Two decades ago, shoppers were told “there’s more for your life at Sears.” An ambitious campaign that begins this week — the result of an unusual retailer-media partnership between Sears and Hearst — may help determine whether there is more life for Sears.
Sears, Roebuck & Company, a division of the Sears Holdings Corporation, is struggling with slumping sales, falling profits and mounting complaints about store conditions. Revenue in the quarter that ended on Feb. 2 for stores open more than a year — a closely watched yardstick in the retail industry — dropped 4 percent from a year earlier.
The wobbly economy is exacerbating Sears’s woes as consumers slow their spending and worry about rising prices, falling home values and the gyrating stock market. And while its competitors have been stepping up efforts to woo skittish shoppers, Sears Holdings has been cutting the marketing budgets for both Sears and its sibling, Kmart.
“We already invest a significant amount of capital and expenses” in areas like marketing, Edward S. Lampert, the chairman of Sears Holdings, wrote to shareholders in a letter last week. “The key is to improve the productivity of these investments.”
The new campaign, with the theme “Reimagine you,” seeks to do that by peddling all at once a wide variety of Sears products like clothing, appliances, tools and linens as well as branded Sears services like home maintenance and kitchen remodeling.
The campaign, with a budget estimated at $50 million to $75 million, will include television, print, catalogs, signs and displays, as well as e-mail messages, video clips, blogs and other Web sites.
One goal for Sears is to sponsor “innovative, interruptive and integrated campaigns that challenge people’s perceptions” about the retailer and its offerings, said Richard Gerstein, chief marketing officer at Sears, which is based in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“We have to do a better job of collecting our products and turning them into experiences,” he added.
Another goal, Mr. Gerstein said, is finding media companies “to partner with, to go to market differently,” rather than “buying pages for pages’ sake.”
So Sears is teaming up with the Hearst Magazines unit of the Hearst Corporation, which is creating elements of the campaign like a Web site (www.reimagineyourself.com) and a 32-page booklet, “Reimagine You,” to be distributed with 13 Hearst magazines and newspapers.
Hearst will also add Sears-centric content to a Web site (thedailygreen.com) that is part of the Hearst Magazines Digital Media stable of sites.
The collaboration between Hearst and Sears speaks to the interest among media companies in customizing plans for major marketers, the better to capture a larger share of their dollars.