Earlier this week, NPR aired a segment looking at Sears’ efforts to transform. As I said in the NPR story, we are facing the same challenges as many of our competitors. Our transformation is focused on serving our members to give them a robust choice of products and services. Our company also provides convenience so members can shop on their terms – in store, online, through our apps or via a hybrid of buy online, pickup in store. We are a brand that many of our customers trust and rely on for buying products for their families, or services for their homes, and we don’t take that trust for granted.
After the story aired, I received a beautiful, heartfelt, kind letter from a loyal member that I’d like to showcase on this blog. Because who better to tell our story than our members and customers. Thank you, Christine, on behalf of 140,000 American women and men working hard everyday to serve our members and create memorable experiences. Thank you for caring, thank you for sharing your story, thank you for giving us an opportunity to be a small part of your life, and more importantly, thank you for your unwavering loyalty and support.
Dear Ms. Munjal,
I’m writing to you after reading a piece on NPR about Sears’ struggles. An analogy in the article struck me: Sears was the Amazon of its day. So interesting! I just wanted you to know that there are people like me out there who are loyal Sears customers. I thought it might help you to know why.
First, let me tell you that I live in California and I shop at Sears. I’ve shopped there for at least 20 years. I can afford to shop anywhere, but I respect and appreciate value. That’s why I shop at Sears for many, many basics that my family uses.
All of the appliances in my home are from Sears. Washer, dryer, dishwasher, and two refrigerators. In my opinion, Sears is the best option in appliances for people like me who a.) like to see and touch an appliance before I buy it and b.) am not interested in spending a fortune on appliances even though I could afford to. I want a product I can count on with a good service organization behind it. In Los Angeles, the options aside from Sears either cater to a high end price point (Snyder Diamond, even Pacific Sales) or present very few mid-range options.
Sears is also where I go to buy clothing basics. Lands’ End clothing for me and my family, Levi’s jeans for my late husband and my teen son, cotton t-shirts and turtlenecks, bathing suits, pajamas, underwear, and on and on. The quality at Sears, when you are looking at workhorse brand names, is better than at Target (although I do shop at Target for contemporary home goods and seasonal items as well as specialty clothes). When my son was little, I ordered his first dress suit from Sears online (Dockers). I didn’t want to spend a fortune because I knew he’d grow out of it quickly. But I wanted nice quality and good choices. I got all of that from Sears online. You do this so well!
Sears feels honest and straightforward to me in an age of advertising burnout. For better or worse, there’s a nostalgia moment happening in America. Stepping out of the partisan divide, there are common values that I’m hearing. For example, people want the opportunity to “buy American” in order to put their purchasing power toward supporting American jobs. (FYI I’m a progressive Democrat living in liberal West Los Angeles; my entire family is conservative Republican living in Newport Beach and San Diego; the desire to buy products made in America is something we share). I don’t know the ratio of American made product that Sears sells, but my perception is that it’s high. I could be wildly wrong about that! But I’m certain that to emphasize Sears brands and corporate history that speak to this desire to “buy American” would be received well by consumers.
People also want to simplify and declutter their lives. The addiction to buying, hoarding, storing things you’ll never use (and usually made cheaply overseas) is being replaced by a desire to be organized and lean. Disposable fad clothing items may be less attractive these days. I have a teen son who is very discerning and knowledgeable about fashion and so are his friends. Quality classic jeans, t-shirts, hoodies provide the base for what he wears, and then he’ll add that (ridiculously) expensive designer accent piece. It’s all about authenticity.
Sears has authenticity in spades. Target may be the cool kid on the block, but Sears has an authentic history that, framed well, could make it a go-to place across a socio-economic spectrum. Look at the branding success of Shinola. That’s where Sears could live.
I cannot believe I wrote all this to you. Thank you for taking the time to read it (if you had the time to do so!) I hope it lets you know that there are consumers out there who appreciate Sears.
Wishing you success and fulfillment in all that you do!
Leena Munjal is SVP, Customer Experience and Integrated Retail at Sears Holdings Corporation