The Many Sides of Sears’ Clothing Business

Discussion
Jan 05, 2011
George Anderson

By George Anderson

When Sears launched its "The Many Sides of Me" campaign
last year to help drive its clothing sales, many questioned whether it was
going all-in to succeed despite one executive’s assertion the company was "on
a path to ‘Feminize, Energize and Digitize’ the Sears soft side brand positioning."

In
recent months, the company announced it was remodeling clothing departments
in 200 locations in key markets. Critics argued the move was another in a line
of half-hearted attempts by a chain with thousands of locations in the U.S.
and Canada.

Even the announcement of a deal to sell an exclusive line of women’s,
men’s and children’s clothing under the UK Style by French Connection brand
beginning early this year has its skeptics. The brand will be available in
500 Sears stores and also on Sears.com.

A RetailWire poll in September
of last year found 46 percent were somewhat or much more optimistic about Sears’
clothing business than in the past. Of the balance, 31 percent were somewhat
or much less optimistic and 25 percent were unchanged.

Yesterday, Sears Holdings
announced another development in its clothing business with the hire of Lana
Cain Krauter as SVP and president – Sears Apparel. Ms. Cain Krauter, was most
recently president/chief merchandising officer for Bealls Department Stores.
She also held senior positions with J.C. Penney Company, Goody’s Family Clothing
and Sears, Roebuck and Co.

 "Lana is a great addition to our apparel team," said John
Goodman, EVP – Apparel and Home, in a statement. "She brings to the company
an excellent track record with brand, product and customer loyalty program
development and a demonstrated success in creating and inspiring high performance
teams."

Sears
reported declines in its seasonal apparel business in the third quarter with
the unseasonably warm weather being given as a contributing factor.

Discussion Questions: Does the latest announcement by Sears give you greater
confidence the company is not only committed to growing it apparel business,
but has a fighting chance to succeed? What advice would you offer Lana Cain Krauter
as she gets ready to lead Sears efforts in clothing?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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9 Comments on "The Many Sides of Sears’ Clothing Business"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

While Sears has hired an experienced apparel exec with a track record especially at JCP and (back in the ’90s) at Sears itself, I’m skeptical that one person can turn around this battleship. Sears Holdings still suffers from faulty strategic leadership at the top and its ongoing failure to hire a CEO for its retail operations.

And Lana Cain Krauter is walking into a far different situation than she left several years ago at Sears: The competitive landscape has shifted dramatically, the physical plants have been allowed to decline and the intended synergies from the Kmart merger never materialized.

It’s a threefold challenge, and a big one: Can Ms. Krauter convince consumers, vendors and her own team that Sears has a viable future in the apparel business?

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 4 months ago

Congratulations to Lana on getting a high profile senior merchandising position. The experience will be terrific and a great addition to her resume. As far as advice on her new job, she should make sure she has a solid severance package. There has been a steady stream of terrific merchants who have passed through Sears over the last several years. They came with great chops, great ideas, and left within a couple of years.

The reality, as discussed in this forum many times, is that Sears is not a retailing organization. It is a real estate play run by a financier with neither experience nor demonstrated aptitude for retail merchandising, particularly in an aspirational area like apparel.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I’m sure Ms. Krauter knows the risks involved when going to work for a struggling company. We can conclude that from her history of job hopping. I doubt anyone needs to give her any advice as she has been on this boat before.

However, in my opinion Sears really doesn’t have much of a chance for any kind of success because their business model is not about sales growth. Using weather as an excuse for lower sales is a worn out excuse and is used to mask the real problems. Sears is all about simple survival. The half-hearted attempts of revival and executive musical chairs are just for the press release and are soon forgotten.

Justin Time
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I’m wondering where all of this will lead.

If Sears and Kmart continue to share clothing brands such as Joe Boxer and for men, David Taylor, why would anyone shop Sears when they can get the same quality and selection, at a lower price, at Kmart.

Sears should continue to focus on its Lands’ End clothing brand. I still don’t think of Sears for clothing, except maybe for underwear and socks. They made a mess out of the former Limited Brand, Structure. This line is supposed to be cutting edge and hip. Every time I walk through Sears, it seems that the Structure displays are moved, and never in the same place.

Chuck Palmer
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Move the merchandise, Lana.

God love ’em in Hoffman Estates, they keep trying. It’s a big complex job, but a big, good idea could get the attention of consumers again–especially in apparel.

Women still want to be wooed and if Sears is smart, they will balance fresh, new fashion with the heritage and behavior that already exists.

Give the ladies what they want.

Mike Blackburn
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Lana, good luck with finding more tenants to sublease space.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Why do we keep talking about this dinosaur? Is it wishing and hoping that we will return to the retailing of 20 years ago? There is no place for Sears to go. Remodeling 200 stores is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs.

If we were to take a hard look at brick and mortar retail and say that the best retailers will grow X%. New retailers will come on the scene and be successful. And unit sales (or constant dollar sales) will grow no more than population growth, and likely less. How many of us would project any room for a turnaround in Sears?

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Good luck! My advice is this: BE INNOVATIVE…move the brand, change the game, make a difference, shoot for the fences. She has the the talent and mind set, and she’s got nothing to lose. If she bumps incremental, it won’t matter because the task of getting Sears back on the apparel radar is not a small one. Think in kind! And if that doesn’t work, the Gap needs someone for the same job and they’re right down the street.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

My advice to Ms. Krauter? The best time to start looking for your next job is the day you start you current one.

But while her search continues, I’ll try to offer advice based on my most recent trip to a Sears (yes I went in, but no I didn’t buy anything): presentation! There was a world of difference between the 2nd floor (hardlines, housewares, children’s) and the ground floor (men’s, women’s, shoes, jewelery), and that difference was in how the respective floors were organized–or disorganized, as it were: the top looked like a department store (i.e. somewhere people might actually might like to shop), the bottom looked like a bargain basement.

Sears has never been known for fashion–even in its glory days the softlines were best described as “practical”–but Dior wouldn’t sell in the clutter I saw. Pare down the lines to best sellers and make the environment more appealing.

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