Less than two decades after Sears, Roebuck-once the nation's largest mail-order business-entered the retailing business in 1924, it had gained prominence in that field nearly equal to that of its competitors. This unprecedented rate of expansion was marked by innovations in merchandising and store design. Sears was a pioneer in creating department stores that catered to men as well as women, that eschewed style in favor of practicality in merchandise, and that allowed customers to select goods without the aid of a clerk. The buildings likewise broke from convention. They were generally oriented to motorists-set apart from existing business districts amid residential areas occupied by their target audience; had ample, free, off-street parking; and communicated a clear corporate identity. In the 1930s, the company designed fully air-conditioned, "windowless" stores whose layout was driven wholly by merchandising concerns. In all these respects, Sears set important precedents that were widely followed by other major retailers after World War II.

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