Define: Sears

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Sears


Full Definition of Sears

Sears, Roebuck and Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois as a catalogue merchandiser in 1873. Their “stores” were more akin to pickup centres than actually places to shop, though it was possible in larger outlets to do so.

The primary vending method was to send catalogues to huge lists of people. These customers would order items, which would then be sent by mail or parcel post, or other shippers for larger items, directly to the home or business of the consumer. Or the items could be picked up at the Sears Store in a nearby town.

The Sears, Roebuck catalogue was sometimes referred to as “the Consumers’ Bible.” The Christmas Catalog was known as the “Wish Book”, perhaps because of the toys in it. The catalogue also entered the language, particularly of rural dwellers, as a euphemism for toilet paper. In the days of outhouses and no readily available toilet paper, the pages of the catalogue were used as toilet paper. “I’m going to read the Sears catalogue” was a polite way of saying “I’m going to the outhouse.” Another way the company entered the language the phrase/question: “what, did you get your license at Sears?” This was a disparaging remark directed at poor drivers. It is still heard among older Americans.

After World War II, the company built many stores in suburban malls. The company was the largest retailer in the United States until the early 1980s. It is still ranked among the top 10.

The company diversified and established major brands during the twentieth century. They created the Kenmore, Die-Hard, and Tuff-skin brands. They created the Allstate Insurance Company and owned Dean Witter.

Roebuck was dropped from the name starting in a phase-out in the 1970s. And at this time plans were launched for the Sears Tower, completed in 1974. This building, located in Chicago, is the tallest building in the United States. However, in the 1990s, Sears moved its headquarters to the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates.

In the eighties and nineties, the company divested themselves of non-retail entities. In 2003 they sold their credit card operation to Citi Bank.

Sears owns 55% of Sears Canada, a large department store chain in Canada, similar to the U.S. stores.


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Modern Language Association (MLA):
Sears. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 02, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Sears. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 02, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Sears. Retrieved April 02, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Sears are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 20th February 2020.