New Edict at Sears: Employees to Get in Touch with Softer Side

Discussion
Oct 07, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

First, Aylwin Lewis sent a memo telling employees not to advertise when they buy products from competitive companies by bringing their bags onto Sears Holdings’ property.

Now, a new edict from the company requires that employees working in Sears must wear clothing sold by the retailer.

The good news is that wearing Sears’ brands, such as Lands’ End, Covington, Structure, Dockers, Arrow, Apostrophe, A-Line, Latina Life, First Issue, Belongings and c.l.o.t.h.e.s,
gets employees out of the black and tan pants look that has become the uniform at the company’s stores.

The bad news is that, if employees have been buying their clothes at more fashion-forward or less expensive retailers, then they’ve got some shopping to do.

Ellen Davis, spokesperson for the National Retail Federation, told the Chicago Sun-Times that it’s common for retailers to establish uniform guidelines for workers. “Retailers
want to ensure that employees reflect an image they want to convey to shoppers, whether that’s casual and chic or high-end and professional.”

An unnamed Sears spokesperson told the Sun-Times that the company made this decision because, “We’re proud of our updated fashion offering this fall, so we’ve decided
to expand the dress code.”

The new dress code is part of Sears’ effort to improve its image with consumers. The same memo that announced the dress code change also included this directive: “We really need
to be focused on smiling and greeting all customers within 10 feet, and asking customers, ‘Are you finding what you are looking for?’ when they appear to be searching.”

A call to Sears Holdings asking whether all employees of the company working at its headquarters or in the field, including Edward Lampert and Aylwin Lewis, etc., would be required
to wear the company’s clothing while on the clock was not returned as of press time.

Moderator’s Comment: Is Sears on the right path with its dress code and customer service initiative as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times?

George Anderson – Moderator

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19 Comments on "New Edict at Sears: Employees to Get in Touch with Softer Side"


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Mark Barefield
Guest
Mark Barefield
15 years 4 months ago

This is really a non-issue. First, most of the store staff will still have to comply with the standard black and tan dress code. Second, the safest route for the effected employees is to stick with the same dull thing, for if they show up in new colorful attire, they run the risk of being questioned by the fashion police. Who wants one more hassle? And third – even if every associate in every store bought a collection of brand new Lands’ End work outfits for every day of the week – it would not stem the tide of double-digit same store sales declines.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

It seems totally reasonable to have the staff engage customers. The dress code requirement seems reasonable, too. I assume that the initiatives were communicated with a friendly, firm, constructive tone. It always helps when change is communicated in a constructive fashion, not a strident fashion. I wonder what follow-up will take place. It would be very helpful to engage an independent shopping service and post the results weekly to everyone at Sears, so they could see the progress made. Comparing progress store by store and zone by zone can create a positive spirit of internal competition.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

So now they have to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes? What are they thinking in the corner office? Let’s see, morale is horrible, people are feeling pinched for cash, so let’s make them go out and buy our brand of clothes, or else. If I were the CEO I’d be mortified to suggest such a thing. I’d hopefully have some real ideas on turning the business around, and trying to get my employees excited. I simply don’t get it.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 4 months ago

Following up on Mark’s comments, the easy temptation is to say this is all goofy stuff, and Sears should just take a chill pill. But, the fact is that what they’ve been doing for a number of years hasn’t worked. So, maybe, just maybe, if they are more proactive in having associates greet customers, provide better service, and wear what they sell, results will improve. I’m generally against mandates but as Mark says, it’s all in how it’s done.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Too bad your call didn’t get answered on how the higher ups will comply. I hope to have the chance to see the dapper Ed Lampert in a Sears suit shortly!

Seriously, this makes a lot of sense from the outside looking in, however I hope they offer some kind of clothing allowance for their employees that will facilitate the initiative. Beyond that, Sears still offers plenty of dowdy clothing so I’m not counting an Abercrombie-esque corporate make-over that will take them into hipsville!

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I think it is fine, but Sears should provide those clothes at no charge to the employees. It’s really the same as a uniform. Keep in mind that these are low wage retail workers who might not be able to afford the high prices at Sears. I think it would be unreasonable to require the employees to purchase the clothes. If they do have to purchase Sears clothes, they should get a substantial discount and it should be tax deductible. Rules like this usually come when a company is in desperation mode. Since employees have not been wearing Sears clothes, probably the general public isn’t either. Personally, I do not recall ever buying any clothes at Sears. Probably because of all the goofy stuff my mom bought for me there in the 1960s has forever molded an image of Sears in my mind.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
15 years 4 months ago

I’m with Warren. And I don’t believe all the execs are wearing Sears Holdings clothes. Maybe they will next have fashion police ticketing offenders of the new policy. They are struggling and trying to treat the symptom and not the disease! They need help! There are strategies out there that will work but they do not understand the value equation and where they should be playing on the Well Curve, which is a simple inverted Bell Curve that helps you understand the “value” playing field. I certainly would not be out there buying their stock right now!

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

A spokesperson for Sears, Chris Varthwiate, took issue with some of the reporting done on the dress code. Mr. Varthwaite told RetailWire that the dress code was completely optional and only applied to a few relevant departments such as apparel, jewelry, etc.

Mitch Kristofferson
Guest
Mitch Kristofferson
15 years 4 months ago

If you don’t have pride in your company, find another job, but pride goes hand in hand with leadership. I agree with previous comments on two points, (1) the method and tone of the announcement needing to be positive and motivating, and (2) the buck starts and stops at the top – this should apply from the C-Level on down. As a Sears associate, I would find it inspiring to see the bigwigs wearing company stuff. In fact, there isn’t a good business reason why they shouldn’t.

John Rand
Guest
John Rand
15 years 4 months ago
This is short term nonsense. I suppose next they will insist everyone wear a shopping bag over the clothing so everyone will know where it comes from. Speaking just as a customer, I wandered into Sears last week (8 mile round trip) to buy a Craftsman laser level. I picked past the two boxes that had clearly been opened and were missing parts and/or manuals. I brought the item home and the on-off switch was broken. I traveled back (8 miles round trip) and exchanged it for one that I tested while in the store. Brought it home and found that one of the bubble-level vials was empty, and therefore defective. I am ready to go back (8 mile round trip) and exchange it a third time. Counting the visibly defective merchandise on the shelf, I saw approximately a 20% defect rate in an own-label product that represented itself as a product from one of the last reputable offerings Sears can claim. Do you really think I care what the clerk is wearing when I… Read more »
Jane Clark
Guest
Jane Clark
15 years 4 months ago

This is America!! What is this? The homeowners’ association of retailing? How about those people who work in the hardware department? Are the Sears police going to their house to make sure they are using Sears tools?

People must be beating down the door to work at Sears. Otherwise, Sears would be more concerned with hiring competent, sales oriented, courteous employees. The real kicker will be when Sears clothes look terrible on the sales people and then the clothes will never sell.

Keep the clothes on the mannequins. Work smarter to get store traffic up. Hire more creative display people. Pay the employees an incentive to SELL the clothes!!!!

Carmen Liggett
Guest
Carmen Liggett
15 years 4 months ago
I agree a company may dictate the style of clothing acceptable to present a certain look of professionalism to the buying public. But when they dictate the brand or label I must where, or where I must purchase these items, then they should be footing the bill for my wardrobe. The Sears Auto Center provides shirts to their sales staff; and provides and cleans the uniforms for the mechanics in their garages. If they want to showcase their fashions on the associates, it should be free of charge to those employees. You cannot dictate how someone manages their finances. If the employee can achieve the same look at a more affordable price from another retailer, there should be no complaint from the executive branch. I do not believe Lampert, Lewis, or Lacy are clothing their wives and children or themselves in the dowdy, dull, and boring fashions sold on their racks. Our nation is in an energy crunch and, for many, it is an energy crisis. Here is a company that schedules its employees 3… Read more »
Craig Johnson
Guest
Craig Johnson
15 years 4 months ago

Absolutely, they’re on track. I work on the agency side of things now and am amazed at how un-loyal some of my brand clients have been. This is your stuff, be proud of it…be thankful for the food it puts on your table….if that means you wear Sears instead of Prada, so be it. Can you imagine a Ford employee driving a GM and parking it at work? Not so much.

As for the customer service part, good luck. Behavior is a really difficult thing to change when it’s as intangible as customer service…but rally cries do help.

Go Sears!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Preoccupation/obsession with (relative) trivialities seems to mostly occur in two types of companies: those that have all of the more pressing problems solved, and those that are ignoring them…..

Sad, really: Sears – popcorn smell wafting thru the store notwithstanding – used to be a happy mix of ubiquity and hometown familiarity; it now seems destined to share a family plot with Wards.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 4 months ago

Mitch has it right. This is about leadership.

Personally, I think too many are jumping on the slam Sears bandwagon but it would be a PR and employee morale coup if Messrs. Lewis and Lampert and other top execs were to announce they were only going to wear Sears Holdings’ clothes from now on.

David Berg
Guest
David Berg
15 years 4 months ago

On the one hand, any company has a right to set a reasonable dress code/uniform, particularly for employees that meet with the public.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen ‘mandates’ to use a company’s products work. If the employees, with their discounts and easy access, don’t want to buy and wear Sears clothes, why would anyone else want to? They need to address the underlying problems with product cost, quality, style… or they need to hire employees who like what they sell – not force employees to buy what they don’t want.

I remember working for a company that mandated everyone would use their products. When I saw everyone continuing to use the competition’s products, despite the mandate, I knew our products were toast… and it wasn’t long until that was the case.

chet welch
Guest
chet welch
15 years 4 months ago

Enough already!

I have just returned from the annual meeting for Old Navy, and I was wearing Dockers. Do you think Paul Pressler, President and CEO of Gap, Inc. really cared? No, he doesn’t, because he is a leader who believes in people, and what makes his stores a fun place to work, not a autocratic nightmare for the associates.

keith taylor
Guest
keith taylor
15 years 4 months ago
I work in receiving for a Sears FLS. I process all fashion merchandise that comes through our store. This “edict” is an “option”. “You softlines people can wear colors as longs as it was purchased at Sears,” say the managers. Most of my managers wouldn’t be caught dead buying or shopping for their wardrobe at Sears unless it was via sears.com. Most of my co-workers don’t shop at work because they can’t afford it. Someone in Hoffman Estates desperately needs to wake up. So far, no has gotten fired for bringing in their lunch in a Target bag. Our new benefits package excludes a lot of local pharmacies, encouraging us to use Kmart. (Great except the nearest K is 40 miles away.) A lot of Sears people saw SHC as a way to take our company with a lot of good people and saddling it with a lot more baggage than it needed. They need to quit running the company from an ivory tower. I had a mid-level manager inform me that he “used to… Read more »
Kim Faldzinski
Guest
Kim Faldzinski
15 years 4 months ago

I have no objections to Sears implementing the new dress code. Several other retailers have similar rules. BUT the big difference is that when other retailers enforce those types of dress code rules, they offer a sizable discount on the clothing that needs to be worn. Most offer 40%. Sears’ paltry 20% off does not work. The proof is that the employees currently feel they would rather shop elsewhere because the 20% is not enough incentive. Now you are mandating where they can shop and what they can wear at work. Sears needs to step up to the plate. Not enough ownership at the top levels.

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