Everything you say proves my point. When I was younger I worked in restaurants. I could earn $10-$12 an hour cooking. Rent for an apartment was about $500-600/mo. Gasoline was well under a $1/gal. You could go to McD's and get a burger, fries and small drink for $1.
Today, the same job pays the same amount, ($10-$12/hr). Rent is four times higher, gas and food cost four times as much.
The average family shops at the average stores, pays the average rent and earns the average wages... in general, it used to cost 1 week of whatever the "head of the household" earned to pay the rent or mortgage for a month -- now it costs what (2) earn for (2) weeks... And I'm not talking the people that live in Mansions or McMansions or drive H2's.
Seniors in their 70's that paid into Social Security for 40 years and thought they would be able to retire and afford life now live at the poverty level, (and decide between prescription drugs, heating oil or food).
Like most other retailers, Sears decided to sell cheap, low quality imported goods which require more service calls, result in more disatisfied customers, and eroded their customer base. "Low price" is not value. Sears used to be value oriented -- now they are just another place to shop, (major example is their Major Appliances and Home Electronics departments -- which probably accounted for a good deal of their revenue). Those departments now sell every brand, (you used to be limited to Kenmore Applianes -- which may have been private label of other manufacturers -- but Sears didn't have to compete on "price", the Kenmore name was synonmous with the "Sears Guy" taking care of it when it broke down -- and the buyers had leverage to get a better quality since they were buying for the Sears chain.
I am not trying to blame retail for people's ignorance -- there is plenty of blame to go around. Blame Wall St., blame the oil companies, blame Main St... it doesn't matter.
Mega corporations like ADM, SuperValu, WalMart, ExxonMobile, BOA, etc.. aggregate goods and herd people into their stores and competition is gone.
The #1 problem in (in the USA) is loss of our manufacturing base. That leaves everyone just shuffling dollars, goods and time in a service economy -- there is no "product" in the GDP, (unless you count weapons sales -- and that hasn't worked out to good for Main Street once you count the cost of fake oil wars).
Maybe Sears should become a military supplier ---
DieHardtm brand Body Armor Toughskintm anti-missle tank armor RoadHandlertm highway checkpoint monitoring systems.
...the "LandsEndtm" brand could be used for the overall marketing camapign.