Sears, heading into its first holiday season since filing for bankruptcy, is declaring that it’s open for business by bearing down on what it’s best known for, from its tools to its legendary “Wish Book.”
For the first time, no matter where shoppers buy a Craftsman tool, they can take it to Sears to get it replaced. Shoppers can click on the digital version of Sears’ iconic holiday gift guide and make a purchase. And technicians making a house call will leave circulars highlighting holiday deals on their way out the door.
“Even though we’re in bankruptcy, we are not on our heels,” says Peter Boutros, chief brand officer for Sears and Kmart. “We are leaning in to the holiday to win… It is part of our strategy to exit Chapter 11.”
Sears Holdings, parent company to the iconic Sears store chain as well as Kmart, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month in part because it couldn’t compete with rivals who offered similar products at a better price or with a better experience.
Now, as Sears attempts to woo wary shoppers, it is trying to make the most of products and services that retained some popularity even as the retailer lost sales and relevance amid a landscape transformed by Amazon and Walmart.
Sears sold its signature Craftsman brand last year, but it is expanding its well-known replacement policy to allow shoppers who buy the hand tools elsewhere to return them to a Sears store if they’re damaged or broken and get a replacement.
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Sears is also adding a new twist to its renowned holiday “Wish Book,” which debuted in 1933 and reappeared last holiday season for the first time in six years. Shoppers can click on images in the digital version of the popular catalog, and tick off the items on their gift lists.
And the retailer is tapping into its Sears Home Center mechanics, as well as its core of home service technicians, to spread the word about the deals and sales events planned for the holiday season.
“They will be a distribution channel for our circulars and catalogs,” says Boutros, who noted that Sears home repair staff visits 100,000 homes a week. If a technician goes “to repair a Kenmore washing machine, he will leave the Thanksgiving circular on the counter when he leaves the home … We’re going to leverage our assets to rebuild our company.”
Boutros says that Sears and Kmart shelves should be well-stocked this holiday season, despite the bankruptcy filing. “Our largest and most important vendors have committed, and they are starting to supply us with the core categories,’’ he says.
Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses. The filing could affect tens of thousands of workers. (Oct. 15)
And as rivals like Target and Walmart ramp up their in-store experiences and activities, families who visit Kmart will be able to get their photo taken with Santa for free every Sunday starting the weekend after Thanksgiving, through the last weekend before Christmas.
There will also be changes coming in the new year, including Sears’ popular Kenmore Brand lending its name to cookware and tableware, and new Diehard branded products.
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