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Sears Roebuck in the Twentieth Century: Competition, Complementarities, and the Problem of Wasting Assets

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  • Daniel Raff
  • Peter Temin

Abstract

Sears Roebuck and Co. faced similar challenges in the 1920s and the 1980s. On the strength of the early period's strategic investment decisions, the company grew into the nation's largest retailer and a pervasive factor in the economy. In the later period, unanswered challenges nearly destroyed the company. We analyze the elements that contributed to the success in the 1920s and to the near disaster in the 1980s and place them in a broader and more systematic context. We argue that successful innovations combine a focus on an attractive market with an exploitation and even enhancement of a firm's existing competitive strengths.

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  • Daniel Raff & Peter Temin, 1997. "Sears Roebuck in the Twentieth Century: Competition, Complementarities, and the Problem of Wasting Assets," NBER Historical Working Papers 0102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0102
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    1. Peter Temin, 1991. "Inside the Business Enterprise: Historical Perspectives on the Use of Information," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number temi91-1, April.
    2. Peter Temin, 1991. "Introduction to "Inside the Business Enterprise: Historical Perspectives on the Use of Information"," NBER Chapters,in: Inside the Business Enterprise: Historical Perspectives on the Use of Information, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hannah, L., 1997. "Marshall's 'trees' and the global 'forest': were 'giant redwoods different?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20363, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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