Sears Expands Another House Brand, Sells Kenmore TVs

A few weeks ago, Sears announced with its quarterly earnings that it was looking into doing some unspecified money-making thing with its signature house brands: Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard. Most observers assumed that this meant selling the brands, since Sears Holdings needs some cash flow. Instead, the company is expanding the brands to include new and related like DieHard car tires and now Kenmore-brand televisions.

“Wait, what?” you might say. Sure, Kenmore’s competitors in the appliance aisle include LG and Samsung, which also sell televisions, but those brands were known to American shoppers for smaller electronics first. Kenmore has been a home appliance brand for generations, so that might seem like a reach. Perhaps they won’t care, as long as the TVs are inexpensive and episodes of “Scandal” come out of them.

Sears had a house brand of consumer electronics for most of the early history of home electronics: your grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ first phonograph or radio may have come from a Sears store or catalog, and come from the Silvertone brand, which Sears sold from 1915 to 1972.

During the ’60s, all Sears electronics had the Silvertone name, including televisions. There are two problems with reviving the brand for TVs, though: the first is that Sears let their trademark on the brand go.

The Silvertone brand is now connected in popular culture with Silvertone-brand musical instruments, especially electric guitars. Noted guacamole enthusiast Jack White likes to play vintage Silvertone guitars, for example. Another company now owns the Silvertone brand name and uses it for their guitars.

The other problem is that the brand wouldn’t be recognizable to people under age 55 or so. The customers Sears needs now are young adults who are furnishing and buying homes and buying refrigerators and televisions to fill them.

Will people buy TVs from a brand that they associate with refrigerators and laundry machines? That’s possible, but only if they were considering buying a TV from Sears in the first place. The Kenmore brand includes TV sets in the 32-inch, 40-inch, and 50-inch classes that cost $200-$400.

Sears Quietly Launches First Kenmore-Branded TVs [TWICE]
Silvertone: 1915-1972 [Sears Archives]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.