Four years ago, as Sears Canada (a separate company from Sears Holdings here in the United States) was struggling and closing a few stores, one longtime employee did something important for the company’s morale and good publicity. He asked his brother, comedian Mike Myers, to make a commercial for Sears Canada. Four years later, Peter Myers has been laid off with no severance.
Sears In Canada
Sears Holdings and Sears Canada aren’t the same company, but they used to be. Now they’re corporate third cousins, sort of. Sears Holdings chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert owns a large portion of Sears Canada’s stock, but the companies have separate management and boards of directors.
Sears Canada filed for bankruptcy last month, and is pursuing the Canadian equivalent of a Chapter 11 reorganization. The company has started the process of closing some stores and laying off employees.
Workers let go earlier this year are having their severance payments cut off, and those being laid off now won’t be receiving severance at all.
My Brother Works There
One of the people now out of a job, Peter Myers, was the face of the company just four years ago.
The Myers brothers grew up in Ontario. Younger brother Mike sought his fortune south of the border, becoming a Saturday Night Live cast member and starring in the successful Austin Powers and Shrek movie franchises.
Peter took a different career path, staying in Canada, and has worked for Sears Canada for 36 years. Four years ago, while working in the planning department of the company’s headquarters, he asked his famous brother to make a commercial assuring shoppers that Sears Canada wasn’t going anywhere.
The ad was a huge hit, and even played in Sears Canada stores. It helped Canadians realize that their Sears wasn’t doomed, and they could, say, buy major appliances without fear that the warranties would evaporate.
The “my brother works there” tagline reminded people of the chain’s role in their communities. An international movie star’s brother works there, and maybe your brother does too. So does your next-door neighbo(u)r and your kid’s youth hockey coach.
“I can’t quantify it, but I know it had an effect, because store managers told me,” Peter Myers told the CBC.
Sort Of Doesn’t Feel Very Canadian
The ad is still on YouTube (for now), but Peter Myers was laid off from Sears without severance. He estimates that he’d be owed two years’ salary if the bankruptcy didn’t get Sears Canada out of severance payments.
“There’s kind of a dichotomy between what people think of as Sears and kind of the corporate reality of it today,” Peter Myers told the CBC, later observing that the way the company is handling the store closing and layoffs “sort of doesn’t feel very Canadian to a lot of people.”
While lower-level employees won’t receive severance pay, key executives will still receive bonuses from a pool of about $7 million (about $5.5 million USD) as the company looks for a buyer and reorganizes. Store-level management will also receive bonuses if they meet sales targets.