I don’t have a degree in marketing, but I love malls and department stores and stores in general. I have a pretty acute sense of where stores’ marketing niches are, the consumers they’re targeting, how they stack up against each other.
Here in Lancaster, PA, the main department stores are JC Penney, Boscov, BonTon and….oh, yeah, Sears. The Sears’ spoke of our wheel-shaped mall has to be the loneliest spot in the universe. Who goes to Sears…except to shop for appliances, Craftsman tools or car parts?Yes, I know Sears has added the Lands End brand to its clothing offerings, but how many of you out there either didn’t know that or had forgotten? I often only remember when I happen to be in the store for something else.
So it’s no surprise that Sears is in trouble, closing stores across the country. Yes, their woes are also tied to bigger issues, such as the disastrous Kmart acquisition. But part of their problem is they’ve let their market niche languish. They’ve hardly bothered to define it, let alone keep it up to date and sell it to consumers like me.
So, save yourselves a few million, Sears, and listen up to the advice of this savvy mall-crawler….
First, your competition isn’t the other department stores at the malls where you share space. No, you shouldn’t even bother going head-to-head with Penney’s or Macy’s or BonTon or Boscov. It would take so much rebranding, so much reselling and redefining of who you are to get you in that wheelhouse, and there’d be absolutely no guarantee that loyal Penney shoppers are going to march down that mall hallway to pick up some things at your store. That would take a long time with a lot of advertising and a lot of promos and a lot of everything in your marketing toolkit–just to get the shoppers to the door again, let alone buying anything. It ain’t gonna happen soon enough to make a difference.
No, you need to build on what you already have and come up with a regular enticement, some “must haves” to get shoppers in the door again. Stop thinking Penny shoppers. Start thinking of your competition as….Target.
Target has managed to become a trendy, hip, youngish discount store. A discount store that sells clothing, furniture, home goods, toiletries and more. Things you don’t get at department stores plus department store stuff.
You’ve already got a lot of their merchandise. You’ve got a brand name clothing line. You’ve got home goods and then some–unlike Target, you sell appliances and manly merchandise (the tools, the paint, the car stuff) that make you a destination for the Y chromosome crowd. You’ve got a reputation as the people’s department store dating back to the days when your catalogs brought the world to the prairie and the mountains.In fact, as my sharp shopper daughter-in-law and I talked about Sears branding, we both almost simultaneously agreed you need to go back to those roots. Forget that crappy 1970s-looking logo. Forget just “Sears.” You’re Sears & Roebuck, man. Be proud of it. You’re the company that brought America that book of dreams. Dreams that meant the housewife in the boondocks could have the same niceties as the social climbers in the cities. Sears & Roebuck. Not just a store. A philosophy. You’re not just selling…stuff. You’re selling equality. You need to remind people of that.
So, get some Madison Avenue dudes and dudesses working on a vintage/trendy redesign of a “Sears & Roebuck” logo. Give them marching orders to design some new ads that telegraph to consumers you’re going to give Target a run for their money. You’re back in the dream business, the everybody-can-have-something-nice business. Your slogan needs to communicate: We have it all (implicit subtext: Macy’s and Penney’s don’t). Your image needs to shout young and efficient — put carts in those actors’ hands, and shampoo and soap in the carts along with sweaters and shoes.
Clean up your stores. Add a toiletries department. Get in some hip furnishings, offer CDs and DVDs. Gussy up the Lands End section. Offer bright shopping carts for all that stash folks will be grabbing from the shelves.
You do that and shoppers will not just return. They’ll make Sears the destination store, the one whose lot you park your car in. Look, honey, could you park at Sears, I need to pick up…
This will get customers back fast. Once they’re there, you can keep them with the store re-dos.
No need to thank me (although some gift certs would be nice). That lonely Sears hall at the mall makes me sad. I’d like it to be a happy place again.