Sears Visits Fashion Week

Discussion
Aug 20, 2008

By Tom Ryan

Sears announced plans last week to unveil a lifestyle exhibit during September Fashion Week shows in New York City as part of its recently-bolstered efforts to cultivate a hipper image. The exhibit on September 9, open to the public, will particularly showcase newer brands and includes an appearance by rapper LL Cool J to support his new exclusive line at Sears.

“What we really wanted to do was bring a taste of Fashion Week to people who would normally never get to sit under the tents or get to see a runway show,” Sears spokeswoman Amy Dimond told Reuters.

The presentation will combine both hardline (e.g, Kenmore) and softline categories in eight distinctive lifestyle spaces. Besides LL Cool J’s RockForward line, other collections featured include the Dr. Rey Shapewear line from the famed Beverly Hills plastic surgeon introduced in 2007. Also featured will be the newer home collection from Ty Pennington, star of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” as well as the clothing line from Vanessa Hudgens, the 19-year-old High School Musical star. Sears also promises to announce a new apparel line with “unparalleled authenticity.”

As part of the festivities, Sears will hold an exclusive kick-off party in honor of the launch of the LL Cool J line and featuring DJ Funkmaster Flex.

“By showcasing our extensive range of whole house brands in a disruptive setting, we believe we can pay a respectful tribute to fashion where it comes to life each season, and still offer an aspirational lifestyle that is inclusive,” said Richard Gerstein, chief marketing officer at Sears, in a statement. “The installation will play off our autumn campaign, FallForward, providing context for the ideal of designing for the future but living in the moment.”

It’s not the first time a mainstream retailer has tried to link itself to fashion’s upper crust. In September 2005, Walmart held its first New York Fashion Week show, hosting the event at a Times Square studio so pedestrians could watch. But it ended the affiliation by early 2007.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, told Reuters that by participating in Fashion Week, Sears could generate some positive word-of-mouth and drive shoppers into its stores. But he said the effort could backfire if Sears cannot deliver once it gets shoppers through its doors.

“The execution is going to be critical,” he said. “It’s great to say that you’re going to have the product, but then you have to live up to it.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Sears’ move to showcase its newer fashion and home collections at the upcoming Fashion Week shows in New York City? What’s the overall benefit for mainstream retailers in appearing at major fashion shows?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "Sears Visits Fashion Week"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
13 years 9 months ago
This is a bad investment decision. Once again, Sears management is showing that they understand “fluff” and not “substance.” Consumers are not idiots. The problem, as Walmart discovered, is that if you are going to tell people you are trendy, you have to deliver on that…and not just with merchandise…with the entire experience. No chance. Apparently, someone believes that by associating with Fashion Week Sears will convince consumers (who?) that their merchandise is trend right and that shopping at their stores is enjoyable. Neither of those statements have been true in the recent past. It is possible the new merchandise is trend-right. It is not possible that shopping at the stores will be enjoyable. Fundamental business practices are to get the core operations “right,” then tell people about it. Spend the marketing dollars when the “meat” is there to be experienced. Hard, when short term surges can be created through marketing dollars…but without doubt the only way to achieve long term success. This is a short term play without substance.
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
13 years 9 months ago

Good PR move. It might invigorate their base. I highly doubt it will attract new users but then again with the economy where it is, who knows where people will seek out the next new affordable option. They can’t just walk the runway and leave the in-store experience status quo. If they want to do Fashion Week they need to get a face lift at least to compete and align their brand with the intended fashionista wannabe’s.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

“By showcasing our extensive range of whole house brands in a disruptive setting, we believe we can pay a respectful tribute to fashion where it comes to life each season, and still offer an aspirational lifestyle that is inclusive,”

Well, what could I add to THAT?!? But I think ‘Patinadick’ is on to something: Sears has lost its niche, since understaffing can now be found at many other retailers, and we don’t need to patronize Sears to receive poor service (or perhaps not receive it at all).

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
13 years 9 months ago

To me, this is a reflection of how badly Sears has lost its way. Who is Sears’ customer and what do they look to Sears for? I highly doubt that at this point that their customer is driven by fashion considerations. For me, for as long as I can remember, Sears has meant Kenmore and Craftsmen, and even those brands don’t mean as much as they once did.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

It is all about the customer. Sears is Sears and they must be sure they remain primary to their target shoppers. If this venture into fashion is to attract upscale shoppers, it risks alienating current customers and never attracting those that are more upscale.

However, if the objective is to excite their customer base, they are right on. New and exciting lines will generate interest and talk. There is no reason why these lines can’t be targeted appropriately to the customer base.

But, above all, referencing the comment above…They MUST have their in-store operations efficient and customer oriented. This emphasis on fashion is not a substitute for excellent customer service.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
13 years 9 months ago

With little else working real well for Sears, and with a rich-rich owner behind them, Sears might as well as try the uptown route even if their fashions are just fashion-rations.

Richard De Santis
Guest
Richard De Santis
13 years 9 months ago

I first visited a Sears store with my parents over 55 years ago. Sears was the place to go to not only buy appliances (TV’S were being bought by mainstream Americans) but also to buy your Christmas/communion/confirmation/back to school wardrobes, etc.

They had helpful knowledgeable sales personnel (working on commission I believe) who took pride in their jobs and looked upon their positions as a career. Their positions had a certain cache which was the envy of other working members of that generation.

Today, Sears no longer appeals to most baby boomers for soft-good purchases. We are a generation with some affluence who cannot tolerate lack of personal service, limited staffing by disinterested part time employees with limited or non existent growth opportunities.

Additionally, if they are not careful, we now also have many more hard-good alternatives from the likes of Best Buy, Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe’s etc.

I firmly believe it’s only a matter of time before Sears follows the path previously taken by Korvettes, Zayre’s, Ames, Two Guys, etc.

Lee Peterson
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I think Sears forgot about the term “brand right.” So did Penney’s (now marking down all their RL designs).

You can’t say–in a million ways–that you’re “America’s Brand” for 50+ years and then expect anyone, let alone fashionistas, to believe for a second you’d be worth a damn at putting together a meaningful collection of trend-right merchandise. Sorry!

Time to stop copying Target and get on with the business of making “best in the middle” their mantra.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

This is a bit of a stretch, or we wouldn’t be having a discussion. It’s great that they have a new direction, but is it too far too fast? Have they really built enough brand equity to credibly pull this off? I doubt it. Without enough brand underpinning, it may seem schizophrenic.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

It’s great that Sears is taking bold steps to revive their clothing lines and make them more appealing to key demographic groups. Their efforts will generate a good deal of publicity. The problem comes when consumers visit Sears stores. They are understaffed and under-knowledged.

I recently went to Sears to get some cookware for my Boy Scout troop. There was no one to check if quantities of items were in stock and only one person working a register station that served half the floor.

If Sears is serious about turning itself around and increasing sales, it must return to that most basic of building blocks, good customer service.

Dick Seesel
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I agree with Marshall Cohen’s assessment: It’s fair game for Sears to stage a PR event surrounding some of its new merchandise initiatives. Whether the event is taken seriously is another matter; Sears is hardly a favorite of either Wall Street or the retail/vendor community right now and this sort of PR venture backfired on Walmart a few years ago.

The bigger question is whether the consumer is going to give credit to Sears for these new ventures when she shops the store. As long as Sears offers a relentlessly bland (or worse) in-store experience, and keeps cutting back on capital investment needed for its tired facilities, this strategy is akin to hiding their light under a barrel.

David Livingston
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

It only makes sense that mainstream retailers would want to show off their new fashions. As for Sears, I’m afraid most of their customer base has since passed away.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
13 years 9 months ago

When I compare what Sears is doing in trying to be “hipper,” I only have to look at Kohl’s to see how far off they are. LL Cool J? Really?

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
13 years 9 months ago

I applaud Sear’s plans to add some excitement to what is a very stale brand. J.C. Penney has done a nice job with a similar strategy but Sears has much farther to go than Penney’s to connect with today’s shoppers. I am not sure this splash with have the lasting impact that will be needed, and the key will be how much and how often Sears can sustain the image work to convince the shopper that they are no longer the place of choice for your grandfather to get tools.

Steve Bramhall
Guest
Steve Bramhall
13 years 9 months ago

How good is it for LL Cool J’s brand? LL Uncool J.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
13 years 9 months ago

I’m going to attempt to live up to the RetailWire Golden Rule….

Sears is a company that seems not to understand what it wants to be, and as a result has thoroughly confused its formerly loyal customer base. And it has ignored fashion for decades, allowing numerous specialty chains to sprung up and take its share of the market. Would your teen head to Sears or to Forever 21 for an outfit? What is the point of the Fashion Week exercise?

If Sears concentrated on its hardgoods lines it could vanquish numerous competitors.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What’s the overall benefit for mainstream retailers of appearing at major fashion shows?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...