Sears Positions Self As Holiday Wish Grantor

Sears, Roebuck and Co. is positioning itself as the company to help make wishes come true in its holiday marketing this year, centering its efforts on the return of its vaunted "Wish Book" catalog.

Although the 188-page catalog has been available since October, the company will showcase a larger-than-life version of the book at an event on Nov. 19 in Times Square. Ty Pennington, who hosts the Sears-sponsored show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," will host the event.

The integrated campaign, which includes print, broadcast and online components, is tagged "Don't just give a gift, grant a wish," and the company has implemented the "Wish" theme throughout all aspects of its holiday efforts.

In a television campaign, the company uses its position as the lead sponsor of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC as its inspiration. Television spots depict actual customers getting their wishes granted and highlight the reactions that follow, much as the ABC show does. The commercials will also air on other networks and prime-time programming.



Online, Sears has partnered with Yahoo to create a branded social space, "Where Wishes Begin," where users can vote on gift ideas and use Yahoo Answers to help solve gift-giving dilemmas. The company has also expanded its "Ready in 5" online and bricks-and-mortar link--which allowed people to order online and pick up at a store--to include curbside service.

Beginning later this month, Sears will also set up special "Wishing Hours" from 4 p.m. to close in its retail stores and until midnight online, where people can get limited-availability deals on some products. The company has also developed a widget for consumers to download to alert them of certain deals during the season.

Keying off the catalog's return--which hearkens back to the days when mail-order was a primary avenue of holiday shopping--is a questionable strategy for Sears, which has struggled with competition from price competitors like Wal-Mart and big-box retailers for electronics and power tools, says Ken Banks, CEO of retail consultancy KAB Marketing and a former retail marketing executive.

"I question whether it's good for Sears because going back to the good old days with Sears may not have much resonance with today's consumers," Banks says. "People used to be excited 20 or 30 years ago, but I'm not sure whether they will be today."

Although playing off granting wishes is a consistent theme for Sears and plays to its strengths as a reliable appliance and power tool retailer, "I'm not sure anybody really wishes for something from Sears," Banks says.

In a related effort, Sears has partnered with the charitable organization Heroes at Home to help military families by helping them make necessary repairs and renovations to their home. The company positioned this effort, which kicks off on Veteran's Day, as a way to grant the wishes of military families.

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