If any company can recover from difficult times, it’s Sears, or at least that’s what CEO Edward Lampert plans with his restructuring business strategy. In an approach that focuses on the company’s strengths, Sears recently shelved the “Life, Well Spent” tagline of recent years in favor of “America’s Appliance Expert,” promoting the staples of consumer durables they provide to the mostly suburban and rural markets of America’s heartland.
Over the last six months, businesses across the spectrum have been expanding their portfolios to include home appliances and housewares in their inventory with rising interest from consumers. As one expert in the field wittingly stated, “The retail carnage of 2017 was not about physical stores. It was about retail formats of any kind that could not, or would not, adapt the value proposition of their offering to the way consumers currently desire to purchase goods and services.” And Sears, along with its peers, is rising to the challenge, shifting their business model from the age-old large big-box format to boutique specialty retailer selling appliances and mattresses.
In 2018, Sears rolled out their store-within-a-store concept adding a mini-Kmart to an existing Sears brick-and-mortar property, as well as testing mini-Sears shops inside Kmart locations. They are also banking on a modernized store experience, one that features staged kitchens in an interactive showroom. Shoppers can ‘kick the tires’ of home appliances and durables they are considering for purchase, comparison shop in real-time and interact with associates to review product features and benefits. The concept stores come equipped with AI-powered touch-screen kiosks with the ability to access inventory and monitor the availability of merchandise in stock to fulfill customer requests.
The idea of resilience and resourcefulness harks back to the company’s origins: Sears started out as railroad man’s side hustle selling watches along his route. Those watches, a sign of the things to come, launched the first of its kind door-to-door shopping emporium serving Americans nationwide for over one hundred years. Today, retailers continuously re-examine the fundamentals of their operation and value proposition, as they adapt to the changing needs and expectations of their shopper, who knows what we’ll see next. Deloitte predicts a higher source of growth from consumer product companies looking to innovate, trying newer and bolder strategies in the years ahead.
In recent years though, Sears’ financial woes seem to have inspired both rash and disruptive decision-making. Stealth liquidation of ancillary assets (Lands’ End, Craftsman, etc.) has helped raise capital in support of the business lines slated to do well, namely appliances and the ever-evolving mattress industry. The company launched Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc. (SHOS), an independent national retailer, with a license to use the Sears brand name, primarily focused on selling home appliances, lawn and garden equipment, tools and hardware at a discounted rate.
These are just a few measures Sears Holding (SHLD), owners of both the Sears and Kmart brands, are implementing to avoid declaring bankruptcy amid recent store closures and stock liquidations. It remains whether or not these motions will have any lasting impact on Sears resurgence.
Have you shopped at Sears lately? Email me to let me know, or better yet, follow me on Twitter for regular updates and musings about commercial real estate and the retail industry.
Anjee Solanki continues to be an insatiable collector of all things retail. She’s a student of culture living next door to future shoppers, whose fleeting trends constantly change the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy!