Walter Sanborn, pharmacist of California, U.S.A., along with his brother Frank inaugurate the Sanborn American Pharmacy, its first store in downtown Mexico City. After the Revolution Frank Sanborns leases and renovates the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles), historic building that had fallen into disrepair, making it a luxurious restaurant, tea room, sodas, gift shop, pharmacy and confectionery. The reopening in 1920 was a success, and many personalities of the political, social and cultural life of the country attended the event.
Although founded in 1886, Sears opened its first retail outlet in the United States in 1925, quickly spreading to countries like Cuba, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Spain, Panama and Venezuela. These operations gradually disappeared due to the difficulties of operation, having presence only in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The 73-year-old Frank Sanborn decides to sell the Sanborns Stores to Walgreen Drug Company of Chicago, who manages the format until 1990. Five locations were inaugurated: Café del Prado (1949), Reforma y Lafragua (1954), Salamanca (1958), Niza (1960) and lastly Insurgentes (1962). These stores had library, magazines, tobacco, music cd´s and music devices, silverware and folk crafts; categories that were added over time.
The first major department store of Sears was inaugurated in Mexico City located on the Insurgentes street corner with San Luis Potosi. The innovations that Sears introduced in the market were: the development of local suppliers, merchandise display on open shelves, payments through cash registers, credit cards and operating manuals. In just three years Sears becomes the nation's largest department store chain with branches located in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Merida, Veracruz and Puebla.
After conducting a careful study of the market, Sanborns decides to purchase the Denny’s coffee chain, so the number of stores grew from seven to twenty-seven. In 1978 integrates the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles) when its owners decide to sell it for the many investments involved in the maintenance of the property.
The Perisur mall opens and a transformation in the image of the Sears store begins to achieve a better positioning and sales. Due to its success, the renovation of the Polanco store and the expansion of the Polanco mall follows, adding shops, cinema and restaurants.
The mayority of the Sanborn Hermanos´ shares are acquired by Grupo Carso S.A.B. de C.V. who initiates the urgent task of renewing the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles). Works are carried out for a year with over 200 workers, masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, potters and glassmakers until restructuring the place, giving a new life to this architectural space full of history.
The loss of market share coupled with the aftermath of the peso devaluation in 1994 led to the sale of Sears Mexico. Grupo Carso thus acquires a 60% stake and makes a tender offer for the remaining 25%. Sears Roebuck maintains a 15% stake. Under the administration of Grupo Carso a different positioning is given to the store with a greater focus on clothing and accessories.
Grupo Sanborns adopted its current name and redefined its corporate structure, becoming a business unit of Grupo Carso S.A.B. de C.V., managing the business of department stores, restaurants, cafes and music stores, as well as the development, leasing, operation and management of shopping centers.
Six department stores operating in Mexico under the brand JC Penney area acquired, as well as all of the shares of Dorian's Tijuana, S.A. de C.V., a company with 71 units and a strong influence in the northwest of Mexico. In both formats efficiencies are implemented and converted to Sears stores, achieving higher sales and break even operating margins.
As part of its activities abroad, in May 2005 Grupo Sanborns opens a Sanborns restaurant-store, a Dorian's department store and a MixUp music store in El Salvador. Grupo Carso makes a public offering in 2006 to increase its participation in its Grupo Sanborns subsidiary from 83.7% to 99.9%. Grupo Sanborns opens the first Saks Fifth Avenue store in Mexico, located in the Santa Fe Mall thus entering the affluent segment.
In 2010 Grupo Carso splits, creating Inmuebles Carso and transferring certain real estate assets of Grupo Sanborns. In 2013 a placement of ordinary shares is done through the Mexican Stock Exchange, in order to carry out an ambitious expansion plan to open new stores and remodel its three main formats: Sears, Sanborns and iShop/MixUp. The company´s name changes to Grupo Sanborns, S.A.B. de C.V.
Bibliography: "The Modern Pochteca, Great stories from supermarkets and department stores told by its founders," Research and Writing Elisa Margaona, National Association of Supermarkets and Department Stores (ANTAD), DGE Editions, 2003