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Struggling Sears cuts ties with another old friend

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.

Amy Harder 16 hours ago
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Climate change goes to business school(s)

Beautiful long entrance to Duke University, with the chapel at the end
Duke University Chapel. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

More than a dozen business schools and some of Wall Street’s biggest firms are converging for the next two days at Duke University to discuss the business effects of climate change.

Why it matters: This conference is being billed as the first to bring together students from a range of business schools to address the issue. That reflects both how climate change is becoming more of a tangible business concern and that younger people care more about it than older generations.

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The U.S. suburbs are hot again

The talk around the world is about the rise of the city. But in the U.S., suburbanization is accelerating, according to new Census data released today.

Data: Census Bureau, analysis by Jed Kolko at Indeed.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

What's happening: Since about 2011, the growth of the urban counties of large cities has been sliding. Population growth in their higher-density suburbs has been falling since 2015 as well. But, as you see in the chart above, lower-density suburbs had the highest growth among all places, and exurbs and small towns have also been on the rise, according to an analysis of the data by Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.