It’s no secret that we’re fans of Sears Holding deft multichannel and brand monetization strategies, even as some of its still-depressing Sears and Kmart stores remain easy targets for criticism. We’ve been riveted by Sears’ contrarian strategy ever since Chairman Eddie Lampert created a separate, $1.8 billion entity to house the Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard brands in 2006—an entity called “the biggest securitization of intellectual property in history” at the time. Early on, we predicted that one of the first moves that Sears would make would be to find ways to sell these brands in other retail outlets—and that very act came to fruition late last year with the decision to sell Craftsman tools at Ace Hardware and, earlier this year, to license the DieHard brand to Schumacher Electric.
Having just hit Calvin Klein's co-branded (with Carson Pirie Scott) pop-up store during a recent trip to Chicago, Carol and I had to make the pilgrimage to the hip River North neighborhood to check out Sears’ Craftsman Experience and Kenmore Live Studio concepts, in order to see how these pieces fit into the strategy.
In this two-part series, I’ll share what we found on the respective corners of the sleepy West Huron block between Chicago’s North Franklin and Wells streets, and why we believe that Sears has set a new standard for brand engagement while no one was looking.