Sears reinvents, aims to bounce back

A Sears store is seen in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: A couple of earnings reports out this morning. Office supply chain Staples said just moments ago
its profit rose in its latest three-month period.

And we also got word from Sears Holdings today.
The company that operates Sears and K-Mart said it lost about $40 million in its latest quarter. That's a smaller loss than this time last year, but reaffirms how consumers have cut back on spending.

That loss confirms that Sears could use a little reinvention, as reporter Jay Field explains.


JAY FIELD: The centerpiece of Sears reinvention plan is an online service called mygofer. At first glance, it's pretty standard stuff. Users can browse the millions of products carried by Sears and subsidiaries like K-Mart. Things get a little more interesting when customers actually decide to buy something. Here's sales manager Mike Simpson, pitching mygofer to shoppers at a K-Mart in Chicago.

Mike Simpson: You pick everything you want. You pay for it online. And I'll have it ready within two hours for you at customer service.

The goal is to appeal to customers who are eager to shop on the web, but don't want to wait for stuff to come in the mail. Right now, mygofer lets shoppers in Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington D.C. buy online and pick up their items at the closest Sears or K-Mart. They can also have their order delivered. And if they want something else, say some groceries, and can't find them on the site, mygofer will send sales reps like Mike Simpson to the nearest supermarket to fill the order.

Shopper Laurence Tribble, standing next to Simpson, likes that idea.

Laurence Tribble: Yeah, I sure don't like to shop.

Simpson: See!

Tribble: You right about that.

Simpson: So why put you in pain when I can do it for you? I'd be happy to do it for you. I love to shop! I know it sounds crazy, but I love to shop!

Executives at Sears have to hope that Simpson's enthusiasm is contagious. The retailer has a lot riding on mygofer. Three years ago, the company's stock traded at nearly $200 a share. But since then, Sears has seen its in-store sales and overall profitability steadily decline.

Lauren Freedman, who runs the e-tailing group in Chicago, applauds the mygofer strategy, but says it may not be enough to solve the company's bigger problems.

Lauren Freedman: Perception-wise, part of the problem for Sears is it's not the first place people think when they want to go shopping. And particularly for the younger audience.

Sears says that perception is already changing. And the company is pushing ahead with an expansion of mygofer, after getting positive customer feedback. By November, the service will be operating in more than 600 stores.

In Chicago, I'm Jay Field for Marketplace.

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