CEOs Weigh in on How to Fix a Troubled Company

“Sears’ challenge is to get new people, marginal people, into their stores,” Jetta told Chief Executive. “When you put out offers and deals that focus only on what is a really limited base of regular customers, you’re basically creating an exclusionary program— when you should be doing everything possible to break down barriers to new people.”

Plus, Jetta said, Sears “isn’t in a strong enough position” to focus on brand loyalty these days. “There’s still a perception issue: Do people really want to even claim that they’re a ‘regular customer’ of Sears or Kmart? It’s presumptuous at this point.”’

“There’s still a perception issue: Do people really want to even claim that they’re a ‘regular customer’ of Sears
or Kmart? It’s presumptuous at
this point.”

Meanwhile, Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea, a unit of Coca-Cola, says that if he were in Lampert’s shoes, he would try to “find a way to change the conversation” around Sears. One way to do that, he suggests, is to diversify into new businesses that are related to the retailer’s historical strengths and touch points, such as lawnscaping. Sears has a strong traditional brand in that arena with Craftsman lawn mowers and related equipment. Goldman suggests taking that equity in entirely new and even radical directions to attempt to revive Sears’s business in big chunks at a time.

“The point,” he says, “is that there are ways Sears could create new categories of services and become leaders in them, but based on their traditional strengths. They’ve got to try some [new] things.”

Watch for a more in-depth feature on this topic in the September/October issue of Chief Executive magazine.