TORONTO: Sears Canada has retired one of Canada's most beloved icons: Eatons, a chain of department stores started in 1856 by Timothy Eaton, an Irish immigrant.Sears bought the chain in 1999, and renamed it "eatons,
changing the case of the "E,
and dropping the apostrophe.
The chain grew to one of the largest retailers in the country, and was as well known as The Hudson Bay Co. But in the early 1990s, Eatons lost nearly half a billion dollars a year and even went public in 1998, with the Eaton family retaining control. Nothing could stem the losses, and in 1999, American retailer and cataloguer Sears bought the company. Early in 2000, Sears announced that Eatons would become a high-end retail store.
Christine Hudson, Sears Canada's manager of public affairs, said the decision was a difficult one, but had to be made for obvious business reasons.
"Customers just weren't spending money (at Eatons),
Hudson said. But she added that there has been a backlash among Eatons supporters. "We know Eatons is sentimental to a lot of people,
she said. In fact, the bronze statue of Timothy Eaton that is displayed in the downtown Toronto store, the toe of which people rubbed for luck, will be displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum.
PRCI Communications assisted Sears with the announcement. Most of the company's PR is, however, handled in-house.
The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, wrote, "The brand was too tarnished from years of neglect, poor performance, and having simply lost touch with what shoppers wanted: fashionable products, helpful staff, and reasonable prices."
Hudson said they are planning a PR push in July when five of the seven Eatons stores are converted to Sears. Two of the stores will close because there are already Sears outlets nearby.