Earlier this month the long-rotting retail goliath Sears finally declared bankruptcy. The long-anticipated move seemed like a good time to take a look at the iconic private brands that I featured in my latest best-selling book Vanguard: Vintage Originals. The follow-up book to my first book Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project, presents a look at the innovation, vintage design, and brands that shaped the last 100 years of private brand.
With images from acclaimed photographer Teri Campbell, the book brings to life the collection of 100+ original vintage private label packages from more than 30 retailers. It should be no surprise that numerous examples of private brands from Sears are included. Take a look and learn from their amazing success, innovation, and longevity.
Unfortunately, in the end, great private brands were not enough to save a retailer who could never make the transition out of the 1980’s
In 1927, Sears acquired the Craftsman trademark for $500. Two years later, Craftsman power tools debuted in the fall catalog. They were described as “powerful, of rugged construction and well balanced and easily handled.”
The Kenmore brand name debuted on sewing machines in the 1913 fall catalog on a four-drawer drop-head sewing machine, but the name was dropped in the fall of 1919. It was reintroduced again in 1934 and went on to be the number one appliance brand in the United States.
The origin of the Kenmore brand name is vague at best. One suggestion is that Kenmore came from Kenmore Avenue, a prominent street in Chicago.
Sears created the Allstate brand in 1925 as part of a national contest to name Sears’ new private brand of automobile tires. By the end of the 1960s, Sears focused the Allstate brand on automobile insurance, tires, and batteries. In 1995, Sears divested its remaining Allstate shares to Sears’ stockholders and Allstate became an independent company.
Silvertone was Sears, Roebuck & Company’s “musical” private brand. The first Silvertone product was a hand-cranked phonograph introduced in 1915. The first solid body electric guitar appeared in 1954 and was followed by many more guitars. Famous Silvertone musicians have included Ace Frehley, Muddy Waters, Chet Atkins, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.