Somehow the idea persists among many people that Amazon invented e-commerce. In fact, Amazon is only responsible for about half of all online sales, but only three quarters of this admittedly are a direct part of Amazon’s core business. The rest, about 25%, is handled by Amazon Marketplace, where third-party vendors are invited to conduct their business, for which Amazon charges them a fee of about 25% off of every article sold.
To find a parallel between Amazon and the Wild West, one has to look back as far as 1886. That was the year a railroad agent named Richard Warren Sears bought a crate full of watches that had been delivered to his station in North Redwood (MN) but never picked up. He placed ads in various newspapers throughout the Midwest, and his tiny firm which he named R.W. Sears Watch Company quickly managed to sell its entire stock at a substantial profit. A year later he made the acquaintance of a watchmaker called Alvah Roebuck who knew how to repair watches, and the two went into business together. Sears printed his first mail-order catalog the same year, in which he offered not only watches, but also diamonds and jewelry. In 1889, the two partners relocated to Chicago and founded a new company, Sears, Roebuck & Company. A legend was born.
The Wild West was, admittedly, a little tamer by then: thousands of farmers had settled the Great Plains who often had to travel great distances to reach the nearest General Store where choice was limited and prices high.
Sears Roebuck, on the other hand, were comparatively cheap, their range broad. Business boomed, and the two kept adding new items to their increasingly hefty catalog which had grown to 532 pages by 1895. You could buy almost everything by mail order; dolls and sewing machines, bicycles and sporting goods, later even automobiles manufactured for Sears by the Lincoln Motor Car Works in Chicago. In 1896, kitchen stoves and dry goods were added.
In 1893, the United States went through a stock market crash that led to a severe depression, and Alvah Roebuck was caught short, so he sold his shares for $75.000 (or $2.2 million in today’s money) to Julius Rosenwald from Illinois, an experienced businessman and manager. Rosenwald introduced modern management methods and expanded the product line. In 1906, he took the company public and gathered in $40 million ($1.1 bn at today’s dollar valuation) from investors, which he used some of the money to build the 14-storey Sears Tower in Chicago, the highest building in the Windy City at that time.
Many years later, in 1973, the successor to the old Sears Tower became the tallest building in the world, and it remains Chicago’s landmark to this day, even though Sears was forced to move out in 1995 and the skyscraper was sold to a London insurance company called Willis Group who unsuccessfully tried to rename it. For native Chicagoans, thought, it remains Sears’ Tower to this day. Weiterlesen