I grew up knowing Sears. One year I even purchased my school clothes through the mail order catalog. I also purchased many craftsman tools over the years which I’ve enjoyed using.
Sears looks like its in trouble and this is what I would do to help.
1886 Sears and Roebuck mail order catalog is born and later grew into a 500 page catalog. In 1925 opened up it’s first brick and mortar store and became the largest department store until sixty four years later in 1989. Walmart dethroned them. In 1980 Sears began focusing on un-Sears like business, such as Allstate Insurance, Dean Witter, Coldwell Banker and Discover Card, and began closing retail locations. This focus resulted in neglect of Sears core. Many of these assets were later sold to help pay off debt.
In 1992 they changed their wages and commission structure which resulted in up to 40% reduction in pay, and employee anger with more cuts in 2007 & 2011. This was done in order “to be successful in this highly competitive environment.” In 1993 they discontinued the mail order catalog because of sinking sales and profits. In 2004 announced that they were being purchased by a floundering Kmart. In 2013 Sears was the fifth largest department store behind Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot.
To summarize, Sears is in trouble of becoming a headstone in the sematary of leaderless doom. Dying from a disease I like to call the Blue Plague. It’s the lack of leadership, these blue suits that have taken this ship and steered it without knowing the source that fuels the engine. Know who you are. A hammer is useless when measuring a room. A nail is useless when pounding through a brick wall. The first big fault of Sears was not knowing who they are.
I find it interesting that they are compared to Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot. To me they should have been compared to Amazon. Sears was the Goliath of the mail order catalog. Amazon is the Goliath of the online catalog. Sears was primed to transition into online ordering. They would have been ahead of Amazon, who started out as an online bookstore.
Here is what I would do if I were CEO. Go back to Sears roots with a high tech flare. Revive the mail order catalog and create an online shopping experience. The hurdle is to get the product to the buyer quickly. Sears is positioned to do this with their retail stores! Guess who is bidding on the Radio Shack stores? Amazon. Interesting.
Next, I don’t care how online we live and breathe. Everyone needs an auto mechanic and tires. No one likes dealing with mechanics and most have a bad reputation, we always feel like we’re getting ripped off and it’s expensive. Sears is positioned to do this with their auto centers. The problems is trust. Sears must bring back, not customer loyalty but Sears loyalty. Fix the car! No up-selling, no making up repairs to make more money. Take care of the customer and get the word out. Be like the local home mechanic who everyone can trust.
I would also add two things. 1: create an auto repair shop like a NASCAR pit stop. Make it fast! Especially tires. Bring back the full replacement warranty at no additional cost as long as it’s a Sears tire. Stop itemizing everything so you can quote a lower priced tire. Give great value and service at a great price. Big O used to be like this, now they’ve gone the way of Discount Tire. Everything is an up-sell and trying to get the most money out of the customer that you can. Stop doing this! Make the customer feel they’ve been cared for and that they’re important. You do this by giving them great value for a great price. 2: Sears will have to ask me what number 2 is, the idea is revolutionary.
Next, beef up the appliance department. Kenmore is one of the most reliable brands and is being forgotten. This department can be it’s own company. Buying, selling and repairing appliances at a great price with great service. It doesn’t matter if you have an iphone or a smartphone you still need your clothes washed and your milk cold. Nothing has changed except the way we communicate and shop.
Each of these lines should be separated on a corporate level. Place a leader in charge of each and let them be independent entities, financially, and organizationally, within the Sears world.
Have each of these lines be integrated into the online catalog and leverage the technology of the internet.
With the right leadership and people, I know each of these lines can not only be successful but perhaps be the leader of their respective markets.
You should have invested in your greatest asset Sears… your employees.
Good luck Sears…