store is from a couple of years earlier. The catalog order counter (a fixture of Sears stores large and small) and the paint department views are slightly more recent.