Empty shelves and poor service speed Sears’ demise

Sandy Hetrick drove 15 miles from her home to a Sears in Media, Pennsylvania to buy folding chairs and clothes. Her local Sears in Wilmington, Delaware, the 54-year-old retiree said, was so poorly stocked that she stopped going there, even though there is no Delaware state sales tax.
“It’s really going down,” Hetrick said about Sears, which is weighing whether to file for bankruptcy protection in the coming days. “You can’t find any help. The stores have minimal items,” she said as she shopped at the store in Media.
A change in sentiment among previously loyal shoppers like Hetrick contributed to the retailer’s sharp decline in sales. Sears losses have continued to mount to over $11 billion from its last annual profit in 2011.
Last week, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert is exploring a bid for some of the retailer’s businesses and real estate once it files for bankruptcy.
In September, the retailer said it is cutting down on lower-performing products and becoming more aggressive in clearing out seasonal merchandise. It also expanded the assortment on its online marketplace, which allowed it to add more popular brands.
Sears also said it continues to take steps to improve its in-store experience for shoppers, without offering details.
It has made attempts to sell its products like tires and Kenmore appliances on Amazon.com Inc’s website to offset the decline in traditional shoppers by acquiring new customers online.
Even so, its annual sales have dropped nearly 60 per cent to $16.7 billion.
The retailer’s problems, according to shoppers, former employees and vendors, range from its limited assortment of merchandise to poor customer service. In addition, some said, the retailer abandoned basic shop-keeping standards such as clean stores. And Lampert’s leadership over the years to save the chain hurt it more than helped.
The retailer, which for decades was considered the Amazon.com of its time, branched into industries as diverse as insurance, real estate and even broadcasting. A sign of its corporate power was the 110-story building called the Sears Tower, once its corporate headquarters in Chicago and the world’s tallest building for a period of time.
Hetrick shopped at Sears since she was a child, and said she recalls looking forward to its Christmas catalogues. But nostalgia for the Sears hallmarks, from the catalogue to Craftsman tools, has not helped the 125-year-old department store bring customers through its doors in recent years. — Reuters