Commentary

Sears Will Offer Hard Goods Only At 3 Stores With Small Footprint

Diehard Sears, which narrowly managed to evade a bankruptcy auction earlier this year, yesterday announced  it will open three small-format stores over the Memorial Day weekend. Called Home & Life, they will be located in Anchorage, Alaska, Lafayette, La. and Overland Park, Kan. Ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet -- less than a tenth the size of a normal Sears footprint -- they will peddle only appliances, mattresses, home services and connected home products. 

“Peter Boutros, chief brand officer of Sears and Kmart and president of the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands, said he thought of it as going ‘back to the future,’” Lauren Zumbach writes for the Chicago Tribune.

“What were we good at? What is relevant from our history today? And the thing we were good at was making moments matter,” he said.

“That idea -- ‘making moments matter’ -- will be part of Sears’ new branding and marketing campaign,” Zumbach adds.

“Sears’s so-called hardline goods, including tools and appliances, have long outsold ‘softlines’ such as apparel and home décor. In the past, Sears executives had considered opening smaller stores focusing on the tools, appliances and other hard goods,” Suzanne Kapner writes for the Wall Street Journal.

“But the executives said they came to the conclusion that without apparel and other frequently purchased items, shoppers wouldn’t visit the stores enough to make them economically viable. Most people buy a major appliance once a decade. One way the new Home & Life stores aim to skirt that problem is with a kiosk where shoppers can order online from the wide array of products sold by Sears and Kmart,” Kapner continues. 

“Sears also said it will be expanding its DieHard automotive brand into new categories, including lawn and garden equipment, to put in the Home & Life shops,” CNBC’s Lauren Thomas writes.

“It will additionally be working more closely with Amazon, Sears said, to make more products from the Kenmore appliance brand available on Amazon Dash’s reorder platform. Sears partnered with Amazon in the summer of 2017 to sell Alexa-enabled appliances, and later to offer full-service tire installation for orders from all tire brands on Amazon,” Thomas continues.

“The new format will also feature a Sears Home Services area that will offer appliance repair, replacement parts and accessories. Experts will be available for consultation on such home improvement needs as windows, roofing, kitchen cabinets, countertops, flooring and more,” writes Marianne Wilson for Chain Store Age.

And they will provide free pickup and returns for any items purchased on sears.com. 

“According to Sears, the new stores were developed based on insights from the company’s Sears Appliances & Mattresses format, which debuted in 2017, in Pharr, Texas, with additional locations in Ft. Collins, Colo.; Honolulu; and Camp Hill, Pa.,” Wilson adds.

Boutros “declined to say how many of these new format stores are in the works but said locations have been identified. The Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company also plans to ramp up TV advertising and is planning to extend its Kenmore brand beyond major appliances into kitchen accessories, plates and knives,” the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio reports

“We need to instill confidence that we are open for business,” Boutros tells D’Innocenzio.

“Sears is following a trend for retailers, which are slimming down their footprints. Retailers believe the smaller stores can attract new shoppers, save money and keep them competitive amid the growth of online shopping and the dominance of Amazon,” observes Jordan Valinsky for  CNN Business, citing Target, Ikea and Kohl’s.

“Sears has closed more than 3,500 stores and cut about 250,000 jobs in roughly the last 15 years as sales cratered, leading to the company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October,” Kelly Tyko recalls for USA Today

“The company was on the brink of liquidation, but its largest shareholder and former CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments made a $5.2 billion offer for the company that was approved in February by a federal bankruptcy judge. About 425 stores and 45,000 employees were transferred to ESL,” Tyko adds.

The Home & Life concept is “an interesting move, but a move of desperation,” Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, tellsConsumer Reports' Kimberly Janeway. “Sears has a well deserved reputation of servicing appliances, but they’ve lost a lot of confidence with consumers and vendors.” 

“He adds that their appliance prices aren’t competitive of late and questions whether these smaller stores can save Sears,” Janeway writes.

“The people who wrecked Sears can’t be seen as the saviors,” quoth Flickinger.

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