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Sears Stepping Up Its Smart-Home Efforts

While closing 68 Kmart, 10 Sears stores

Sears Holdings has introduced the first wave of what will be a wider assortment of connected-home products marketed under its private-label Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands.

The effort, orchestrated by Tom Park, president of the brand trio, leverages the badges’ heritage and dependability, and further positions the retail chain for a connected-home future, he told TWICE.

The first five products include:

• an 8,000 Btu Kenmore Elite smart AC ($300 retail);
• a Kenmore smart water heater module, compatible with current Kenmore and Kenmore Elite electric water heaters ($70 retail);
• a Kenmore Elite smart hybrid water softener ($800 retail);
• a pair of Craftsman wireless-enabled zero-turn steerable riding mowers ($2,799 and $3,199 retail); and
• a DieHard smart battery charger and maintainer ($100 retail).

Each of the items is wireless-enabled, allowing owners to change temperature settings, monitor product status and receive alerts via their mobile devices. The water heater module, for example, allows vacationing users to lower and raise the water temperature and can notify them of a tank leak.

Besides their smart capabilities, all Sears’ privatelabel connected products share the same value proposition, in that they’re affordable, convenient, save consumers money and provide peace of mind, said Park, a former top Disney exec who came to Sears last summer after a decade at Belkin.

Sears’ has already established a smart-home beachhead on the electronics side, where connected solutions and CE president Ryan Ciovacco has helped develop an IoT orientation that includes a dedicated website, an in-store showroom and some 200 smaller store-in-store shops.

The initial private-label products are either in stores now or arriving shortly, and additional devices will be launched throughout the balance of the year, Sears said.

Meanwhile, Sears Holdings plans to close 68 more Kmart stores and another 10 Sears locations this summer.

The announcement follows the shuttering of about 50 stores, mostly Kmarts, over the past three months, and was telegraphed in February when the retailer pre-announced an expected net loss of between $525 million and $625 million for its fiscal fourth quarter, compared to a year-ago net loss of $159 million.

The closures are intended to raise cash through inventory liquidation and the sale or sublease of the real estate, and to help return the chain to profitability, the company said, leaving it with about 1,540 stores.