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Sears was a commercial and social hub across the U.S. (Photo: Ron Frehm / AP)

After a 101-year marriage, Sears and Whirlpool are severing ties: America's quintessential big-box department store will no longer sell America's best-selling washing machine or other Whirlpool appliances.

Why it matters: In another sign of traditional retail's existential struggle, the divorce reflects Sears' seemingly inexorable loss of touch both with its shoppers and Wall Street. At a time Amazon is raking in one conquest after another, Sears may be jeopardizing one of its very few remaining strongholds — its hold on the major appliance market.

The larger trend is that major retailers have closed some 5,000 stores this year, all victims of Amazonization — the shift to on-line shopping.

Here is how it's been reflected in Sears' case:

  • In January, Sears sold its iconic Craftsman tools brand to Stanley Black & Decker.
  • In July, the chain made a stab at surviving by linking up with Amazon — agreeing for the first time to sell its Kenmore appliances through the on-line retailer.
  • But none of this has halted Sears's slide. On Oct. 10, Sears Canada said it will close all its 150 stores in the country, and fire 12,000 workers. That is on top of some 330 U.S. stores that either have already closed or will be this year.
  • Sears' share price, at $64.39 in November 2013, was down 3.8% at $6.31 this afternoon— a tenth of its price four years ago.

The bottom line: The move is baffling. Sears told employees that the decision is a result of Whirlpool charging too much for its appliances. And Sears will not be cutting ties entirely with Whirlpool as a company, since Whirlpool will continue to manufacture the Kenmore appliances that Sears sells. Nonetheless, Sears risks cutting the legs out from under a rare strength: Though its market share has fallen, the chain continues to account for 1 out of 5 major new appliances sold in the U.S., the WSJ's Suzanne Kapner and Andrew Tangel report.

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

59 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.