Craftsman has left the building: Sears brands to be sold elsewhere

Changes are afoot at Sears that have some people wondering if the 117-year-old retailer might just put itself out of business. For the first time, consumers can buy Craftsman tools and Die Hard products someplace other than Sears.

Sears will license the Die Hard and let other retailers sell the branded battery chargers and power accessories (Die Hard batteries are not part of the deal). Ace Hardware will begin selling Craftsman tools in May. Kenmore is on the table too, with the Chicago Tribune reporting that Sears is shopping around Kenmore appliances, trying to get other appliance dealers to sell this brand.

At first glance, this makes sense. No matter how hard Sears tries to push its softer side, the store is known for its hardiness and Sears' brands are the cornerstone of this. From a purely financial perspective, it makes sense for the company. The brands have value, why not make more money by making them widely available?

But it the brands are Sears' best asset, what happens to stores when consumers can buy them elsewhere?

Sears has struggled for years with declining market share, even in these core product categories. Because Sears has so many department stores attached to shopping malls, getting consumers to buy apparel, accessories and home goods was necessary, leading Sears to focus so much on its "softer side." Promoting apparel, home, and even beauty products was meant to bring in more female customers and keep Sears relevant, given its locations.

The efforts backfired. By turning away from its core competencies, Sears lost market share, especially in appliances. News that Sears is throwing its weight behind brands that still have a lot of relevancy to shoppers is great. But taking them out of Sears stores could spell even more trouble. Sears followed the news of these brand efforts by announcing store closures. Eight Sears locations will be shuttered by May.

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