Saturday, August 27, 2011

How come you can see it but Sears can't?

        During the last quarter, Sears closed 29 stores and said it saved $48 million. Sales are weak at Sears, and customer traffic is declining. Why can't they stop the bleeding?

        Sears said its revenues are down primarily because of decreases in electronics. C.E.O. Lou D'Ambrosio says they've got great plans for the future, though, with "many innovative" ideas in the appliance area and, of course, a new apparel line from the Kardashian sisters. C'mon, Sears! Open your eyes and smell the coffee!

       Any college student can tell you what's wrong with Sears in a 10-minute walk through any department. The experience isn't very pleasant. The stores just feel cold, hard, and certainly devoid of any sense of theater. Shopping here may save you a few bucks, but even that's no fun. A young person would be hard-pressed to say "This place is for me!"

       The thing I like about Sears is that there's plenty of space in their parking lot. The cars are all huddled by the other stores. On a wet day I just walk through Sears to get to where I really want to go. Good thing I'm not allergic to linoleum.

       In a memo, Mr. D'Ambrosio wrote, "In any journey, there are always highs and lows, and the critics and skeptics will always say what they want to say."

       Maybe Mr. D'Ambrosio should take a journey to a Target store. The contrast is spellbinding. Target was the brainchild of department store people at Dayton-Hudson-Marshall Field's. They know the importance of the experience. The cheerful stores, well-designed merchandise, a surprise at every turn, the contemporary displays, the efficient check-out and customer service departments, the charity and community relationships.

       Target makes Sears look like a museum exhibit of "Yesterday's Department Store". Please don't touch the exhibits. Sears owns Kmart as well, and those stores have their own problems. Certainly no real competition to Walmart, even with their Martha Stewart stuff.

       Sears, of course, has long been famous for their Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, Diehard batteries, and their tire and auto centers. When I was in Chicago, I was creative director on a large chunk of the Sears account, but how often would you go to a department store to buy a hammer? Sears is doing okay online, which is probably an extension of the popularity of the old Sears, Roebuck catalog in rural areas.

       Retail isn't what it used to be. Except at Sears.


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