As the holiday season scorecards begin to be revealed, Sears, showing its ‘softer side’ as sales were down 5.2% over the eight week holiday period, led by CEO Ed Lampert http://on.wsj.com/ttKCBi reported that it expected to close 100 to 120 underperforming stores. Already before Noon on Tuesday December 27th the stock price has sunk 20% (it finished 27% below the previous day’s close) and is down 45% over the past 12 months.
There was a Sears in the Long Island town in which I grew up. Even back then (1960’s and 1970’s) the impression I had of the store was that the stuff they had was a bit dated and that Sears was pretty good at appliances. In my opinion not much has changed and I have been in a Sears within the last year – although I cannot recall why.
With more than 2,200 stores (including Kmart and Sears full-line stores) Sears still has a substantial footprint in the United States. Yet I wonder if more often than not people end up at Sears instead of really wanting to go there. Aside from its aforementioned Kenmore home appliance offerings, what about Sears would attract a shopper? The clothes (do they still sell Haggar?)? The styles? The once proudly displayed Craftsman tools? Or maybe you will recall the union of the Sears brand with that of Lands End or Martha Stewart and KMart? It is an understatement to note that things did not turn out the way it was they were supposed to.
It’s a far cry from the now somewhat distant past where Sears was known for quality and service. While I suppose there are Sears stores that have better service than others that’s not what the brand says to me – nor does it scream quality either.
Sears was the largest retailer in the U.S. until the early 1980’s. Today the combined Sears has 2,201 full-line and 1,354 specialty retail stores in the United States operating through Kmart and Sears and 483 full-line and specialty retail stores in Canada operating through Sears Canada Inc. (Sears Canada), a 92%-owned subsidiary. So Sears ‘gets around’. During the fiscal year ended January 29, 2010 (fiscal 2010), it operated three segments: Kmart, Sears Domestic and Sears Canada. As of January 29, 2011, Holdings operated a total of 1,307 Kmart stores across 49 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.
As I browsed through comments http://on.wsj.com/ucpEXX from people who had shopped at Sears the conversation varied from blaming Ed Lampert to poor service and odd pricing but there were a few positive comments regarding selection, service and quality. The thing that stood out to me was the inconsistency of delivering the Sears brand promise – whatever that is. I could not figure it out – can you?