The Smarter Side of Sears
The executives at Sears were busy last month. First, they bought controlling interest in Lands’ End—news that sent shock waves through the retail industry. Seems that Sears is shelling out $1.9 billion undoubtedly in an attempt to capture the cataloger’s younger, more upscale customers.
The move also catapults Sears back into the U.S. catalog business, an industry that the retailer pioneered before scrapping its Big Book back in the 1990s.
The benefit to Lands’ End, of course, is that it instantly gets a nationwide, brick-and-mortar presence for its branded products. Sears’ officials said the deal effectively puts Lands’ End’s merchandise within 75 miles of 95 percent of the U.S. population.
But as The Wall Street Journal reported on the day after the deal was announced, the acquisition carries some risks for Lands’ End, notably that the cataloger’s “loftier image could be damaged by association with the more downscale profile of Sears.”
From our viewpoint, however, the purchase was a smart one by Sears. In this issue, we take a peek inside Lands’ End to explore some of its legendary customer service strategies—tactics that have won the company many loyal customers. You’ll also read more on the Lands’ End purchase.
And as if buying a catalog company wasn’t enough excitement for a while, Sears also announced last month that it signed on Queen of Housewares, Martha Stewart, to its Canadian bandwagon. Next year, the Martha Stewart Everyday brand will be distributed by Sears Canada, which is 54-percent owned by Sears.
It appears that the folks at Sears finally are serious about shedding their dowdy image as primarily a tool and appliance merchant. And—dare I say it?—it’s about time.
I once heard a former Sears CEO speak at a press conference back in the early 1990s. He was new to the job at the time, and he said the first thing he did upon taking the position was to send his wife to their local Sears store to shop. He asked her to come back with ideas on how the company could capture more female shoppers of apparel, jewelry, shoes and housewares, and he would combine that first-hand feedback with some market-research findings.
A few months later, the “Softer Side of Sears” campaign debuted, which I personally loved. But perhaps it wasn’t as effective in capturing female consumers as the company would have hoped. Sears’ moves last month just may—finally—do the trick.