The Sears brand has been a staple for the American consumer since it introduced catalog shopping in 1888. It rose in success for over a century but began to wane with the introduction of retailers like Walmart. In an effort to stay afloat, the former giant has begun selling off the brands that have given Sears a sturdy foundation. From 2010, Sears has gone from over 3,500 stores to less than 700, and looks to close more locations in the near future.
Is it possible to revive a brand that has reached its 131st birthday and has seen year after year of declining sales? The answer is yes, but it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of changes, and a lot of radical thinking from the company’s leaders.
Several companies have managed to pull themselves back from the brink, taking their names off of the endangered species list. Some have been reborn as online-only retailers, such as Montgomery Ward and Linens ‘n Things. Circuit City, a brand that closed all of its doors in 2009, has reemerged by launching an e-commerce site with Amazon and has plans to reopen a physical location in Dallas, Texas in the near future.
What other brands have been able to bring themselves back from the dead?
- Lego: In 2004, the popular toy brand was close to bankruptcy because of the popularity of electronics. But in an ironic twist, the recession drove sales of the building blocks thanks to the low cost, and it has helped spur the company back up to one of the leading toy manufacturers.
- Marvel: When comic book sales went on the decline in the late ‘90s, Marvel filed for bankruptcy. When the movies began to win back fans, however, the brand has seen its value soar.
- Apple: Looking at it today, you would never believe that the Apple brand was floundering in the ‘90s. But thanks to the return of Steve Jobs and an investment from Microsoft, the brand was able to grow into the powerhouse it is today.
With the right leadership and the right strategy, it is possible to bring back a brand that has lost traction in today’s marketplace. But when you have to contend against giants like Amazon and online retailers in general, it will take a lot of innovation mixed with some important basics to bring the Sears brand back.
What do today’s consumers value most about the brands they want to do business with? Excellent customer service, quality American made products, and a brand that stands for something more.
One of the reasons for the decline of consumer traffic at Sears stores has been the environment itself. Employees were unenthusiastic. Stores were in disrepair and were unkempt. When the “face” of your brand isn’t welcoming, is it any wonder people don’t want to shop there?
Sears was once known for its quality brands like Kenmore and Craftsman, products that were made in America. But now quality brands can be found anywhere, often at lower prices.
Today, consumers place a lot of value in a brand that has a clear purpose (and no, not the purpose of making money). They want companies that drive change, make efforts to clean up the environment, feed the hungry, create jobs, drive the creation of American made production companies.
Consumers also want to see more online presence with the brands they shop with. How strong is Sears’ social media presence? Are leaders trying to connect with their shoppers? How quick are they to respond to messages, tweets, emails?
What consumers want most from any brand they work with is a combination of all these things. If Sears leadership can come together to develop a single strategy to drive growth and a relationship with customers, they can start focusing more on the things that will work in the long term instead of looking for fast, finite solutions for generating income.
Sears needs to recreate its online presence, improve the customer experience both in stores and online, keep up with the trends, define their purpose and share that with the world, and focus on what once made them a solid American brand. It will not happen overnight, but Sears can be revived and remain one of the longest lasting brand icons in this fast-moving era.