零售业历史学家罗伯特•史派特曾出版过《亚马逊：快速做大的秘密》（Amazon.com: Get Big Fast）和其他关于零售商的图书。他认为：“亚马逊就是新时代的西尔斯百货。它同时也是新时期的沃尔玛（Walmart），新的巴诺书店（Barnes & Noble）和新的百思买（Best Buy）。”
利斯基著有多部关于美国百货商店历史的著作，其中包括最近出版的《金贝尔百货：应有尽有！》（Gimbels Has It!）。他认为：“如果西尔斯百货当初能够转向互联网，同时结合价格优势与送货上门的配送便利性，它原本可以拯救自己。”
As recently as your grandparents' generation, Sears was the household goods icon for middle class Americans. The thick Sears catalog was the family go-to source for mail ordering anything from eyeglasses to bicycles, and, in earlier decades, even patent medicines and pre-cut houses complete with kitchen sinks.
Sears, which opened for business in the late 19th century, called itself "The Cheapest Supply House on Earth," and, in its heyday, dominated home delivery with 75 million catalogs distributed each year, bringing goods to far flung farms, towns and other locations. But today's customer, who can browse the Sears website but not order from its catalog service, which was dropped in the early 1990s, is likely to be ordering from Amazon's marketplace instead.
"Amazon is the new Sears," says Robert Spector, a retail historian who wrote Amazon.com: Get Big Fast, and other books on retailers. "It's also the new Walmart, the new Barnes & Noble and the new Best Buy."
Sears (SHLD) has not retooled its venerable brand for the technology age, which was underscored this past holiday season when retail sales rose, and Internet sales soared, but the venerable store racked up such poor sales that it announced that it will close 120 stores, and projected that its earnings are likely to sink more than 50% for the most recent three months -- usually the time of the year that retailers rake in their biggest revenues.
Sears, says Spector, "tried to hold onto what they were rather than trying to invent themselves. Like Kodak, Sears did not leap forward when it needed to do so."
Yet Sears still has a loyal customer base, attracted by its sturdy Kenmore appliances, reliable Craftsman tools and well-made Lands' End clothing. It totaled more than $40 billion in sales last year, but that amount is down more than $10 billion from its annual totals only a few years ago.
Amazon (AMZN), on the other hand, had healthy sales during the holiday season, although no specific figures have been released. Consumers spent more than $37.2 billion on overall Internet ordering in November and December -- up 15% over last year, according to figures released by comScore, which tracks such spending.
The Seattle-based Amazon launched in 1994, one year after Sears dropped its mail order catalog operation, which department store historian Michael Lisicky believes could have been Sears' foundation to capitalize on its reliable reputation and to build a Web operation that could have cemented its place in the American home.
"Sears could have saved itself if they had switched to an Internet strategy, and combined price and the convenience of things coming to the house," says Lisicky, who is the author of several department store histories, including the most recent "Gimbels Has It!"