As the sixties drew to a close, Sears continued to reign as the world’s top retailer, and a respected American institution. Probably the highest profile evidence of this was the company’s bold plan to move to a new downtown Chicago headquarters, Sears Tower, construction of which would soon be underway. The tallest building in the world at the time, Sears would relocate there from its antiquated Homan Avenue headquarters in 1973. (Sears would relocate its offices from the Tower to a sprawling complex in suburban Hoffman Estates in the early/mid 90’s, but it continues to bear the company’s name). The Sears Tower’s observation deck has remained one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions since it first opened.
Of a more everyday nature, the photos above show typical Sears scenes from 1969. The first photo shows a Sears serviceman emerging from his turquoise service truck, carrying what looks to be a pretty heavy tool box. Sears had a huge fleet of these trucks nationwide, and they were a very common sight during my childhood. No doubt that Kenmore appliances and Silvertone electronics were big sellers in my neighborhood.
In the second photo, a label is carefully sewn into a dress, part of Sears’ monster-selling Winnie the Pooh product line. In 1966, Walt Disney released the short film “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree”, the first of three such films to be released in a six-year period under rights Disney had secured several years earlier. The Disney studio redesigned the Pooh characters from the original Ernest Shepard designs to a more modern and colorful appearance, one that can safely be said is far more familiar than the original to children today. A year earlier (1965) in a major coup, Sears snapped up exclusive merchandising rights (save for books and a relatively few other items) from Disney to the Pooh characters. Virtually every stuffed animal or clothing article sold outside of Disney parks for the next 30 years, if it featured a Pooh character, came from Sears. In the mid-90’s, mindful of the incredible popularity of the Pooh merchandise (estimated $1 billion value at the time, considerably greater than that of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck), Disney chose not to renew the Sears contract. Recently, a new line of Pooh merchandise has been introduced at Sears to great fanfare. Disney continues to market Pooh items through other channels, however.
The third photo shows a well-dressed couple checking out shag carpet in a selection of groovy colors, and the last photo is a close-up of the legendary legend which greeted customers above Sears’ entrances near and far. As mentioned previously, these are still commonly seen today in older Sears stores.