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Sears Turns Over A New Old Leaf

Posted September 20, 2016
Posted in Blog, Strategy




By Doug Stephens

In a move that has taken analysts and investors completely by surprise, Sears Holdings announced that it will be embarking on bold “new” retail strategy, one that represents a complete change of course for the brand.


In a press release issued today, a spokesperson for the company said, “After decades of erosion to our retail business, Sears will be embarking on a completely divergent and unique path. In contrast to many of our fellow retailers who are aggressively seeking renewed relevance through the modernization of their stores,” he said, “we at Sears have decided to take the opposite approach and instead, embrace our rich and storied past. With that in mind, in 2017 we will begin a complete reinvention of our stores which will see them become experiential gateways back to the Golden Age of shopping.”


The announcement goes on to explain that Sears shoppers can look forward to a meticulously staged vintage shopping experience, replete with retro elevators manned by elevator operators , a restaurant with table-service and store staff dressed in period attire – suits, ties and dresses. Even the music in-store will be drawn from the 1960’s and 70’s and product assortments will harken customers back in time with most representing throwback styles, colors and vintage packaging. Most astonishingly, the company declared that it will be dispensing with all digital commerce efforts and reverting instead to one hundred percent print and conventional media, including the reintroduction of its famous Sears mail order catalog. “We can now confidently say that our customers will experience something at Sears that truly isn’t available anywhere else,” the release concluded.


Some in the analyst community called the move a potential disaster, citing the growth of online commerce and comparative struggles of brick and mortar retailers. Others called it “a brilliant Hail Mary that Sears has needed to muster for years.”

Whichever side you’re on, you have to admit that Sears is at very least finally recapturing our imaginations and interest!


                           CUE RECORD SCRATCH 


In fact, NONE of what I’ve just described actually happened.


There was no stunning announcement from Sears today, apart from the fact that they’re closing more Kmart stores. There is no daring change in business strategy, only a switch in media agencies for their Canadian stores – a move that’s certain to do very little.


No, nothing really happened at Sears today except more of the same downhill slide they’ve been on for years, which begs the question, why hasn’t Sears taken a strategic risk on the scale of what you just read? Why hasn’t the company attempted anything that might be regarded as truly disruptive or daring?


While you might have considered my fictional Sears retro strategy insane, would it not at least be a strategy? Would it not represent a legitimate attempt to create something unique – to change the conversation around their brand? And might not such a crazy idea give shoppers a reason to actually go to a Sears store, if for no other reason than to satisfy their sense of curiosity? Because let’s face it, when was the last time any of us were curious to visit a Sears?


So, if you’re listening Sears, why not try something completely unhinged and crazy? Why not create a spectacle?  Why not face the reaper with a grin and take a leap of faith into the unknown? Why not attempt something…anything unconventional and unexpected?


Last time I checked, you had very little left to lose.


  • Brian Kelly  says:

    They did try something daring, Shop My Way.
    For those in the myopically online world, Sears is held up as a “genius”.

    Unfortunately, there is a reality to retail branding. And you’ve discovered it too; the store is the primary medium for the brand. The shopper experience in the store informs her point of view of the relevance of the brand regardless of channel.

    Either fix bad stores or close them. Just don’t think online alone is the solution for a broken retail brand. Give the lady what she wants. Not what Eddie wants to give her.

    Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies!”

  • Rick  says:

    That story was hilarious. But the reason Sears hasn’t done anything significant or positive in many years is for one reason, and one reason only: Eddie Lambert. Eddie is a complete and utter moron. He doesn’t know the first thing about retail, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about one of the true American icons: Sears. Back in 2008, instead of bailing out the banks, the federal government should have bailed out Sears by forcing Eddie the Retarded to sell it.

  • Dennis E Brown  says:

    No one is talking about resourcing and empowering the retail salesperson to deliver the resources of the (omnichannel) enterprise to the point of shopper’s decision. Imagine salespeople who had a wealth of information and resources about the products and the ability to bring them quickly to the shopper’s attention as they were making their decisions. Wouldn’t that be disruptive?


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