That’s the title of Michael Auslin’s article for the American. In it, Auslin argues that:
“Sears exemplified the suburban lifestyle of the 1950s and 1960s, and its ubiquity made the suburbs an attractive place to live for consumers who now expected to get anything on a moment’s notice. Sears helped launchAmerica’s credit card culture by issuing its first charge card in 1953. The high point of its attempts to meld commercialism with high taste was the Vincent Price Art Collection of the mid-1960s, for which the famed actor and aesthete chose selected works of art that were sold as high-quality reproductions.”
My first thought upon reading that last sentence was, “What, no Bela Lugosi?” Turns out he was dead by the 1960s. My second thought was, “Now that’s a business hook: hawking art chosen by the star of Doctor Phibes Rises Again.” Yet here’s Wikipedia telling me that the Price collection moved about 50,000 pieces of fine art from the likes of Rembrandt.
So is there a contemporary figure in the Price mold (horror movie star, bon vivant) willing to put his name to some high-brow paintings for the sake of retail profits? Robert Englund perhaps?
Back to Sears, Auslin is less sanguine about the company’s future:
“For decades, however, competitors have been chipping away at Sears’s domain. The lessons it provided in targeted advertising have helped specialty retailers explode in number. Ironically, it was specialty catalogue sellers, such asLand’s Endand Eddie Bauer that first ate into Sears’s staple clothing business. Later, the company found itself under siege from retail outlet master Wal-Mart, which copied the Sears model of putting up megastores selling everything at unbeatable discount prices. By the late 1980s, Sears was dismissed as a middlebrow provider of drab necessities. High-end electronics and furniture stores, designer clothing brands, and hundreds of new specialty catalogs steadily reduced its presence in the consumer landscape.”