Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) is the third largest general merchandise retail company in the United States after Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT). SHLD operates under the Sears and Kmart names in the US and Canada. Product offerings in SHLD stores include apparel, jewelry, appliances, hardware, sporting goods, car repair services, home improvement services and electronics.
The company was formed in 2005 by the merger of Sears Roebuck (Sears) and Kmart Holdings. The merger was coordinated by Edward Lampert, the current Chairman, whom now holds over 54% of the shares outstanding through his hedge fund ESL Investments. Despite strong brand recognition, Sears Holdings, as with Kmart and Sears before it, has suffered several successive years of falling sales and market share erosion. These negative trends can be largely attributed to increasing competition in the industry. Other retail giants such as Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Target (TGT) have been aggressively capturing ever greater amounts of customers' wallet share through expanded selections and steeper discounts.
Sears Holdings is composed of three business segments: Kmart, Sears Domestic, and Sears Canada.The firm has no international presence outside of Canada. SHLD's product assortments in both Sears Department Stores as well as Kmart SuperStores and Discount Stores cover virtually all product categories: clothing, major home appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers, etc.), home improvement/home repair, auto repair services, and groceries.
SHLD owns and trademarks many popular brands which help to increase company visibility and boost sales. Some of the company's most popular brands are:
SHLD has securitized the Kenmore, Craftsman, and Diehard brands into KCD IP (Kenmore Craftsman DieHard intellectual property), a wholly owned, bankruptcy-remote subsidiary. In addition, the company also has th rights to sell an exclusive line of Jaclyn Smith and Martha Stewart Everyday products.
Sears announced the launch of AdYourWay, a shopping tool that caters to the needs of each individual customer. The tool "gets to know" the customer by analyzing product selection and then displays personalized content and customized recommendations. For example, a customer can "follow" an item and receive notifications when it is on sale. As David Friedman, senior vice president and president of marketing, puts it "AdYourWay is a unique shopping tool that puts control back into the hands of our customers, allowing them to manage and organize both the products and the offers that interest them.
AdYourWay marks a growing trend where retailers are using technology to better serve their customers. For example, Nordstrom (JWN) puts RFID chips on all of its items so that online customers can see exactly what is in each store and so that the store has better inventory management. As a result of this technological improvement, Nordstrom was able to better withstand the negative effects of the sluggish economy compared to its competitors. AdYourWay provides customers with an enhanced and more efficient shopping experience, which the company hopes to turn into more revenue.
Department stores are increasingly seeking to distinguish themselves and earn higher profit margins by offering exclusive brands and private label brands. Exclusive brands are brands marketed under the wholesaler's name that are sold only in a particular chain; one exclusive brand at Sears is the Craftsman line that can only be purchased online or at Sears stores. Private label brands are produced by wholesalers, but sold under the brand name of the retailer. Exclusive brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman, can help draw customers into Sears stores, as the products can only be found at Sears.  Craftsman tools can also be purchased at Costco and Ace Hardware.
Sears Holdings is the third largest general merchandise retailer in the world (in terms of net sales) behind big box retailers Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT), whose enormous scale allows each to extract value in their inventory purchases and pass these savings on to consumers. SHLD's competitors in the mid-tier department store industry include Macy's Inc. (M), J.C. Penney (JCP), and Kohl's (KSS).