Home Automation Goes Wide As Discounters Join In

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NEW YORK — Connectivity and home-automation are taking another giant step toward mass-market adoption this holiday season as Walmart, Sears and Target take aim at the nascent category.

Following big-box pioneers Lowe’s, Home Depot and Staples, the latest chain-store triumvirate is entering the category to varying degrees, with Target testing the waters, Sears rebuilding its CE business around it, and Walmart going whole-hog with a 1,700-store rollout this month.

The chains also join Best Buy, which is rolling out hundred-item Connected Home sections to 400 stores this fall, and Amazon.com, which launched a home-automation department last year.

Walmart’s plan is to present 10 to 20 home-automation products on connected-home displays within its stores’ electronics departments. The tightly curated assortment will include The Home line of security cameras from iON America, and Insteon’s collection of kits, motion sensors, LED bulbs, cameras and dimmer switches.

“Our presence in Walmart stores marks the arrival of mainstream adoption of connected home devices,” Insteon CEO Joe Dada said.

In contrast, Sears is taking connectivity to a whole new level by making it the centerpiece of its CE business. Under the plan, TV, along with other smart or connected devices like tablets and Bluetooth speakers and headphones, will be become part of a broader connected-solutions platform, explained Ryan Ciovaco, Sears’ president of connected solutions and consumer electronics.

“We are shifting the focus of our electronics business away from simply selling traditional electronics products into one that leverages both the industry growth area of smart technology and Sears’ existing capabilities in fitness, appliances, electronics and home services,” he told TWICE in an email. “This repositioning of electronics into connected solutions will focus on innovative products and target busy families and people on the go, providing them with an opportunity to discover how smart technology can improve their life.”

Ciovaco said Sears will introduce smart and wearable products to about 200 Sears stores this quarter, and has created a connected solutions “Holiday Hot List” online featuring such brands as Belkin, D-Link, Fitbit, Jawbone and Insteon.

The move comes amid continuing CE comp-sale declines for Sears and sister chain Kmart, and follows the rollout earlier this year of prototype connected-home shops within several Sears stores. The shops carry a tightly edited selection of smart, connected- home and personal-automation devices across the CE, fitness, automotive, home and mobile categories.

Meanwhile, Target is trialing home-automation products in about 500 of its approximately 1,800 stores. Items being tested include lighting, thermostats, smoke alarms and door locks, a Target spokesperson told TWICE. Online, the retailer has organized its home automation assortment under a dedicated “Smart Home” landing page that breaks out the category into thermostat, security, lighting, fitness, home control, entertainment and networking products.

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