In another attempt to get its business back to success, ailing retailer Sears has partnered with Seventeen magazine to launch a new fashion line in its stores.
Hearst Corporation, which owns Seventeen magazine, will collaborate with Sears to create a collection of clothing, shoes and accessories to be sold in 500-square-foot Seventeen-branded shop-in-shops at Sears’ ten flagship stores and in an additional 500 doors, WWD reported.
Chief marketing officer of Sears Apparel, Sheila Field, told WWD, “We think this is going to be a big win for us.” She added, “We’re going through a transformation in our apparel and fashion business and there is more to come. This is ongoing.”
Seventeen is reportedly working to establish itself as a fashion brand and chose Sears for its first partnership of this kind because of its reach and digital capabilities.
According to WWD, Hearst’s vice president of brand development, Glen Ellen Brown, said, “We wanted a partner that is a design house and has its eyes on what’s happening and where trends are emerging.” She added, “We wanted deep expertise on the manufacturing side. We figured out this is where we should be. We’re not exclusive. It was important that we found the right place at retail.”
This may be the first time the now struggling Sears has been touted as a design house or the “right place” to be for positioning a new collection, but CEO Eddie Lampert says the company is poised for a resurgence.
Despite reporting its twenty-eight consecutive quarterly loss last month, Lampert is positive about Sears’ future.
Sears Holdings Corporation reported a fourth quarter net loss of $358 million, or $3.37 per diluted share for the three months ended February 1. Revenues decreased 13.8% for the quarter to $10.6 billion from the previous year’s $12.3 billion due mostly to a dip in comparable store sales. Domestic comparable store sales declined 6.4% and accounted for roughly $600 million of Sears’ quarterly losses.
The retailer also recently topped research firm Brand Keys’ list of “The Least Engaging Brands of 2014” because the department store fails to resonate with shoppers or meet their expectations for ideal brick-and-mortar experiences.
Brand Keys said that engagement is a leading indicator of positive consumer behavior and brand loyalty. Validation studies showed that the benchmark for brand success was an engagement score higher than 85 percent, and anything below that points to a brand in trouble. Sears scored a 64 percent engagement ranking in the survey of 32,000 consumers age 18 to 65.
But Lampert continues to defend his store. In a recent statement he said, “Our focus on serving our members through an integrated platform that is most convenient for them – whether in store, at home, or on the go – is resulting in improved member engagement, which is a key component of our member strategy.”
Part of the uptick in engagement is owed to Sears’ Shop Your Way platform, a social shopping community and loyalty program that lets consumers earn reward points on store or online purchases, get deals and coupons, read product reviews from like-minded shoppers and create custom wish lists for social sharing.
Sears has invested heavily in Shop Your Way and generally integrating the retail experience in order to aid in the retailer’s transformation and, so far, Lampert says things are positive.
“For the full year 2013, sales derived from Shop Your Way members grew to 69% of total Sears Full-line and Kmart sales, up from 59% last year. Our online and multi-channel businesses grew 10% over the prior full year. The investments we made throughout 2013 are enabling us to learn more about how our members want to shop so that we can develop deeper relationships with them and provide them with access to the widest possible assortment of products and services,” Lampert said in the company’s latest financial statement.
Seventeen will have its own brand page on Shop Your Way and, as Field told WWD, “You’ll also be able to create your own catalogues of items you like and share those catalogues with friends. We’ll be tapping into Seventeen’s great readership and using all the Sears channels, especially digital and social, to target this consumer.”
The Sears-Seventeen partnership is expected to bring in more teen business with offerings for elementary-age girls to those in their early twenties and the collection will have a very feminine aesthetic with floral prints, lace and bohemian elements for cropped tops, skirts and dresses.