An Ode To The Wishbook


Growing up, my favorite time of the year was Christmas. My second favorite time of year was when the Wishbook would come out.

In case you live under a holiday rock, the Wishbook was the holiday catalog that Sears put out every year. It was a little smaller than the usual catalogs, but it was chocked full of toys. It was the stuff dreams were made of.

Later on the Wishbook would show up as early as late August, but when I was younger I remember it showing up around Septemeber or October. Though maybe my parents just hid it on me. But it was perfect. Early enough to get your orders in, but late enough to feel appropriately Christmas-y. 

I love the Wishbook. I use the present tense, because despite the fact that it is no longer made I still have strong affections for it. So many of my childhood memories surround this catalog.

It seems silly to have such a strong emotional attachment to a catalog, but it was a part of the Christmas magic for me. I would spend hours pouring over the catalog, picking out what I'd like from Santa, and dreaming of the things I knew I'd probably never get. It was magical. It was the stuff dreams were made of.

The Wishbook was a part of the Christmas narrative for me. No, I don't mean that it was plunked next to the baby Jesus in the manger. But for my memories, for my personal traditions, the Wishbook was a key part of that story. It was a part of my Christmas story.

Recently, Sears has had to declare bankruptcy in Canada, and just this month the courts approved a full liquidation of Sears in Canada. After a 65 year run, Sears is finished in Canada and along with it, the Wishbook. (Read more here)

This is a shot to the heart. But not because I actually like Sears. The Wishbook, not Sears, was a part of my Christmas story. I just loved and am nostalgic about their catalog. And therein lies the problem for Sears.

For years Sears failed to adapt. Their mail-order model in rural Canada was fantastic for many, many years. It just worked. But then, all of a sudden, it didn't.

The internet happened, and Sears tried to adapt to the digital world but it was often too little, too late. Players like Amazon provided a better experience, a lower cost, and greater efficiency.

Sears just couldn't keep up. They didn't adapt to the digital world and kept trying new revisions of the same thing and they were getting nowhere. I talked about this in my previous post (Read that here: Rocket Bike), but they really liked the bike they were on and didn't want to abandon it. And they suffered for it.

But more than the model of business they ran, they failed to transition to the digital world well. The story of the Wishbook didn't translate well online. There are a myriad of reasons as to why Sears failed, but this is one of the biggest.

Why would I order from Sears online when Amazon is just a click away and has a better user experience, faster delivery, and cheaper, better products? It should say something that the only time I ever stepped foot in their store in recent years, or went online was to find a copy of the Wishbook.

We live in a digital world. We don't always like it, but it's our reality. We all carry devices in our pockets that keep us connected online all the time. The technology that is just casually placed in our pockets was the stuff of dreams not 20 years ago.

We have to adapt to the digital world. That means that you need to radically shift what you're doing, and how you're doing it. You can't just keep pumping out catalogs and hoping someone's going to put in an order.

It's overwhelming at first. And frankly, it's terrifying letting go of the things we love. But if you don't change, you'll die. Ask Sears.

We live in a digital world. And it's only going to become more pronounced. Between Google Home, Amazon's Alexa and all the various AI systems that are being ever more incorporated into our lives, and our ever growing engagement on our mobile devices, we are becoming more and more entrenched digitally.

For Milennials, which have now surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest working generation 1, our online engagements are considered just as valid as in-person. We prefer in-person, but you talking to me via Facebook means just as much socially as meeting at a coffee shop.2

And social media usage is a big part of that. 54% of Canadians are on Facebook daily.3  1 in 7 minutes online are spent on Facebook.4  1 in 7.  Let that sink in.

How are you going to change your strategy for the digital world? What are you going to do differently that will keep you alive through this massive cultural shift?

Or maybe a better question is, how are you doing right now? Because if you haven't engaged online yet, you could be heading towards being a Sears. And no one wants that.

If you're concerned about your online presence, especially your social presence, you don't have to be afraid. You're not in this alone. Even if you haven't updated your Facebook page since 2010, it's not too late. I'd love to help you take steps towards building your presence and telling your story online.

I have a Free 90 Day Social Media Assessment that will help you figure out how you're doing, and will help you determine your next steps forward. Why not take it today and quit living in the fear that you're missing the mark digitally? 

No one wants to be Sears. No one wants to look back at a bankruptcy and see the simple, small changes that could have made all the difference. No one wants to see the doors of the Church close because they haven't connected with the next generation. No one wants to see their once strong story fizzle and fade because they didn't adapt. It doesn't have to end that way.

What steps are you going to take to tell your story online?