Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sears Pays The Price

Last night, Gawker made an interesting discovery at Sears.com. The website was selling a variety of not so subtle t-shirts with overt sexual themes on them. Just how overt you ask? A shirt with phrase I [Heart] Butt Plugs could be all yours thanks to Sears.

Apparently, this was news to Sears. A spokesperson responded to an inquiry from AdAge reporters and said "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. While products like this may appear on Sears.com marketplace through a third party seller, Sears does not sell them. We are removing these products from the site."

It's unfortunate that Sears must learn this (umm..) the hard way. However, this type of thing should have been anticipated and the site should be monitored. Neither was the case and Sears found out they were selling smut through Gawker.

The lesson here is not everything is as good as it sounds in some dim-witted PowerPoint presentation. The risks seem obvious (it is the internet after all) and from a marketing perspective the decision to chase competitors on their own turf with third party businesses models is further evidence of the larger problem - Sears cannot focus its brand.

Sears has been undefined for decades. There strength is their household and appliance brands, where it's a actually still number one in appliances. Strong brands like Craftsmen and Kenmore should be their focus.

But instead Sears is perfectly executing the everything under one roof strategy. With no identity for itself, it embarrasses itself with associations with third party retailers (for a tiny slice of the pie) and subsequently lost $2.4 billion in four months. That's how you know the strategy is working.

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