Black Friday conjures up a scenario in which people fly into stores and race to the coveted dishwashers, flat-screen televisions, and more stuff that stores have dramatically slashed in price, to get the ball rolling on Christmas shopping. But let’s take a look at one retailer that may need to pull itself out of a bad 5-year slump with its Black Friday sales: Sears.
A Bad Streak In Sales
The Illinois-based retailer Sears, which has almost 2,500 full-line and specialty retail stores, also owns the Kmart brand and has a majority stake in Sears Canada Inc. But problems such as lack of investment, outdated brick-and-mortar stores, a plummeting core retail business and photos of empty aisles devoid of customers have plagued the big box retailer. The company has seen five straight years of losses.
From a Sears’ report, full-year net loss for Sears Holdings in fiscal year 2012 narrowed to $489 million, as compared with the yearly net loss in 2011, $2.4 billion. This is better than it could be, but nevertheless a retailer with a streak of considerable losses each year has a long way to go on the road to economic recovery.
Other Problems Plaguing the Company
A lack of revenue is hounding Sears this year as well. The company is in need of cash, so much so that it’s looking to possibly separate its Lands’ End online retailer business and the line of automotive-service centers, according to Bloomberg News late last month. Another issue is the company’s image: brick-and-mortar stores have been cast into an unfavorable light with claims of no customers, empty shelves, a mish-mash of products and a lack of inventory for shoes and clothes. Adding in the recent deceptive refund policy and the $150,000 fine Sears paid to New York State as well, the retailer definitely needs to build its reputation.
Sears Online May Have a Chance?
In order to resolve its brick-and-mortar dilemmas, CEO Edward Lampert is pushing Sears’ image to be more of a formidable online shopping retailer. A nifty way Sears has been trying to attract customers to their stores is through its online “Shop Your Way” loyalty program, where customers sign up for memberships in order to snag deals and earn points that can be used on future purchases. Recently, the retailer had weekly online deals on its website for members on such items as running shoes ($50 for men’s New Balance sneakers), lawn mowers (a Craftsman for $303) and men’s dress shoes (Docker’s for $45).
Additionally, Sears has recently partnered up with Whynot Leasing, LLC, to offer customers the chance to purchase big-ticket items on store credit. Available starting November 22, the lease-to-own plan lets shoppers pay back gradually, but the payments are scheduled as automatic withdrawals from an account and whether or not there’s interest has yet to be seen. No credit will be required to participate, but certain age and income restrictions apply.
Final Note: Black Friday Success?
In Black Friday 2013 news, Sears will open its stores full of doorbusters at 8pm Thanksgiving evening this year, and the sale will run until late Black Friday. Sears is responding to the general trend of earlier Black Friday opening hours, but there’s speculation whether it will be enough to spark shoppers to its stores first. The Black Friday deals, the company’s membership program, and the Whynot Leasing option—the latter two also available at the Sears-owned Kmart stores—might kickstart a good holiday season for Sears, but who knows? We’ll just have to see.
Sears image courtesy of Flickr.