Daily Archives: September 28, 2012

Sears’ Deadly Sins

By now, everyone knows the story of K-Mart, and its bankruptcy that was well chronicled in Marcia Layton Turner’s book on Kmart’s Ten Deadly Sins: How Incompetence Tainted an American Icon, which was summarized in a recent article by Vivek Sehgal on why Business Strategy Should Design and Determine Supply Chains over on the Supply Chain Management Review this spring.

But not everyone knows that Sears, part of the Sears Holding Company, may not have learned the lessons K-Mart failed to learn and may be going down the same path, at least North of the Border. Consider the following sins in particular:

  • Brand Management
  • Underestimating Walmart
  • Ignoring Store Appearance
  • Supply Chain Disonnect
  • Repeating the Same Mistakes

Let’s take them one by one. It hasn’t made a top 100 brand list in 3 years, since it made the virtue 100 in 2009, and 24/7 Wall St (.com) predicted it would vanish this year. It’s still around, but it’s not a household name. In fact, the only good rankings it is getting are for its mobile site, but we all know how limited mobile sales still are, and one has to wonder how long it is going to fare well in the online world now that you can get most of its products through Amazon Supply. There was a time when Sears was a household name, and would always be in the top 50 brands. Not anymore, although Lands End was recently recognized, but Lands End is not Sears. Just an apparel line.

Like every other big average consumer retailer, Sears underestimated, and North of the Border, continues to underestimate Walmart in my estimation. In the Great White North, Walmart is expanding like mad while Sears is barely holding the few locations it has in many places. While many of you are likely aware that Target is about to expand rapidly into Canada through its acquisition of the leasehold interests of over 125 stores from Zellers Inc., what many of you do not know is that many of the remaining stores that are (in the process of) being closed are being scooped up by Walmart. the doctor can’t remember the last time a Sears location opened in his province.

While Sears store appearance generally isn’t that bad, it generally isn’t that good. While Walmart stores are kept new, clean, and shiny, some of the Sears stores the doctor has been in lately are starting to look run-down, dusty, and drab. And many of the displays, which may have been attractive in the 80’s and 90’s, are looking dated. What’s going to happen when Target bursts onto the scene?

And the Supply Chain Disconnect is still there. Consider the fact, as reported in the SCMR article, that in 2010, four years after the merger, only 4 distribution centres out of 39 were shared between Sears and Kmart, while others continue to serve Sears or Kmart stores exclusively. Walmart is going to eat Sears alive!

Sears is repeating the same mistakes that Kmart made, and focussing in the wrong areas. Brands (like Lands End) are not going to save it. A good mobile site is not going to save it. The only thing that is going to save it is a renewed focus on supply chain (to get its operational costs in line with Walmart’s) and a focus on brand rebuilding. It has to be a household name again. Otherwise, it may not make it’s 200th anniversary, which is a mere 8 years away! I hope I’m wrong, but we’re in an age where billion dollar enterprises can go bankrupt almost overnight.