My disagreement is that they are keeping up when it comes to catalogue sales. This is an area that they should be excelling in as they have a number of captive markets (for example, rural as you state). But for some reason they have been dropping the ball there also.
I grew up in a rural environment where we ordered everything by mail order including things like fabrics and yarns which you would think would be awkward. It seems to me that back then when something was out of stock, it was pretty seamless to get something similar. I remember many times, Mom opening up a package of fabric and actually liking what they sent better than what she had actually ordered.
In comparison, recently I ordered a couple of dozen pairs of black cotton ankle socks. It should be clear that as long as (a) they were socks, (b) they were black, and (c) they were cotton, I would be happy with whatever they sent me. Instead, I was put on back order for several weeks. And then the order was simply cancelled. Sears website had other black, cotton ankle socks in other SKUs. In the end, I ordered from Lands End (my regular supplier for tops).
In fact, I have noticed that since Lands End was acquired by Sears their quality and service went down several notches.
I feel sorry for rural customers these days.