It’s hard to see this move as anything but a temporary reprieve for the once-mighty Sears brand. The mall mainstay has fallen on hard times in recent decades as online retail has taken over — and now, the company is signing on with Amazon to sell its Kenmore brand through one of the key contributors to that on-going downside.
While the move feels a bit defeatist, it’s a smart one, at least in the short term — a fact that Wall Street has rewarded, with shares in the 131-year-old company jumping as much as 25-percent in this morning’s trading. Sears CEO Eddie Lampert was equally hopeful about the move, stating that it would “will significantly expand the distribution and availability of the Kenmore brand in the U.S.” in a statement this morning.
At 651 locations, Sears is still the fifth-largest department store in the U.S. — so it’s not exactly lacking in distribution. Though that number’s a lot less impressive in context given that it was up to 3,500 as recently as 2011.
The move will certainly expand the availability of the appliances, but the move also gives Kenmore fans more reason to avoid brick and mortar locations — and robs Sears of the residual sales of additional products that were long a part of the all-in-one department store shopping model.
The news comes a little over a year after the struggling retailer announced that it would be exploring additional distribution options for Kenmore, along with its other brands, Craftsman and DieHard — names that still carry some weight in their respective categories and are among the remaining reasons to visit an actual Sears location.
The Sears deal delivers another bit of interesting news as well, with Sears’ reluctant shuffling into the 21st century bringing Alexa skills to Kenmore appliances, including air conditioners — functionality that GE brought to its own appliances earlier in the years. Users will be able to buy their AC without leaving the house and then change the temperature without leaving the couch.