TWICE exclusive! Once upon a time Sears’ private-label Kenmore brand reigned supreme within the major appliance pantheon, with a better than 40 percent share of the U.S. majap market.
Today the former brand leader has fallen behind other household names like Whirlpool, GE, Samsung and LG, and even comprises less than half of Sears’ own appliance sales.
But all that’s about to change, Sears hopes, as the company mounts a new campaign to reclaim Kenmore’s glory days.
The effort, explained Dean Schwartz, hardlines president at Sears Holdings, taps a longstanding but heretofore internal sales theme promulgated by former Sears appliance chief and industry doyenne Tina Settecase — that Kenmore offers more features and value than competitive brands.
Internally, the dictum was expressed as, “More for same, same for less,” Schwartz told TWICE. Now, as Sears seeks to retake the high ground, it is communicating Kenmore’s quality brand attributes, and the retailer’s nationwide support services, under the go-to-market theme of “The Mores of Kenmore.”
“It’s a pivot of how we talk to customers in the marketplace,” Schwartz said. “We have to differentiate from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy and JCPenney.”
To that end, Schwartz and his team chose to forgo the traditional route of sales promotions and no-interest financing, and focused instead on burnishing Kenmore’s brand equity by hammering home four key consumer benefits:
- an extra month of manufacturer warranty coverage (13 vs. the industry’s traditional 12);
- lifetime warranties on select Kenmore parts, including front-load washer motors, dryer drums, stainless steel dishwasher walls, stovetop burners and refrigerator bins;
- 24/7 tech support, including free video chat; and
- flexible delivery schedules, with fulfillment within a four-hour window.
Schwartz said the previously unheralded features — presented in ads and social media as “Now get even more” — address consumer concerns or pain points, although the extra warranty coverage is also a sore spot for Sears.
“It adds significant cost to us,” he acknowledged, “but we’re holding the line on retail pricing and are confident that it will drive incremental sales.”
Also providing added sales punch is Sears’ recent distribution pact with Amazon, representing the first time Kenmore has been sold outside the company. Schwartz declared the partnership a success thanks to the added exposure on the e-tailer’s national platform. “Both sides are pleased,” he said.
Meanwhile, within the brick-and-mortar channel, Sears has scored another hit with its standalone appliance and mattress specialty stores. The first four showrooms, located in Texas, Pennsylvania and Hawaii, are exceeding performance expectations, and the company is currently scoping out additional sites.
Schwartz said the 10,000-15,000-square-foot shops resonate with consumers due to their localized assortments, and help serve markets where Sears’ full-line flagship stores have closed.
And if consumers need any additional incentive to buy Kenmore, Sears is running a trade-up program that pays the difference between the current-size equivalent of a customer’s home appliance and the next largest capacity available. Reimbursements are in the form of Shop Your Way loyalty points, and the offer is available through March.
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