Sears Holdings advertising & marketing assignments

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Selected Sears advertising

Once the world's biggest retailer, Sears has seen its market steadily eroded by mass-market discounters such as Walmart and Target. Sears probably suffered more than most other traditional retail groups, especially during the 1990s. But after two decades of inconsistent retail strategy, the group appeared to have made a substantial recovery by 2004. At the end of that year, Sears launched itself in a new direction by announcing plans to merge with discount retailer Kmart to create what was then a $50bn-plus giant, under the control of former hedge fund manager Ed Lampert. The enlarged group became one of the biggest "broadline" retailers in the US, selling a wide range of products from household appliances and tools to fashion and furnishings, but sales drifted steadily lower after the merger. Over the next 15 years, Lampert has presided over a slow motion car crash, as massive under-investment in the business and competition from online and other stores led to a steady decline in store traffic and sales. To keep the company afloat, Lampert has systematically sold off any corporate assets of value, including mail order retailer Lands End and Sears Outlet stores, either to other entities controlled by his own investment company ESL, or to third party bidders, as in the case of Craftsman tools to Stanley Black & Decker. In a bid to retain its remaining customers, the group launched loyalty program and "social shopping experience" Shop Your Way, which offers lavish benefits on spending, despite the company's financial woes. In 2017, Sears' operations in Canada went into liquidation with the closure of all stores. For the year to Feb 2018, group revenues were $16.7bn, having fallen by half in five years and by two-thirds since 2005. Net loss was $383m, the group's seventh consecutive deficit. Finally, towards the end of 2018, Sears Holdings accepted the inevitable and filed for bankruptcy protection. Lampert bought out 425 Sears and Kmart stores for $5.2bn, as well as Kenmore appliances and DieHard auto batteries; the other stores are being liquidated. However legal battles are ongoing between his new streamlined company and the liquidators over inventory, rights and outstanding payments. New Sears is also being sued by Stanley Black & Decker over its continued use of the Craftsman brand name, and there are continuing reports of stock shortages, empty shelves and unhappy employees. Lampert was obliged to step down as CEO of the New Sears but remains controlling shareholder. The business is run by a three-person "office of the CEO".

Capsule checked 3rd April 2019

Which agencies handle advertising for Sears? Find out more from the Account Assignments database

Who competes with Sears? Sears' main competitors include Walmart, Target, Kohl's, JC Penney, Home Depot, Lowe's and Best Buy. See Retail Sector index for other companies

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Historical profile information for Sears

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 8th Nov 2019: Sears Holdings announced the closure of almost another 100 Sears and Kmart stores by early 2020. By Feb next year, the company's entire retail estate will have shrunk to 182 locations, down from 425 in Feb this year and from almost 2,000 in 2014.

Adbrands Daily Update 28th Oct 2019: In its latest struggle to generate cash to stay afloat, Sears hired bankers to seek a buyer for its DieHard automobile battery business, one of its last remaining proprietary brands. It also still owns Kenmore appliances, having tried and failed to find a buyer since 2016.

Adbrands Daily Update 14th Oct 2019: Almost nine months after its "rescue" through a bankruptcy filing, Sears continues to struggle with declining performance. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Roughly a quarter of the 425 Sears and Kmart stores that financier Edward Lampert bought out of bankruptcy have closed or are closing, according to people familiar with the situation, a retreat the chains haven't fully disclosed. The shelves at some remaining locations are bare of crucial products - no lawn mowers in summer or garden supplies in spring, according to shoppers and a former executive." Crucially, Sears has had difficulty persuading some suppliers who had cut ties with the chain during bankruptcy to start trading with it again. As a result, according to marketwatcher TraQline, Sears' dollar share of the US major household appliances market it once wholly dominated has plunged. Between 2016 and 2Q 2019 it had fallen from the #1 position in major appliances to 4th place behind Lowe's, Home Depot and Best Buy.

Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Apr 2019: Representatives of Sears Holdings, now in liquidation, sued former chairman and controlling shareholder Eddie Lampert and his ESL Investments fund, as well as several senior past and present executives of ESL including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The suit accuses Lampert and his associates of systematically stripping the company of billions of dollars of valuable assets. Among other allegations, the suit claims that managers were directed to produce over-optimistic financial projections for the Holdings company in order to justify the transfer of key assets to other entities controlled by Lampert.

Adbrands Daily Update 16th Jan 2019: Sears Holdings' controlling shareholder Edward Lampert prevailed in a bankruptcy auction of the struggling group against an army of creditors and landlords who had been pushing for a full liquidation of the entire business. After days of negotiation, he succeeded in saving 425 of its 700 stores from closure with an offer of around $5bn. In 2006, just after Lampert merged Sears with discounter Kmart, there were around 2,300 outlets. Most observers are mystified by Lampert's apparent obsession with keeping the business afloat after spending more than a decade gradually running it into the ground with a series of unsuccessful strategies. Consultant and former Sears executive Steve Dennis told the WSJ, "Sears is so far below critical mass. What is it about having fewer stores - which doesn't allow you to spend as much on marketing or have supply-chain efficiencies - that suddenly makes it a successful strategy?" Creditors are seeking permission to sue Lampert and his investment company ESL for the "excruciating, slow-motion destruction" of the company. "Over the course of Lampert's and ESL's reign, Sears closed over 3,500 stores, cut approximately 250,000 jobs and lost untold billions in value," they claim in a court filing.

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