Friday, April 2, 2010

I'll Be All In Clover...

…and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade. *

The “softer side of Sears” is very much in evidence here, many years before they adopted that as an advertising slogan. These photos, from Display World magazine, depict two of Sears’ 1961 Easter Season window displays as they appeared at the company’s larger stores (called class “A” units internally), which by 1961 were mostly opening up in malls or major shopping centers. At that time, of course, Sears continued to operate a large number of downtown and free-standing suburban stores as well.

It’s easy to see why Sears enjoyed such a strong reputation for affordable fashion in those days. The elegant, pastel clothing and the high quality of the window displays would have been perfectly appropriate for an upscale department store, in my opinion.

Note that the mannequins are all wearing black shoes, wisely avoiding the deadly faux pas of wearing white ones before Memorial Day. My grandmother would approve.

Hope you have a very nice Easter!

*With apologies to Irving Berlin.


  1. These are some well-done displays. I never remember Sears being this nice...

  2. What a fun entry, Dave! Happy Easter to you as well! :D

  3. 1961, wow fashion took a quick change by 1964, 1961 could pass for 1958. The hats look a bit "Doris Day" but the dresses channel Coco Chanel and some Jacqueline Kennedy. When Camelot ended in 1963, the world seemed to lose its innocence.

  4. I love those outfits and those hats. Like, Ken, I have greated noticed over the years how the very early 60s could pass for late 50s. But there always seems to be a carryover when decades switch.

    I went to Evergreen Plaza a few weeks ago and there was a ladies apparel store with suits and matching hats for the holiday. My friend who was with me casing out the deadmall status said, "That's where the church ladies go to get their outfits." I think the same comment applies here.

    Happy Easter, Dave!!!!

  5. Ah the Sears of old. It was an actual department store. There were a multitude of departments all with managers and associates who actually assisted the customer from start to finish.

    Personalized customer service is what set Sears aside from K-Mart and such. I can remember going to Sears for my Toughskins, husky of course, and being assisted by an adult man in shirt and tie. He would assist in selection of size and color and make suggestions to my mom such as shirts, socks, etc.

    The beginning of the end for Sears in my opinion was when they tried going to every day low price. Of course that didn't work because everyone loves a sale.

    The softer side was an okay campaign...however the buyers couldn't pull the trigger on more up to date fashions and trendy clothing. Women (30-45) complained that the fashions were years if not decades behind current fashion and trends. Had they been able to support the softer side campaign with great clothes it would have been a tremendous campaign.

    And now with K-Mart owning Sears the days of the true department store with personalized service is history.

  6. Slick said: And now with K-Mart owning Sears the days of the true department store with personalized service is history.

    No offense, Slick, but if I hear that from one more person I'm going to scream! Labor is the most expensive cost component of any business. Think $10 isn't much? have somebody working for you four hours a day, five days a week. Multiply that by 50 ... get my point? Everybody laments the loss of service, but at the end of the day they always go to the cheapest competitor.

  7. Oh, puh-leeeze! I never expected to have to read another maddening reference--on this site at least--to the tired old cliche about how "wrong" it is to wear white shoes any time before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. What's the matter, don't they fit after Labor Day? All this fuss over a change of days and what color you're "not supposed to" wear anymore. Jay Leno used to dredge this old chestnut out every Tuesday-after-Labor Day and I was SO relieved when he finally stopped!

  8. Danny said: Labor is the most expensive cost component of any business. Think $10 isn't much? have somebody working for you four hours a day, five days a week. Multiply that by 50 ... get my point?

    Yes Danny I do get your point. In my 25 year career with Sears I had to meet payroll objectives weekly and sometimes daily.

    I understand that labor and benefits are the greatest cost any business faces usually more than facilities and energy cost.

    I suppose I was commenting on the American culture. Today people will sell you out for fifty cents.

    People today are willing to serve themselves and endure long lines while checking out to save a couple of bucks.

    Before the days of the big box retailers, Sears provided a level of service which could not be found at the discounters. Sears did not have shopping carts until about 10 years ago...why...because of the reduction in service to meet the payroll goals in comparison to the discounters whose cost per hour was far less.

    Another thing is that the retailers of today want their jobs to be part-time...the days of the many years of service long term employee is no more. There are still a few but the retailers of today want the jobs to be part-time transition jobs not careers. Which back in the old days there were loads of associates with over 20 years of service at Sears and other retailers as well. Both of my parents retired from K-Mart. So I do understand the pressures of payroll very well.

    Enough of the soap box....I just miss the shopping experience of old. I guess it's a little nostalgic....but then that's the theme of this blog...nostalgic shopping of yesteryear.

  9. Steve – Very nice indeed. I can remember some very nice Sears fashion displays inside the stores (late 60’s, as a very young kid), but never paid attention to the windows. I would imagine by that time they were less elegant than these.

    Mel – Thanks so much! Hope your Easter was great as well!

    Ken – The end of the Camelot era seems to have been a cut-off point for many things in the American culture, including fashion. Definitely a loss of innocence, I agree.

    Didi – I agree, there is a carryover between decades. This is something I’ve thought about quite about over the years. Whatever was left over from the 50’s came to a screeching halt when JFK was assassinated. The styles do look like they could have been from a couple of years earlier.

    Evergreen Plaza has changed a great deal over the years, no question about it!

    Danny – The days of high-level service in almost any retail environment are all but gone now, and the desire for cheaper goods is certainly a driving force. There’s a real downside to cutting it too much, as (the infamously now defunct) Circuit City learned in short order a couple of years back when they fired their experienced salespeople and replaced them with cheaper help. I knew they were toast at that point.

    David – My tongue was firmly in cheek when I wrote that line about the white shoes. I always thought it was ridiculous (and pretty funny), and my wife told me a long time ago that the “white shoes” rule was discarded most women decades ago. I didn’t know that Jay Leno had made it a running joke on his show…I guess I used to prefer Letterman’s absurdist humor, but I rarely watch either of them anymore!

    Slick – Great insights, thanks very much! I well remember the days of excellent service at Sears. And “husky Toughskins” were what I wore as well! (Along with Penney’s Towncraft brand.) They definitely were a department store in nearly every sense of the word.

    It’s too bad that Sears’ buyers didn’t ratchet up the styles, because even 30 years later, I (definitely not part of their target audience) remember the ad campaign and the theme song. An opportunity squandered, it seems.

    I think you’re right on target with your assessment of the retail world of today – cost driven, minimal service – as compared to the “golden age” that we celebrate on this site, one that a great many readers are too young to remember. As you and a number of other commenters have said, in-store retail careers were viewed as a long-term, respected career path, even at the clerk level. Now these jobs are strictly the province of part-timers – a second or third job for cash-strapped families. Ultimately, the public gets what they want, and the niceties of the shopping experience as it was though most of the 20th century have fallen to the cause of “saving a few bucks”.