Employee featured in hit Sears Canada ad with famous brother Mike Myers loses job and severance
In commercial's tagline, Mike Myers says: 'Sears Canada, my brother works there.' Not any more
To give beleaguered Sears Canada a boost in 2014, employee Peter Myers recruited his famous brother, comedian Mike Myers, to star in a commercial for the retailer.
The ad was a hit. It featured both Myers brothers using humorous banter to spread the message that, despite rumours, Sears wasn't shutting down.
"I was the face of 'we're not closing,'" says Peter Myers, who at the time was a senior director of planning at Sears head office in Toronto.
Three years later, Sears still promotes the ad on the main page of its YouTube site. But Myers — who worked for the retail giant for almost 36 years — is out of a job and not getting severance.
Sears Canada laid off Myers last month on the day the retailer announced it was closing 59 stores and cutting 2,900 people as part of a court-supervised restructuring process.
Because of the restructuring, Sears isn't paying the workers severance. Myers estimates he's losing a total of two years salary.
"There's a huge irony here," says the 59-year-old about being a cheerleader for Sears and then suddenly being cast aside.
"There's a spirit there that should be part of it — of Sears Canada — and it's gone."
He adds that his brother Mike — famed for his work on Saturday Night Live and in the Wayne's World and Austin Powers movies — wasn't happy when he heard the bad news.
"He said, 'You've worked for all these years, and was that worth nothing to them?'"
Get Mike to do an ad
During his long career at Sears, Myers says higher-ups were always asking him to recruit Mike Myers.
"They all had this brilliant idea: 'Peter, can you ask your brother if he would do a commercial for us?'"
Myers says he always declined, because he didn't want to mix business and family. But he changed his mind when Sears closed some Toronto stores and people started assuming the iconic department store chain was closing for good.
Myers wanted to send a positive message about the retailer. "I saw how important Sears was in each community and how much spirit the employees have."
His brother was happy to help. "Mike didn't even hesitate. He said, 'You know, you never ask me for anything, so sure I'll do it.'"
- Former Sears employees worry about lost severance
In the ad, Mike Myers asks his brother if Sears is closing, and Peter Myers responds: "We're not going anywhere. You of all people should know not to believe everything you read in the papers."
In the ad's tagline, Mike Myers says: "Sears Canada, my brother works there."
Peter Myers says Sears showed the commercial in the lobby of its stores and that it helped boost not only employee morale, but also sales. Previously, some people were reluctant to buy appliances, fearing Sears would close and their warranties would be worthless, he says.
Myers suggests the ad helped alleviate that fear. "I can't quantify it, but I know it had an effect, because store managers told me."
Sears also promoted the ad online. "Find out who stopped by our Toronto office to visit his brother!" it stated, encouraging viewers to share the video with the hashtag#mybrotherworksatsears.
"I could have easily put my commercial up and said #mybrotherdoesn'tworkatSears," says Peter Myers about his newly unemployed status.
Sears losing its spirit?
Myers believes Sears letting him go is just one more sign the retailer has lost touch with its image as a trusted Canadian retailer.
"There's kind of a dichotomy between what people think of as Sears and kind of the corporate reality of it today," he says. "I guess my commercial and my being [laid off] sort of epitomizes that to a degree."
Myers also believes that the way Sears is handling its restructuring is hurting its reputation.
On social media, many people have expressed their contempt for the retailer for not paying out severance.
So <a href="https://twitter.com/SearsCA">@SearsCA</a> is laying off hundreds of employees and not paying severance? I wont spend another dime in Sears.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SearsScrewingOverTheLittleGuy?src=hash">#SearsScrewingOverTheLittleGuy</a>—@WTFisHalonCon
<a href="https://twitter.com/SearsCA">@SearsCA</a> pay your employees severance if you don't no matter what rebranding Sears gets no one will shop there—@Loud_Ninja
"There are people across the country saying, 'Why would I do business with a company that treats employees like this,'" says Myers. "It sort of doesn't feel very Canadian to a lot of people."
Sears Canada told CBC News that deep financial troubles left the iconic retailer with no choice but to seek court protection from its creditors while it restructures.
As part of the court proceedings, the company said it's not able to make payments to a number of stakeholders, including laid-off employees owed severance.
Sears offered no comment on laying off Peter Myers, still the face of the retailer's Sears-isn't-closing campaign.
UPDATE: A few days after CBC posted this story, Sears Canada removed the Myers' brothers ad from its YouTube site.