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Subject:  Re: Sears Date:  12/29/2011  9:40 PM
Author:  Goofyhoofy Number:  8793 of 25549

On my infrequent visits I've noticed a couple of things. One is that the area where tools and appliances are sold on the lower level gets a fair amount of traffic and the other is that on the upper level where clothing is sold is like a ghost town.

Lower levels always get more traffic. That's why WalMart and Kohls and Target are one level stores and don't go vertical. As soon as you go to a second floor, shopping carts become unmanageable and unwieldy, and that affects your first floor shoppers, too (who don't take a shopping cart because it's a PITA to get upstairs, even if they're not going there.)

Does anyone shop for clothing at Sears? I don't know anyone who does. At a mall with J.C. Penney's, Macy's and many specialty clothing retailers what is there at Sears to attract clothes shoppers? Then again, I'm no expert shopper so maybe I'm missing something.

Sears locations are overwhelmingly in malls. 60% of the foot traffic in malls is female. (If you count by "hours spent shopping" the number skyrockets to over 80%.) Abandoning clothes in favor of tools, automotive, and appliances is a quick road to death. (Arguably they are on the slow road anyway.) If anything, they should freestand the male oriented lines and put women's products in the vacated space.

I thought they were on to something (and might still be) with the assumption of the Land's End business, but they have managed to subsume it under the Sear's brand (which stands for nothing that I can see. WalMart has "value" and Target has "chic" and every other successful retailer has a meme that instantly springs to mind. Sears? Not so much. "They're at the mall"? OK, but that's so 1980, and big box collections are outflanking the malls all over the country. Free parking is a given, and what else is there? "We're Sears, we were cool 50 years ago"?)

Should Sears just get out of the clothing business and license their Craftsman and Kenmore brands to other retailers?

They've already tried that with K-Mart, but that's like Cadillac producing a compact car, or Tiffany's merchandising their line at the Dollar Store. Arguably Craftsman and Kenmore are the last two remaining things to bring men into the building. Maybe they should give that up, but the margins running through other retailers are less than enticing. Besides, who is going to carry a full line of Kenmore appliances? Home Depot? The local kitchen store?

It could be time for some big changes at Sears, if it is survive over the long term.

Seems doubtful. They can't spruce up the stores now that sales are down and profits are about to be hammered. They can't revitalize K-Mart while they're tapping a credit line just to have room to breathe. They can't remerchandise cheaply when competitive lines know that Sears brands (Land's End, Kenmore, etc.) will get favored status on the floor. And they have no cred with distributors.

They tried to pretend that 2 + 2 was going to be 5, and instead it's actually more like 2 + 2 = 1.7

It's a tough place, and they're going to need something radical, because, as the saying goes, if something cannot continue, it will stop. Where they're going cannot continue.

(My suggestion, pitiful as it might be, would be to move the low-traffic but "necessary purchase" merchandise (appliances, tools, etc.) to the second floor or to freestanding stores, and to put clothing throughout the ground level, to remove the "Sears" signs from the side of the building and make it "Land's End", (a full store within a store,) expand jewelry and beauty and home, and move the ancillary rental businesses (tax returns, eye doctor, the hearing aid guy and whatever other irrelevant rent-payers are taking up the outer window space and ground floor square footage), and then to find some master-of-merchandising who can turn a sows ear into a silk purse.)

I know taking the lawn tractors and washing machines to the second floor will be inconvenient for the help, but what are we doing here, making the warehouse workers lives easier and confusing the customer with a product mix of gas-and-oil with tres-filet dresses for teens on the ground level? They're programming an arcane collection of products, and it's not unusual to walk from exercise machines to blouses, from tools to leather jackets, or from appliances to bath supplies. It's everything - and nothing - all in one place. No wonder it has no image.
 

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