Richard Warren Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, achieved success by seizing a profitable opportunity.
Sears was born in Minnesota in 1863.
At the time of his death in 1914, he was said to have amassed a fortune worth approximately $25 million. He was survived by his wife and their four children.
How Sears Spotted a Profitable Opportunity
Before he established his department store chain, Sears worked as a telegraph operator in the town of North Branch, Minnesota for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway.
In 1886, a shipment of gold watches from a Chicago manufacturer was refused by a Minnesota retailer.
Realizing the United States had just implemented time zones, Sears knew watches were going to be in high demand. So he took possession of the watches on consignment and peddled them to station agents, farmers, train engineers and passers-by.
He ended up making a net profit of $5000. Thrilled by the success of his enterprise, Sears set up a watch business and moved it to Chicago. The watch business later turned into a mail-order firm selling watches and jewelry.
By 1894, Sears’ mail-order catalog had 507 pages and the company was selling a wide range of goods, including saddles, shoes, bicycles and sewing machines.
Sears’ Creative Marketing Skills are an Inspiration for Businesses
Sears was a savvy marketer who connected with rural Midwestern customers.
He designed his catalog shorter and narrower on purpose because he knew his target audience (the busy housewife) would stack it on top of his competitor’s catalogs, effectively keeping his brand always top of mind.
Further, to attract more customers, he offered frequent freebies and discounts.
What Sears did many years ago is still relevant for businesses today. His sharp understanding of customer needs and creative marketing ideas made his business successful. The same formula can prove beneficial for small businesses today.