It might be hard to believe considering its vast array of products, but Sears, Roebuck and Co. began with one accessory: watches. In 1886, Richard W. Sears bought a box of unwanted watches from a jeweler, thinking he could turn a profit by selling them. He was correct and committed to the watch business by hiring Alvah C. Roebuck, an experienced watchmaker.
As time went on, though, their business expanded its umbrella far beyond what people wore on their wrists. Sears became known as the place to shop for almost any appliance, from sewing machines to those magical boxes that create water from nothing and clean your clothes.
Today, the stores stock clothing, accessories, electronics, kitchen equipment, tools for outdoor living, and home decor. This variety is sustained by Sears's proprietary brands—Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard, to name a few—and other national names that populate the shelves.
The beauty advisors and aestheticians at Merle Norman Cosmetics and Spa work with popular brands including OPI, Footlogix, and an in-house line that has been featured in publications such as Town & Country. Part spa, part storefront, their space functions as a destination for everything from skincare products to facials and makeup applications for special events or breakfast dates.
Helping customers improve their vision is the main concern of the optometrists and eye-care professionals at Eye Boutique, who provide preventive screenings and help choosing from their more than 1,800 frames at each location. In each shop, licensed doctors of optometry scan eyes with comprehensive exams before diagnosing issues or prescribing high-definition Zeiss lenses and contact lenses from Optix and Acuvue. Designer frames from Guess, Nike, and Kenneth Cole house lenses fashionably, and Teflon protective layers help guard lenses from scratches and reduce glare. Sunglasses from brands such as Ray-Ban and Coach also protect eyes from harmful UV rays, creating an accessory that is both stylish and useful, like a diamond with a job.
The staff at Monkey Business Party & Gifts keep their shelves stocked with colorful party supplies and favors such as stick-on moustaches, bacon band-aids, and super balls. They carry themed supplies for birthdays, graduations, and holidays.
Hints of nature bloom inside Bellezza by Rali's welcoming interior, where hardwood floors and eggplant-hued walls surround shelves of plants and styling products. Here, resident stylist and color specialist Oralia Schultz siphons 20 years of salon experience as she wrestles weed-like tangles into stylish coifs. When crafting hairdos for men, women, or style-conscious chia pets, she performs thorough consultations to build a look that matches the patron's personality. For a full makeover, she lops off loose ends, adds a splash of vibrant Goldwell color, and styles remaining tendrils with a blow dryer. An experienced manicurist, Oralia also lavishes nails with manicures, pedicures, and polish changes.
To call The Body Shop a mere skin and body care store is to miss half of what makes it special. Late founder Dame Anita Roddick was a pioneer for ethical business practices; upon opening her first store in Brighton, England, in 1976, she developed company values such as "Defend Human Rights" and "Protect The Planet." She somehow balanced principles and profit, partnering in global campaigns with UNICEF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and the United Nations, all while ultimately expanding her brand into 2,500 locations in over 60 international markets. After her death in 2007, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market. . . . She was an inspiration.”
Indeed, the Body Shop exhibits an eco-friendliness and social consciousness that's hard to come by in a company of its size. Its products have been fair-trade since 1987, and its Against Animal Testing movement led to an EU-wide ban of animal testing of cosmetics. The products are made from ingredients harvested from around the world: shea butter from Ghana goes into body scrubs and butters, and Indian artisans craft wooden massagers and tote bags that are screenprinted by hand. But all that isn't to say the company's production practices overshadow its final products. Skincare treatments such as the brand’s iconic body butters, facial products, and gift collections often appear in Allure, Marie Claire, Lucky, Seventeen and other national publications.