Sears sags – is anyone really surprised?

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?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
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6 Responses to Sears sags – is anyone really surprised?

  1. Miriam says:

    You really nailed it with “the inconsistency of delivering the Sears brand promise.” The best way I can describe it is that Sears has traditionally been my store of last resort, yet I’ve often been surprised to find things that I couldn’t find anywhere else, e.g., a suitable sweater for me to buy for an elderly aunt. I surprised myself even more by actually doing quite a bit of shopping in certain departments at Sears during the early-to-mid 2000’s.

    After a slow decline, two things killed off Sears for me over the last two years. Two summers ago my husband and I went there to purchase a specific Kenmore microwave. That particular model plus our second choice were out-of-stock in the Detroit area, (we knew for a fact that these items were available in Chicago), and the sales staff was unwilling or unable to ship any in from other parts of the country. As we were waiting we noticed that several other customers were also unable to purchase appliances for the same reason. Perhaps a Sears central planner decided not to fill up the local warehouses because we lived in an economically depressed area?

    Finally, this was the first time in years I didn’t buy at least one Christmas present at Sears. I went a few days after Black Friday and they flat out didn’t have anything I was looking for.

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    • markkolier says:

      Thanks for your comment Miriam and your experience is sadly typical of today’s Sears. The company seems to be so disconnected that the scenario you proposed is completely plausible and even likely – and that too is so sad.

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  2. Kathleen Weaver-Zech says:

    Same here. Went to Sears with a Xmas gift card and found prices high and almost double Walmart.Craftsman tools are still the best.

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    • markkolier says:

      I agree that Craftsman still is seen as a quality product. It’s hard to own both top quality and the lowest price. Sears should think about that. Thanks for your comment Kathleen.

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  3. Sarah says:

    When I go to the mall, I park in front of and enter through Sears….because there are always PLENTY of spaces. Then, I practically sprint through the store to get into the rest of the mall. It’s such a depressing shopping environment, I can see why people would be turned off. JC Penny is only marginally better. :-/

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