June 19, 1954 – The streets of historic downtown were alive with excitement in preparation of one of the most anticipated events of the year – the opening of the first Simpsons-Sears in Nanaimo. People from near and far ventured to the Harbour City to check out the new, massive store that cost $650,000 to build (a small fortune at the time!). In fact, nearly 15,000 people made an appearance at the opening event, helping to usher in a new golden era of department stores in Canada.
The Sears name, however, dates back much further than that Saturday in 1954. Beginning in the late 1800s in the United States, the Sears empire started as a mail-order catalogue that provided rural residents with a wider selection and better prices than they could find locally. A few decades later, Sears began opening brick-and-mortar retail stores to serve their urban customers as well. In the early 1950s, the company expanded its way into the Canadian market by partnering with a national mail-based business, opening its doors as Simpsons-Sears.
Eventually becoming simply ‘Sears’, at its peak, the chain featured 94 department stores, 23 Sears Home stores and 10 outlets. Boasting a huge range of items, from clothing to appliances, as well as mattresses, housewares and everything in between, the Sears chain was a mainstay in countless communities across the country, both large and small.
After more than six decades of operation as one of Canada’s leading department stores, the Sears legacy is sadly coming to an end. Sinking sales and profits has caused Sears Canada to officially announce that they will close all of their stores across Canada, including the location at the Nanaimo North Town Centre, as part of court-supervised bankruptcy proceedings.