Shoppers Find Something Different Inside Sears

Discussion
Oct 10, 2006

By George Anderson


Sears Holdings is looking to give consumers a reason to lounge around its stores. According to a Brandweek report, the company is opening internet lounges in 42 stores by the end of the year. It already has 51 lounges in Sears, Sears Grand and Kmart stores. Some Sears Grand locations also have areas in the store where shoppers can play electronic games.


The lounge at the Sears in downtown White Plains, NY has been open about a year and it attracts everyone from local business people to kids shopping in the store with their parents to other individuals who do not have an internet connection at home.


According to Sears, the internet lounges have banks of up to 10 computers and attract as many as 200 consumers a day via word-of-mouth and store circulars. Customers can take advantage of up to 30 minutes of free internet access.


“We want to create an environment that connects with consumers in various dimensions,” said Paul Fenaroli, vp-new store development at Sears. “This is one of them.”


“The objective (of the lounges) is really three-fold,” said Mr. Fenaroli. “We want to provide customers a service with no first-order commercial impact. And if they find it convenient to check e-mail, news or weather, that’s good for us. If that makes us that more relevant and helpful in their mindset, that’s good enough.”


Discussion Questions: Is Sears Holdings onto something with its in-store internet lounges and areas to play electronic games? What value (or not) do
you see in this effort?

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12 Comments on "Shoppers Find Something Different Inside Sears"


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John Franco
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

How many other shops in the mall have free internet access? If they expand this idea into the malls, they could attract shoppers from outside the store by offering them something to do. Then, if they could come up with some good marketing displays and convince those new shoppers to buy something, it would be a big win for them. Granted, that’s a long way to go for a potentially small payoff, but it’s better than nothing.

George Andrews
Guest
George Andrews
15 years 7 months ago

If Sears is almost doubling the number of lounges in such a short time, they obviously believe they are seeing a benefit now. I am still a firm believer in getting the merchandise right first, then the ambiance, but the store is a big part of the quality and value message.

Forty years ago, going to Sears meant running into their huge candy and popcorn counter in the center of the store. Perhaps this is an unintended electronic return to their roots and what worked well in the past.

With larger stores and an effort to avoid being seen at the low end of the retail spectrum, it was a good marketing move and it’s great to see them being creative. Targets have Starbucks and the new Wal-Mart Store of the Community has a sushi chef and coffee bar, so they need to keep the innovation and upgrades coming.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Come on Sears, that is so 90s. And just think, someone is getting paid a lot of money to come up with that idea.

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

This is the kind of thinking that Sears needs more of. Keeping customers in the store longer is one of the best ways to increase sales. Sears can become a destination location, rather than just a shopping location. Sears should consider offering some kind of high-end coffee and food at the location as well. This will encourage folks to stay and use these facilities longer in addition to shopping. Placement of these lounges should be as close to the center/side of the store as possible, so that customers must go through part of the store to enjoy the facilities.

Justin Time
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

I fondly remember my parents taking me to the local SearsTown in the mid 1960’s where my dad would leave his car for servicing, or get new car seat covers installed and, while he waited, we shopped, or ate in the store. So Saturday was Sears Day for a lot of families of that generation.

Today, kind of creating a modern version of that atmosphere could reap some benefits. But since I detest those “waste of ceiling space” Sears Grand stores, I can’t imagine how the computer game stations would generate sizable traffic streams.

Since it’s a comparatively cheap way to build traffic, I imagine that Eddie and his advisers feel it is worth a try.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 7 months ago
I’m sorry but I think that this initiative is like spitting in the ocean for Sears. Internet lounges are used to keep shoppers in the store longer, but Sears, Kmart, Sears Grand are doing little to BRING shoppers into the stores. Three weeks ago, I went to a Sears store to buy two new garage door openers, only because my contractor told me the Craftsman brand was still the best to buy. I’m sure that any study of brand awareness puts Craftsman pretty high on everyone’s list. However, sales help in the store: practically nil. Information about the product I was buying: hardly anything available. Luckily, the information on the box was pretty good. I am shocked by the lack of initiative in what was once the largest and most prestigious retailer. Sales people are discussing the latest changes to their benefits rather than helping customers. I have wanted to see Sears turn themselves around, even offered my help. My father worked for the company, so there is a little pride there too. Little movement… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 7 months ago
Old idea, new user! There have been other retailers who have kept shoppers “staying power,” if you will, in their outlets longer. Toys R Us – kids play area and birthday party rooms; Starbucks – lounging and reading areas; Barnes & Noble – lounging area to read; and the Home Depot’s upscale store, Expo, with interior decorators to address shoppers’ needs as well as give ideas in a quiet area or at the food and beverage lounge. Attention getting; right time and place; comfortable area; and then the retailer must deliver with a superior service for these consumers who stay and research or ponder a decision to buy. Makes sense with today’s consumers who have the attitude “give me what I want, when I want it.” And retailers that include a superior service level for these consumers who show their loyalty through their pocketbooks! Groceries should take note of these ‘captive’ ideas. It may be time to change the old thinking of current floor plans and service levels. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 7 months ago

Yesterday, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) was holding its annual conference. One of the topics was about trends in retail. The presenter spoke about the differences in retail in Asia, Europe and the US. One of the things he discussed was the fact that many retailers, outside of the US, have retail friendly stores. For example, some retailers provided a play area for children. This way they wouldn’t push their parents to leave the store too quickly.

Another group of retailers had a lounging area for husbands in some women’s apparel stores. Sound a little like what Sears is doing?

According to the speaker, two-thirds of purchases made in the United States today is done by discretionary dollars.

If this is so and everyone is competing for those dollars, doesn’t it make sense to offer enhanced experiences to keep the consumer in the store? Kudos to Sears!

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

Anything that builds low-cost traffic is worth testing. It can easily cost $5 to $20 to get a customer using newspaper circulars, TV and radio. So if Sears attracts people using in-store computers, why not? Internet-savvy people are more likely to be higher income with better educations. Who wouldn’t want that demographic?

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 7 months ago

Obviously, this is not a radical new concept. However, it indicates that Sears recognizes that it needs to become more relevant if it is to survive.

Creating a little in-store excitement can’t hurt. Now, maybe they can spend a few bucks towards upgrading their merchandising and decor.

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
15 years 7 months ago

At first glance, I have to commend Sears for trying something new to bring shoppers into their stores. However, when I look deeper into what Sears has reported, I question the ROI they’re receiving on these lounges. I feel the comparisons between the stores maintaining these lounges against stores not having them will show no appreciable increase in sales or profit, and that the expense of the lounges just isn’t worth the effort.

Curtis Smith
Guest
Curtis Smith
15 years 6 months ago

Sears runs dozens of computers, all easily accessible to the internet, in its stores already, as it is. It is of no great expense to offer this service to customers..

I think it is great that Sears is thinking of fresh, new ways of inviting customers into the store and shop (or sit) a while.

The retailer just needs to find a way to bring customers back, which it has been attempting to do over and over and over. To me, it seems no matter what Sears does, the customers don’t follow! What is the problem!?

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