Less than a month into the New Year and the e-retailer and marketplace announces plans for three additional U.S. fulfillment centers.
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With a new upscale brand and its aggressive multi-channel strategy, it’s a fair bet that Sears will find ways to leverage across all channels the combined presence of its new jewelry and apparel lines along with its more traditional tools and appliances.
Sears, with a big boost from Land’s End, has set the table for a strategy that might impress even Tom Filline. “But it’s wait and see,” warns analyst Stern, “because now the customer has to vote on it.”
Wal-Mart takes a different tack from Sears
As Sears, Roebuck and Co. continues to find ways to leverage its online presence, now bolstered with the merchandising and technology expertise of Lands’ End, rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is traveling a different road where online and offline keep their distance. “Wal-Mart is not making the same inroads online,” says Ulysses Yannas, a retail analyst at New York-based investment research firm Buckman, Buckman & Reid.
While Sears has been working to make it easy for customers to shop, research and buy products any way they want, online or offline, Wal-Mart has been pushing whatever works best in each channel. The result: “WalMart.com is a different experience from going into a Wal-Mart store,” says Duif Calvin, a retail analyst based in San Francisco.
Wal-Mart offers a consistent brand experience in its different channels, but “they’ve not created a synergy between online and offline stores,” Calvin says.
Wal-Mart’s stores have a small department for books, for example, but WalMart.com is positioned as a competitor to online book giant Amazon.com. “People know that anything they can buy at Amazon, they can buy at WalMart.com a little cheaper,” Calvin says. “So those wary of Amazon can feel comfortable buying at WalMart.com.”
Perhaps the biggest void between the multi-channel strategies of Wal-Mart and Sears is in apparel. In a far different approach from the way Sears is building the upscale Lands’ End brand into its multi-channel apparel strategy, Wal-Mart has removed apparel from its web site and maintains a relatively unplanned approach to selling apparel in its stores.
Emphasizing lean, cost-efficient distribution over merchandising, Wal-Mart typically offers inconsistent selections of apparel in incomplete sets of sizes, Calvin says. That makes it difficult to promote apparel, because it could lead to customers not being able to find their size in a promoted item. And promotion is a key to successful selling online, she adds.
“It’s hard for Wal-Mart to merchandise one piece at a time,” she says. “It’s not like walking into a store and just picking out what’s there.”