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Sears Sets Sights On Innovation, Distribution

Following last year’s overhaul of its major appliance business — which focused on wider selection, more opening price point SKUs, increased take-with inventory, new compensation formulas, an overhauled Web site and a department redesign — Sears is now taking its battle for market share to the streets.

Tina Settecase, Sears’ VP/general manager of major appliances, acknowledged that her company is “out stored” by chief white goods rivals Lowe’s and Home Depot, which boast some 930 and 1,200 locations, respectively, compared with Sears’ 870 mall-based stores. To that end, she is using all of the off-the-mall retail iterations at her disposal to expand distribution and get her goods closer to shoppers, she told TWICE during the 2004 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show held here earlier this month at McCormick Place.

That includes some 163 Sears Hardware Stores, most of which will be converted to Appliance and Hardware Stores by year’s end; 790 franchised stores; 45 outlet stores; 18 Great Indoors home centers; two Sears Grand prototypes; and a number of strip mall-based “neighborhood” stores which were introduced in 2003.

So far, the appliance counterassault, known internally as “Re:charge,” is gaining traction. Settecase said unit sales are up 6 percent in the first quarter, and that business overall is “OK,” despite a cautious consumer environment. “The market is not real robust right now,” she said. “People don’t have confidence in their jobs. Jobs are going overseas.”

Nevertheless, Sears still sells more majaps per store than its competitors, she said, and despite “big box attacks,” continues to command double the market share of Lowe’s. To maintain that positive momentum, Settecase will further emphasize innovation in her private-label Kenmore line, which remains the nation’s No. 1 appliance brand.

New line additions include a next generation Trio bottom mount side-by-side refrigerator, this one made by LG, which adds through-the-door filtered water to last year’s original Maytag entry.

Another line extension is an improved Duet washer, also from Whirlpool. Tagged HE4T under the Kenmore Elite label, this Sears exclusive features two new cycles, three new wash options, higher spin speeds, a larger 3.8-cubic-foot wash basket capacity and a newly configured pedestal.