Sears Goes Back to Selling Consumer Electronics Again

According to industry insider Twice Magazine, Sears stores are going to be stocking consumer electronics again. The retailer is reputedly re-embracing consumer products after it posted low margins, and its pursuit of smart home tech led to CE abandonment more than three years ago. At that time, the chain began shifting its traditional TV-centric assortment into a more holistic, connected-solutions approach under then category president Ryan Ciovacco.

Even though Sears remains committed to smart home  (and Ciovacco now heads the company’s Wally Labs sensors and services subsidiary), Dean Schwartz, president of hardlines for Sears Holdings, thinks it’s time to re-enter mainstream tech, although this time more profitably.

Following what he described as “a substantial pullback” in CE that led to steep same-store sales declines, Schwartz began rebuilding Sears’ electronics assortment last fall by leveraging two-step distribution and third-party sellers. (Kmart, he said, never really exited the category.) “We’re definitely getting back into the CE business, just in a different, more profitable way,” he told TWICE.

To date, 175 of Sears’ 570 stores now feature what Schwartz described as “a relatively wide selection” of TVs, headphones and accessories, and another 45 locations are expected to join the tech brigade by early May. “It’s a smaller assortment than Best Buy’s,” he said, “but it’s larger than it was five months ago and is considerably expanded online, where there’s a much broader range.”

Sears has reentered the gaming business with console, headphone and accessories bundles online, and is matching up Apple iMacs, MacBooks and Mac Minis with cases, headphones, cords and other accessories to create computer packages that sell for upwards of $3,600. Both categories are provided by distributors.“We saw an opportunity,” said Schwartz, who is considering additional Sears stores for CE conversion.

Still, it’s a long way from Sears’ “Brand Central” days, when the chain went toe-to-toe with past CE leaders like Circuit City and Montgomery Ward, based on its wide assortment of tier-one tech.

What are your experiences of tech purchases at Sears? Will you go back to buying at Sears, or are there other bricks-and-mortar outlets you prefer? Let us know in the comments. below.

 

 

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Martin Dew

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31 Comments

  1. Martin Dew

    Martin Dew

    Sears Goes Back to Selling Consumer Electronics Again
    [​IMG]

    According to industry insider Twice Magazine, Sears stores are going to be stocking consumer electronics again. The retailer is reputedly re-embracing consumer products after the retailer posted low margins, and its pursuit of smart home tech led to its abandonment more than three years ago. At that time, the chain began shifting its traditional TV-centric assortment into a more holistic, connected-solutions approach under then category president Ryan Ciovacco.

    Even though Sears remains committed to smart home (and Ciovacco now heads the company’s Wally Labs sensors and services subsidiary), Dean Schwartz, president of hardlines for Sears Holdings, thinks it’s time to re-enter mainstream tech, although this time more profitably.

    Following what he described as “a substantial pullback” in CE that led to steep same-store sales declines, Schwartz began rebuilding Sears’ electronics assortment last fall by leveraging two-step distribution and third-party sellers. (Kmart, he said, never really exited the category.) “We’re definitely getting back into the CE business, just in a different, more profitable way,” he told TWICE.

    [​IMG]

    To date, 175 of Sears’ 570 stores now feature what Schwartz described as “a relatively wide selection” of TVs, headphones and accessories, and another 45 locations are expected to join the tech brigade by early May. “It’s a smaller assortment than Best Buy’s,” he said, “but it’s larger than it was five months ago and is considerably expanded online, where there’s a much broader range.”

    Sears has reentered the gaming business with console, headphone and accessories bundles online, and is matching up Apple iMacs, MacBooks and Mac Minis with cases, headphones, cords and other accessories to create computer packages that sell for upwards of $3,600. Both categories are provided by distributors.“We saw an opportunity,” said Schwartz, who is considering additional Sears stores for CE conversion.

    Still, it’s a long way from Sears’ “Brand Central” days, when the chain went toe-to-toe with past CE leaders like Circuit City and Montgomery Ward, based on its wide assortment of tier-one tech.

    What are your experiences of tech purchases at Sears? Will you go back to buying at Sears, or are there other bricks-and-mortar outlets you prefer? Let us know in the comments. below.

    I have never purchased a tv from Sears but I did buy my first DVD player from them in 1999. If I recall they included a free dvd voucher with purchase of the Panasonic dvd player. It was motivating to buy from them.

  2. I’m glad they are filling up the empty space (which looks HORRIBLE) but is this any answer to their problems? They need a really good reason to get people back in their stores.

  3. In Canada, Sears farmed out all its repair and delivery services to disreputable private companies, charged huge prices for extended warrenties, abandoned or charged huge delivery charges for mail order catalogue purchases, and went bankrupt.

    I believe all stores have closed here. I was once a loyal customer and bought everything I could there. Today, if they re-opened and had electronics, I would not patronize the store if everything was free.

  4. i went to Sears around Christmas to look around for a few things. It was really depressing. There was hardly anyone there, almost like I was shopping after the store had already closed and was the only one left inside. I didn't find much of anything I was looking for, and the few things I did find seemed quite expensive.

    A recent trip to Kmart was much the same. Very few customers; only two checkouts open on Sunday afternoon. Went to Walmart after and did some comparisons. Most everything I bought at Kmart was significantly cheaper at Walmart (a bottle of the same brand vitamins was $9.99 at Kmart, only $6.96 at Walmart; a travel size of the same brand deodorant was $1.99 at Kmart, $1.26 at Walmart).

    It's hard to find any reasons to go to either of these stores anymore, especially when prices for the exact same items are 30-50% less. I doubt a new selection of electronics will help that.

  5. I have to say this. The Kenmore microwave oven I bought at Sears for my newly renovated kitchen in 1982 still works perfectly and has never been repaired. I keep waiting for it to bite the dust so I can get a more modern one that's faster and has more features, but I've sworn I will use this one until it conks out (or I do)!

  6. I remember way back when. I mean way way back when. SEARS was the place to go.
    But the days are long gone..

    Definitely long gone. Last time I went to Sears was probably ten years ago. Needed a dishwasher. Not a single person to help me, it was deserted or everybody was on a break. Finally went to a small local store. Got a dishwasher and a few years later a new refrigerator. Customer service and install was fantastic. I'll never go back to Sears.

  7. TJPC

    In Canada, Sears farmed out all its repair and delivery services to disreputable private companies, charged huge prices for extended warrenties, abandoned or charged huge delivery charges for mail order catalogue purchases, and went bankrupt.

    I believe all stores have closed here. I was once a loyal customer and bought everything I could there. Today, if they re-opened and had electronics, I would not patronize the store if everything was free.

    In the last few years, the Mrs and I found the local Sears staff really snooty. One of her favorite pastimes growing up was to look through the Sears catalogue, but the last few times that I asked for one in store, they pretty much acted as if their catalogues were too precious to be given out, unless I was willing to make a large purchase (OK, I'm assuming that last part!). I don't imagine that sort of condescending attitude helped their in store business any!

    CHEERS! 🙂

  8. Matt Hough

    I have to say this. The Kenmore microwave oven I bought at Sears for my newly renovated kitchen in 1982 still works perfectly and has never been repaired. I keep waiting for it to bite the dust so I can get a more modern one that's faster and has more features, but I've sworn I will use this one until it conks out (or I do)!

    We still have a Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner that we purchased from Sears in the summer of 1993 when their local outlet was still by order only. It hasn't had as much use in the last decade, though!

    CHEERS! 🙂

  9. Jim517

    They should close them all and all the Kmarts too !

    If I recall correctly, the Canada based K-Marts closed up shop by about the mid '90s, which was around the time our North Bay Sears outlet became a full retail department store.

    CHEERS! 🙂

  10. Jim517

    They should close them all and all the Kmarts too !

    I believe that is the plan. The K-mart here burned down during the fires we had in Santa Rosa in October and they are not re-building.

  11. First the Sears in my market closed its repair shop. Then it closed its auto repair shop. Then it rented out half of its downstairs to open a Whole Foods. And then, finally, the Sears in the remaining three-quarters closed.

  12. Tony Bensley

    We still have a Kenmore Vacuum Cleaner that we purchased from Sears in the summer of 1993 when their local outlet was still by order only. It hasn't had as much use in the last decade, though!

    CHEERS! 🙂

    I've got a washer/dryer Kenmore set I bought in 1985, still working great. But the company has gone downhill for the last ten years or so. Same thing with K-Mart, how can things get so messed up? Greedy executives and stockholders that just destroy a corporation?

  13. Jim517

    They should close them all and all the Kmarts too !

    All the K-Mart stores around here are closed, including the very first K-Mart store — Store #1 — which was located in the town I grew up in — Garden City, Michigan. I went to that store a lot when I was a kid — Garden City was a small town, only six square miles, so there wasn't much else there.

    Sears was the place we went to buy Craftsman tools, with their lifetime warranty. I think there is still one open not too far from us, but I have not been there in years.

  14. My mom worked at Sears when i was a kid and one of the benefits was profit sharing.
    She made out like a bandit with that.

    I loved Sears when I was a kid.
    There was a huge one in Philly and it was a big deal to go there.

    The old commercials for toys sold at Sears had me hooked with their "The big toy box at Sears" tag line.

    I actually thought there was a giant toy box there.
    Never saw one though.

  15. CEO types usually have their ears to the ground and therefore know more than "plain folk" such as myself but this seems like an inane move to me. The battle Sears wants to fight has already been won. Even the established leaders in this arena such as Best Buy are rethinking their strategies. Aside from big box items [where the shipping and setup are often intimidating factors] the future belongs to online. Exceptions might be truly high end items or items aimed at value conscience high end consumers.

  16. Matt Hough

    I have to say this. The Kenmore microwave oven I bought at Sears for my newly renovated kitchen in 1982 still works perfectly and has never been repaired. I keep waiting for it to bite the dust so I can get a more modern one that's faster and has more features, but I've sworn I will use this one until it conks out (or I do)!

    "Kenmore" has never been an actual manufacturer. Nowadays all sorts of manufacturers build products for them but even in the 80's there was never a Kenmore factory. You got a good unit but it came from a brand that [statistically] sold plenty of bad ones too. Luck of the draw I would say but "good on you."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenmore_(brand)

  17. I grew up a "Sears" kid. It's definitely sad to see the company going downhill so quickly. After the Kmart/Sears merger all of the Kmart stores in the Houston area shut down. The Sears stores have slowly been shutting down around town. Strange thing was one of the best performing stores in the area (from what some "insiders" told me) was shut down due to rising rent costs from the mall owner. I've only bought Kenmore appliances for my home and they've been great outside of one fridge that had a faulty ice maker. It was eventually replaced at no cost to me after Sears sent out a repairman 3 times. Kenmore products have always been built by outside manufacturers (like Whirlpool especially). You can decode the Sears part number to tell who the manufacturer was. My newest Kenmore fridge was made by LG and it's been flawless. The prices are still typically lower than a comparable "LG" brand fridge that you would buy at Sears or Lowe's, etc. Interestingly, before Sears quit selling most consumer electronics I actually saw a Kenmore brand television. Not sure who made those.

    I used to buy nothing but Craftsman tools as well because most of them were made in USA. That's no longer the case unfortunately. Even socket sets are made in China now but I read that Stanley tools acquired the Craftsman name from Sears so I wonder if some of the tools will be US manufacture again.

    I remember when I was a kid perusing the catalog and picking out toys or especially Atari 2600 video games that I really wanted. Invariably I'd end up with one of those Atari games at Christmas time. I guess Santa knew how to shop the Sears catalog too. haha.

    It's interesting to read that Sears is getting back into the consumer electronics business. I really believe if Sears backed off their clothing selection and went back to a store that sold just about everything like they did up until the 1980's they would have something different from most big box competitors. Especially if they stopped trying to compete with Walmart on costs. It'd be like a Walmart with better quality items. At one time I remember Sears selling automotive supplies to housewares to computers to toys to rifles and ammo and camping gear as well as everything in between. They even had an awesome snack bar with a ton of candy to choose from (the cherry sours were my favorite).

    Guess you can tell I get a little emotional when it comes to Sears. It was a big part of my childhood going there.

  18. skylark68

    Guess you can tell I get a little emotional when it comes to Sears. It was a big part of my childhood going there.

    That's true for me as well and I suspect its true for many of us. What's happening today is an all out abandonment of quality [and National pride but let's not go there 🙂 ] in favor of rock-bottom prices in most segments. That said, Ace Hardware has managed to survive amongst the faceless big box competition in their markets so there must be a way.

  19. Speaking as someone who was alive during Sears heydays (and who worked at Sears while attending college), I don't think that today's younger shoppers will become dedicated Sears customers. The loyalty to the Sears brand that previous generations had is gone. Perhaps I'm wrong and Sears can transform itself into a leaner, profitable company, but more than likely, Sears is now in the retail version of assisted living.

  20. skylark68

    Guess you can tell I get a little emotional when it comes to Sears. It was a big part of my childhood going there.

    Same here. But my hometown was so small, we didn't have an actual Sears store (the closest one was about an hour away). We had a Sears catalog store, which was basically a small store (about the size of a cellphone store in a strip mall today) where you went to pick up your catalog orders. They had a few display items, mainly appliances and lawnmowers, but a big warehouse attached to store items that came in for catalog orders. I still remember my parents getting the call that whatever they had ordered had arrived and they could pick it up at the catalog store, which meant a trip into town and most likely lunch out (which was a big deal). Of course, at Christmas, I wasn't allowed on the pick-up trip (wonder why?).

    Now they have the "Hometown" stores in smaller communities which do actually have inventory (again, mainly appliances, tools, and lawn and garden items) but also serve as pick-up locations for online orders.

  21. I have a Sears washer, dryer and lawn mower that must be at least 30 years old and all still work fine. I only use the lawn mower when my Honda has a problem. Funny that the Sears lawn mower sits in the garage having not used it for over a year and it starts right up every time.

  22. RolandL

    I have a Sears washer, dryer and lawn mower that must be at least 30 years old and all still work fine. I only use the lawn mower when my Honda has a problem. Funny that the Sears lawn mower sits in the garage having not used it for over a year and it starts right up every time.

    Glad they're still going strong but don't you mean a "Craftsman" lawnmower and "Kenmore" washer/dryer set? Sears never actually manufactured anything as far as I know.

  23. Bottom line is they have to do something. What they have been doing is not working. JC Penney is now selling appliances. Brick and mortar stores have to do something to bring in business or they will all just shutter and Amazon will sell everything to everyone on the planet.
    I’ll be in the market for a TV later this year. If Sears around here have them and are competitively priced they may get my business.
    A side note, I was in a mall in my town recently. This mall is dying, 80% of the stores are shut. JC Penney is the only anchor store they have left. I needed some T shirts and underwear so even though I knew it’d be cheaper at Wally World I bought them from Penney’s. I’m sure my little purchase doesn’t do anything for their bottom line but I liked shopping there. So I spent a few bucks. I like options. Going to a B & M store vs buying online. Options are good.

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