Reinventing Sears

Newsday’s Ellis Hennican writes today about a notion for reviving the still-and-forever-flagging Sears: turn it into an annuity membership with which you get a lifetime string of and repair of updated TVs, lawnmowers, whatever. This is not unlike Interface Inc.’s program of leasing carpeting. In essence, this is the cable-box model the old telephone model: they own the device and rent it to us. — and that’s the problem with it, since those programs were and are ripoffs. But in this case, there’s no monopoly. So the real question is, do we trust Sears to survive.

I like this discussion of reinventing companies and industries in the digital age. Here’s my proposal for the social airline. I’ll write one soon about retail.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society robertdfeinman

    Actually most of us are already renting our lives. Leases have replaced ownership for many car owners. Home mortgages are never intended to be paid off.

    TV, music, books, are distributed in a usage (not ownership) basis. It seems a small detail whether you rent your cell phone explicitly or have its cost bundled in with the two year contract. New contract, new phone.

    Some PC makers now have explicit replacement policies for businesses.

    I claim that the model is catching on, not only because firms like the predictable revenue stream, but because we no longer have the saved capital to buy things with.

    Just read up on the mill workers at the beginning of last century. They lived in company housing, bought furniture on the never-never and had almost nothing else that they owned.

    It’s all part of the hidden impoverishment of the working class (yes I know I sound like a socialist, but Greenspan explicitly favored this model during the housing boom).

  • chico haas

    It’s an only half-crazy idea. The citing of TVs and lawnmowers is dead-on. Sears should get out of soft goods altogether and concentrate and expand on appliances, electronics, tools, automotive and housewares. That’s what people think of IF they think of Sears. Moreover, it should stop competing with convenience stores for employees. The service is wretched. Sears follows that advice, it won’t need to entice its demographic to pony up $$$ in advance – precisely the kind of discretionary income the average Sears’ customer doesn’t have.

  • o-shift

    Robert, loved your observations; elegant, “hidden impoverishment” of the working class, which includes most scribes. What I need is leased health insurance. In exchange for giving the proceeds of my life insurance policy to some corporate entity at my demise, I get free medical care. A win-win. Of course, the rub is that the free medical care comes from the corporate entity that stands to profit from my ….

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  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/wp Alan Kellogg

    It hasn’t a damn thing to do with brand or ownership or any crap like that, Sears’ problem is that their customer service sucks. Ask Connie duToit about here experience with Sears’ customer support sometime. The company has bought into the myth that efficiency matters above all else, and courtesy doesn’t matter one bit.

    As our host has been telling us for years; it’s not the content, it’s the community. For the prices Sears charges, they can afford a little respect for their customers.

  • Crawford

    Sadly, I think Sears has long passed into irrelevance.

    Eddie needs to break it apart so he can extract value. Sell off Craftsman and Kenmore brands to Lowe’s or Costco, a big box retailer committed to quality products and service.

    Let a once great brand live in memory with dignity and grace, not die an embarrassing death on the streets, clothed only in the tattered remnants of the underwire bra and garter set I spent so many sleepless hours dreaming on in the catalog as a boy.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Jarvis and Hennican pontificating on the business world?

    Thanks for the chuckle.

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    Actually most of us are already renting our lives. Leases have replaced ownership for many car owners. Home mortgages are never intended to be paid off.

    TV, music, books, are distributed in a usage (not ownership) basis. It seems a small detail whether you rent your cell phone explicitly or have its cost bundled in with the two year contract. New contract, new phone.

    Some PC makers now have explicit replacement policies for businesses.

    I claim that the model is catching on, not only because firms like the predictable revenue stream, but because we no longer have the saved capital to buy things with.

    Just read up on the mill workers at the beginning of last century. They lived in company housing, bought furniture on the never-never and had almost nothing else that they owned.

    It’s all part of the hidden impoverishment of the working class (yes I know I sound like a socialist, but Greenspan explicitly favored this model during the housing boom).