Will Sears get traction with its new appliance and mattress store concept?

Discussion
Photo: Sears Holdiings
Jun 26, 2017
Tom Ryan

Building on the success of the first Sears Appliances store that opened last year, Sears last week announced the grand opening of its first Sears Appliances & Mattresses location.

Located in Pharr, TX, the 20,000-square-foot store targets two of Sears “strongest categories.” The first Sears Appliances store, a 10,000-square-foot location in Ft. Collins, CO, has surpassed projections since its opening last May.

“Response to this new concept has been overwhelmingly positive — from member feedback to business performance — so expanding it to another key category like mattresses, and in an important local community like Pharr, made perfect sense,” said Leena Munjal, SVP, customer experience and integrated retail, Sears Holdings, in a statement.

Sears claims to be the only retailer to showcase all of the top 10 appliances brands, including its Kenmore brand. Customers will be able to visualize how new appliances will look in a full-scale kitchen with “Discover More,” a 122-inch interactive digital display. Using tablets, shoppers can select common kitchen layouts and appliances and customize it with colors and finishes.

Vacuums, floor care and home environment products as well as countertop microwaves are also available. In addition, shoppers can try out mattresses from top brands including Tempur-Pedic, Beautyrest, Sealy, Serta, Simmons and Stearns & Foster, and shop for select pillows and bedding at the store. Mattresses have been one of the few growth categories for Sears.

Sears will also offer a variety of services in the test store, including appointment scheduling with in-store experts.

Word of the new concept comes the same day reports surfaced that Sears is planning to close an additional 20 Sears and Kmart locations across the U.S. That’s on top of the more than 200 stores already set to close this year.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think standalone appliance and mattress stores will prove successful for Sears? Does the pairing of appliances and mattresses make more sense for Sears than stand-alone appliance stores?

Braintrust
"Likely the most appealing part of the mattress side is the absolutely insane margin available in the category. Beyond that it just doesn't make sense."
"It is hard to imagine the scene in the Sears boardroom when they agreed on creating a standalone store focused on appliances and mattresses!"
"The future for Sears may look a lot different — maybe no large departments stores and more niche smaller store concepts. Good luck Sears!"

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20 Comments on "Will Sears get traction with its new appliance and mattress store concept?"

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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Just what the world needs, more appliance and mattress stores. While appliances have historically been a reasonably good category for Sears, I don’t believe that creating stand-alone stores will be especially helpful for Sears. With legitimate concerns about their viability as a company, this concept is definitely too little, too late.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Appliances and mattresses? Really? Is that like diapers and beer, a counter-intuitive market basket pairing? For years I have wished Sears would get out of the apparel business and focus on appliances, tools, electronics (maybe) and auto. For years, it kept trying to get bigger in apparel, and then it sold off one of its most iconic brands.

Likely the most appealing part of the mattress side of the story is the absolutely insane margin available in the category. But beyond that it just doesn’t make sense. One would think with Mattress One, Mattress Firm, Target embracing Casper, Macy’s long-standing mattress business, etc. that the market would be crowded enough.

I would have preferred seeing appliances and accoutrements. But then I’m not a billionaire, so I must be missing something.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Perhaps the appliance and mattress stores or the stand-alone appliance stores will allow Sears to stay in business for a few more years, but the Sears brand has lost its meaning and relevance with consumers. It’s a matter of time before Sears and Kmart drift away permanently.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Too bad Sears didn’t do this with a “Craftsman DIY” store. Maybe they could have been Home Depot.

This is the best idea out of Sears in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, they are 30 years too late.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

Sears has maintained a reputation for selling appliances. However, today the shopping patterns have changed for many consumers and visiting a department store for an appliance is not as common as it once was. So I can see free-standing appliance stores being successful for Sears. As for adding mattresses, that’s risky. So many retailers are getting in each other’s space while still competing for the same amount of customers. Target has recently received a lot of press with their involvement with Casper. So unless Sears has something different to attract customers and once they are in the store can do a better job of engaging them with incentives to purchase, I don’t know how successful mattresses will be in the long run. As for closing stores, Sears needs to consolidate as they reinvent their business. Hopefully they won’t go in too many different directions. Time is ticking quickly for them and they need to focus on what will work. If mattresses sold with appliances is one of those things to focus on, fine. But I’d be careful because of the already huge amount of competition.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

It is hard to imagine the scene in the Sears boardroom when they agreed on creating a standalone store focused on appliances and mattresses! On what planet did they hold this meeting? This is the retail equivalent of jumping the shark! This decision is the harbinger of the end of Sears.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

It’s hard to picture anything solving the Sears problem at this point. The company just announced the closure of a mall anchor here in Milwaukee (after closing another anchor over a year ago), leaving it with just one full-line store here. I’m sure the story is being duplicated around the country, at the same time that Sears has been closing (not opening) appliance-only franchise stores.

Sears’ legitimate franchise in appliances is evaporating as it continues to shrink its footprint and sell off its key brand (like Kenmore). The appliance space is crowded with competitors, now including major investments by Amazon and J.C. Penney. And who needs another place to buy mattresses, especially given the growth of online sales?

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

With the parent Sears brand facing their own set of challenges in our changing and evolving retail world, a breakout appliances and mattresses concept store is not what the world needs.

Sears would be best suited to regain a sense of relevance, viability and stability before breaking out a separate operation, especially in the appliances and mattresses markets which have intense competition. The company will have to stretch itself to keep the main Sears model going, all while attempting to penetrate two very difficult categories to compete in.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

In a world of Casper and crowded marketplace for appliances we all shake our heads at this news. How does the brand SEARS mean anything to anyone looking for either category? It doesn’t. As Gene said, this is about 30 years too late.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Perhaps this will open up new careers for displaced Sears associates who can now stand in front of one of these stores with those hand-held spinning banners inviting shoppers into the store. Mind you I recently saw an automated/robotic sign spinner so even this avenue is closing off.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

What will Sears try next?

Sears keeps trying to re-make itself, while closing hundreds of stores and gaining a reputation as a dead man walking. At this point, the proud tradition of Sears, Roebuck (one of my former employers) is long gone. It’s hard to imagine what they could attempt that would work in this environment.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Maybe this is the path forward as traditional Sears stores are shuttered over time and the appliance and mattress store concept gets rolled out. We get a refocused company with smaller footprint and number of stores.

The main challenge for Sears will be gaining increasing foot traffic and generating the needed excitement and buzz to counter the downward spiral of their existing business.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

The Sears swan dive is just getting sadder. As others have said, it makes sense for Sears to focus on appliances — if they made that decision 30 years ago. The brand is so far behind that any “catch-up” attempts will not be enough to bring them out of their death spiral. They need something revolutionary and transformative. Mattresses and appliance stores are neither of those things.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

When most people think of Sears, they think of Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools. Appliances and mattresses are successful and very profitable categories for Sears. Opening smaller footprint stores that are focused on profitable categories makes sense.

Large footprint stores with a lot of unprofitable categories have proven to be unsuccessful for Sears and if this new concept is a success, it might be the recipe to help save the retailer. The future for Sears may look a lot different — maybe no large departments stores and more niche smaller store concepts. Good luck Sears!

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is a great idea which Sears should continue, however the mattress play might not be their best alternative. Craftsman tools combined with Kenmore appliances makes more sense from a success standpoint. This might turn out to be what Sears stores of the future look like anyway.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

I think it is one of the best shots they’ve got. We have a very successful similar appliance concept store here in Chicago, ABT, though they have pushed the concept further into electronics and other larger-ticket home items recently. Sears may have a stronger concept by keeping the category selection even more targeted and concentrating on breadth of selection and one-stop showrooming. Sort of a physical embodiment of Amazon, maybe.

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

I believe Sears can be successful with a standalone appliance and mattress store. With a national presence, they can beat any of the regional players in consumer offers. With a brand image that is strongest in appliances, they don’t have to build their franchise with consumers — maybe they need to specifically reach out to Millennials. Additionally, focusing on their strongest category allows them to develop a winning omnichannel strategy that can be a point of differentiation.

There are caveats. Sears has an image problem — from morose employees to press coverage of impending implosion — that needs to be addressed. All consumer touchpoints will be critical, especially employee training and customer service which needs to be better than the innovators in the market.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Sounds great, but then … it’s Sears. It’s becoming ever more difficult to figure out whether Sears wants to commit euthanasia or not. They have one foot in the grave (and the other at the edge) and then someone comes up with a good idea, but then the execution gets fumbled and we’re right back to where we were … less a few billion dollars.

So we’ll see where — if anywhere — this goes.

JJ Kallergis
BrainTrust

I remember when the first Sears appliance standalone store opened up with the large interactive display, strong assortment and a good attempt at blending physical with digital. But this was against the backdrop of full-line stores closing at an increasing clip, so any news was good news. To double down on this and add mattresses seems like a valiant effort to start generating cash for an enterprise that has almost forgotten what it is like to operate in the black. Sounds like Custer’s last stand.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

The white goods (still called that?) category is not handled well by the major DIYs. Mattresses are under-represented by the warehouse clubs and ignored by the DIYs, but a number of online retailers are attacking this space. Beyond the branding issues this represents, the more immediate issue is can the behemoth that is Sears be operationally efficient enough to make this store format work for them? While I don’t believe this is the best option for Sears, it does represent a better path forward than what they currently face. So if success is defined as keeping some doors open for as long as possible, then I see this as a success.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Likely the most appealing part of the mattress side is the absolutely insane margin available in the category. Beyond that it just doesn't make sense."
"It is hard to imagine the scene in the Sears boardroom when they agreed on creating a standalone store focused on appliances and mattresses!"
"The future for Sears may look a lot different — maybe no large departments stores and more niche smaller store concepts. Good luck Sears!"

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