Another milestone was passed in 1932 when Sears established the store planning and display department. Before merchandise had been fitted into buildings, now buildings were built around merchandise. The first store to be built from the inside out was the Glendale, California store opened in 1935.

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Another important approach to urban customers was made through catalog sales desks, which were installed in the retail stores. In another move, Sears opened catalog sales offices in towns too small to support retail stores.

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In 1969, Sears announced plans to build a new headquarters building in downtown Chicago. The 110-story Sears Tower became the world’s tallest building at 1,454 feet when it was opened in 1973. The staggering amount of materials needed to construct the building included 76,000 tons of steel, 2 million cubic feet of concrete, 16,000 tinted windows, 1,500 miles of electrical wiring and 80 miles of elevator cable.

Sears grew into the largest retailer in the world on the back of path breaking innovation, a position it held until the early 1980s. This morning

Sears Holdings (SHLD.O) suffered a new setback when a major business lender, CIT Group (CIT.N), halted loans that Sears’ suppliers use to finance the goods they sell to the chain.

The news triggered fears that other lenders to the retailer’s suppliers would follow a similar path, making it harder for the company to do business.

"It could start a snowball effect for Sears," said turnaround expert Gene Baldwin of CRG Partners.

Refusal of CIT and other lenders to finance Sears’ suppliers could force it to draw on its line of credit to pay for goods up front, Baldwin said. If too many vendors seek prepayment, banks could be pressured and cut back on lines of credit for Sears, making it harder for Sears to buy inventory.

Not if. When.