Once a retail powerhouse that brought in foot traffic by the millions annually, Sears has been struggling—restructuring, selling off assets and closing stores in the US and Canada, with liquidation sales now underway.
One way it’s hoping to keep hanging on in consumers’ minds is via a partnership with Amazon to sell its Kenmore-branded appliances on Amazon.com in a deal that will see Kenmore’s line of smart appliances sync with Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa.
“The launch of Kenmore products on Amazon.com will significantly expand the distribution and availability of the Kenmore brand in the U.S.,” Sears Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert said in a press release.
“This collaboration is the first of its kind for Kenmore, broadening its accessibility to the next generation of American families outside of Sears-branded retail channels,” added Tom Park, President of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands at Sears Holdings.
Amazon hasn’t been a big part of the major household appliance marketplace, so a new alliance with Kenmore will open the door to its loyal consumers.
It remains to be seen, however, what it means for Sears. When the announcement was made on Thursday, Sears’ stock price went up 20 percent, the New York Post reports. But the excitement couldn’t last and it ended the day with just a 10 percent increase.
Steve Dennis, who was Sears’ VP of Strategy way back in the early aughts, wrote in Forbes that he feared that it meant that even fewer people would be setting foot in a Sears location since they could just buy Kenmore online. Those locations are shrinking as the brand shuts down hundreds of its stores, with “more store closings are surely on the horizon,” Dennis commented.
Still, in the short term, it should mean more sales and revenue for Sears. Kenmore’s products will increasingly be Alexa-enabled so that consumers can control their washers and dryers via voice and mobile app. Currently, a Kenmore air conditioner can be directed through a Kenmore Smart app.
The partnership will be rolled out in select markets across America, USA Today reports, the first Alexa appliances will be tested in Los Angeles. Maybe the brand’s current execs can ask Alexa what to do next as this once-storied retail brand navigates tough times. At this point, Sears needs all the help it can get.