Ups and downs

My morning paper delivers good news and bad. Today’s edition contained a legal notice under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). CCAA is the last gasp of a firm that has become insolvent. Justice James Farley, who reigned from the insolvency bench and has now retired to arbitration work, delighted in pronouncing CCAA as “caw.” Farley had other jokes, too, that always made the lawyers who appeared before him laugh uproariously. He liked to hear their laughter; they hoped it would improve their cause.
The legal notice was for Sears Canada Inc. and was aimed at unsecured creditors, the last in line for money after the banks and other secured creditors get paid. I have not seen the list but I imagine it includes the likes of a plumber owed some amount such as $10,809.59. This notice has been amended from a previous proposal. Imagine the millions of dollars already billed by lawyers and accounting firms acting for clients trying to squeeze something from the Sears corpse.
Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck & Co. first approached Simpson’s in 1952 to propose joint ownership of the two companies’ catalogue and mail-order business. When the deal closed the following year, retailing in Canada was changed forever. Simpson’s agreed to be restricted to the urban centres where it already had stores. Sears could build anywhere as long as the new store was at least 25 miles away from a Simpson’s outlet. The first Simpson-Sears department store was in Hamilton, Ontario. Six more soon followed as Sears chased the market leader, Eaton’s.
By 1976, Eaton’s catalogue was gone. Such was the prowess of Sears that it eventually replaced the Eaton’s store in the mothership, the Eaton Centre. Then came its slow demise. In 2018 the last Sears store in Canada closed. In the Eaton Centre, Sears was replaced by another U.S. giant, Nordstrom. Who knows how long it will last. Even before Covid-19, shoppers were too few. As for Nordstrom Rack, any Canadian who has shopped in a Nordstrom Rack south of the border knows full well that we are getting only half the choice and one-third the quality. It took Sears sixty-five years for its rise and fall. My five cents says it won’t take Nordstrom anywhere near that long to close up shop and retreat back home. Canada has become a Wal-Mart nation. We can only hope that’s all we import.




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