Sears Continues Retail Death Spiral, Still Sells A Few Useful Things

(Great Beyond)

(Great Beyond)

For the ninth quarter in a row, Sears Holdings Corporation has lost money. Even as the company closes stores, rents out remaining stores, and tries desperate moves like opening early on Thanksgiving Day and making fun of itself in its own ads, the company continues to sell itself for parts in a sad retail death spiral. Yet is there anything that you should consider buying at Sears while it still exists? Are Americans who sneer at Sears missing out? Maybe.

The chain has been trying more brand synergy, selling Kenmore and Craftsman appliances in Kmart stores if you can find one. Whether this is a good thing depends on what type of appliance you’re looking for. Our colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports test items from a wide variety of companies, including house-brand items at Sears. They recently made a handy list of things that you should consider buying, and things that you should stay away from. No, “Sears stores” are not one of those things.

Of course, these lists only include hardlines items that you can test in a lab: it’s harder to objectively test a sweater or a bracelet. Also, many of our readers complain about the service they receive in support of products they buy at Sears, not necessarily the products themselves.

Not surprisingly, the items that did well on tests are merchandise that Americans have traditionally bought at Sears. Consumer Reports recommends DieHard car batteries for some makes of cars (Ford trucks and SUVs in particular) but not others. They’ve also been impressed with the performance of washers and dryers, refrigerators, snow blowers, and vacuums in the house-brand Kenmore and Craftsman brands.

Items that they can’t really recommend include house-brand leaf blowers, ranges and ovens, Sears-brand paints and stains, push lawn mowers, and leaf blowers.

Sears Holdings is still looking to sell its stake in Sears Canada, which until recently was actually making money, and is also looking to sell the entire Sears Auto Center business, perhaps not realizing that it’s the first word in the name of the brand that’s really holding it back.

Manifesto-writing CEO Eddie Lampert insists that better days for Sears will come any time now. “In the next 6-12 months, we intend to work with our lenders and others to evaluate our capital structure with a goal of achieving more long term flexibility,” he told reporters and analysts in a pre-recorded conference call. If you want to rent out part of a Kmart for some reason, apparently now is your chance.

Sears posts loss for 9th straight qtr as sales fall again [Reuters]
What to get at Sears and what to forget [Consumer Reports]