Sears is trying to win back customers by going where seemingly all of them shop — on Amazon. Beginning in July, the department store chain will sell its Kenmore home appliances powered by Alexa. The deal marks the broadest distribution of Kenmore products, outside of Sears branded stores and related online retail platforms.
As an extra enticement for shoppers, Kenmore products listed on Amazon will integrate with popular voice-activated assistant Alexa. The Kenmore Smart skill for Amazon Alexa enables customers to control the Kenmore Smart home appliances by simply asking Alexa. For example, users can change the temperature on their air conditioner without leaving the sofa. Customers can enable the Kenmore Smart skill in the Alexa Skill Store, link their account and then begin asking Alexa to interact with their Kenmore Smart appliances.
Alexa-enabled Kenmore Smart connected room air conditioners are the first Sears products available on Amazon.com.
The company’s Sears Home Services and Innovel Solutions units will supply service for delivery, installation, and extended product protection for Kenmore products sold on Amazon. Sears Home Services includes more than 6,000 expert technicians, making it arguably one of the last remaining value propositions Sears Holdings has, in addition to the Kenmore brand.
The retailer will need to maximize Kenmore’s value as much as possible, especially after selling the iconic Craftsman tools brand to Black and Decker for $900 million earlier in 2017.
While the move to Amazon does raise concerns that it may give shoppers even less of a reason to go to a Sears store, the continued decline in traffic and sales across the board indicated that the brand should reach shoppers in more diverse settings. As seen in the case of Nike, even successful brands are finding value in selling on Amazon, so a company like Sears Holdings might not be able to afford to pass on the option.
Desperation To Revive A Struggling Brand
Sears has been looking for a spark that can turn its fortune around for years now, with the company failing to make an annual profit since 2010. Sears Holdings even reluctantly admitted in an SEC filing that it has “substantial doubt” that the company will be able to continue as a functioning business without the threat of bankruptcy.
But the retailer continues to fight back by reevaluating its real estate portfolio in the midst of a $1.25 billion cost-cutting plan. The company plans to shutter nearly 300 Sears and Kmart stores this year, but is experimenting with smaller format locations, having opened its first Sears Appliances & Mattresses store in Texas.
Earlier in July, Sears landed yet another credit line — valued at $200 million — from CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Partners. Lampert’s continued cash injections and ownership of the chain’s unsecured debt continues to convince some investors that Sears will avoid filing for bankruptcy protection, but ultimately the ability to appeal to a wider consumer base on Amazon may be the company’s best long-term move yet.