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Downtown Sears brought a new style of shopping to mid-century Mérida

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Sears in Mérida’s downtown has closed, but for residents of a certain age, will be remembered for its imports, credit cards and Santa Claus. Photo: Internet

Sears, known locally as the first to introduce department-store credit cards and Santas to Yucatán, has left the Centro after 72 years. 

It ended its run on Calle 63 between 56 and 58 with a 60%-off sale.

The store, originally on 56 and 61, came to Mérida specializing in merchandise imported from the United States. 

“People went there because the toys, the clothes, everything was American,” said historian Jorge Álvarez Rendón.

Mérida’s Centro Sears opened in 1951, one of the first in Mexico. Photo: Internet

Three mall stores remain in Mérida, but the downtown store has a special historical resonance. For two reasons.

He said Sears was the first to establish the now-ubiquitous credit card system in Mérida.

“In Yucatán, there was no custom of cards, so it was a novelty to be able to pay every month. Of course, people began to buy there. It became the fashion store.”

Before Sears came to town, shoppers bought clothes, toys, and appliances for cash at local stores like Molina y Font and Pluma y Lápiz.

For middle-class families, Sears in downtown Mérida was the go-to place for fashions in mid-century.

So when Sears opened, middle-class shoppers had the opportunity to bring home appliances and furniture and pay them off little by little.

“My mom and dad were middle class, and there they bought a lot of things because of the easy payment terms,” said Álvarez Rendón. “My father was one of the first to have his credit card, and even years later, he was recognized for being one of the oldest with the card.”

Related: Chapur’s downtown branch upgrades its futuristic building

Sears in the Cento is remembered for another Yucatecan first, as well: a department-store Santa Claus.

“I myself have a photo where I was with Santa Claus in December 1951,” said Álvarez Rendón. “He was asking me what I wanted, and of course, I wanted everything in the store.”

Sears still operates mall stores at Alta Brisa, Gran Plaza and Las Americas, and locally owned Gran Chapur still has an 80s-era branch a block away from the shuttered location. 

In the United States, however, where Sears was founded, locations are down to 41 branches as of Feb. 1. Sears Mexico is owned by businessman Carlos Slim, who was reportedly considering renaming them to distance the brand from the failing American chain.

The 136-year-old mass merchandiser was once the largest retailer in the United States.

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