Sears

In a move to drive more business and benefit from the growing housing and home improvement markets, Sears Holdings Corp. is bringing back paint to its stores after a four-year absence.

Sears said Tuesday it is reintroducing paint brands — under the Craftsman, Weatherbeater and Easy Living brands — in 23 stores across the country, along with paint accessories, before rolling out the category to all of its stores.

Dean Schwartz, vice president for tools, lawn and garden at Sears, said, “After stepping away from the paint business in 2012, we are seeing the demand from our customers to bring it back. With updated paint-mixing technology, and by enlisting dedicated and trained associates, we are confident the time is right to reenter the category and fill a need for our members.”

Earlier this month, Home Depot Inc. posted rising second-quarter sales and profit growth, gaining the benefit of headwinds from a growing housing market. The company also upped its previous guidance for the year. Its major competitor, Lowe’s, posted second-quarter results that were better than the prior-year’s quarter, but missed Wall Street’s expectations. Lowe’s lowered guidance for the year, but its chief executive officer Robert Niblock said he expects the company to benefit from growth in the housing sector.

Sears’ foray back into paints isn’t its only initiative in trying to drive more sales and traffic to its different merchandise categories.

Tom Park, president of the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands, said the foray back into paint will be a first for the Craftsman brand. “Earlier this year, our other flagship brands Kenmore and DieHard entered new categories with TVs and tires, respectively.”

The company has said it is considering opportunities for its three key brands, and while many consider that to mean a sale of the brands, it could also mean ways to expand them into more stores, even if that includes a presence outside of Sears Domestic stores.

Sears’ chairman Edward S. Lampert at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in May promised to make the chain’s apparel offerings a key initiative for the company, and last week the retailer said it will test a new Showcase at Sears concept this fall.

The Showcase will be a 10,000-square-foot to 15,000-square-foot shop-in-shop concept that will offer more than 10 brands that are well-known in Europe and Latin America, but are less familiar in the U.S. It will launch in the fall in five New York-area stores, and will include apparel, footwear, intimates and accessories for men’s, women’s and kids. Product categories include fast-fashion and fitness to contemporary and tailored sportswear.

The initiatives are needed to drive more business to the stores and online. Sears on Thursday reported a second-quarter loss of $395 million, or $3.70 a diluted share, against a $208 million profit, or $2.03 a share, in the year-ago quarter.

While the struggling retailer has positioned its assets as a reflection of its ability to flex its financial muscles, it also received a $300 million lifeline from ESL Investments, Lampert’s hedge fund. The debt financing from ESL is secured by a junior lien against the retailer’s inventory, receivables and other working capital. Further, the ESL proposal allows Sears to offer to “third-party investors the right to participate up to an incremental $200 million of debt financing” on the same terms and conditions stated in its agreement with ESL.

Separately, the Kmart nameplate that operates under the Sears Holdings umbrella on Saturday unveiled a new look at its Des Plaines, Ill. store, with Kmart touting that the grand re-opening provides a new store experience and expanded product selection. The company called the store its “Whole Lotta Awesome” store initiative, which includes a “Happy to Help” customer service center; a free personal concierge service called Shoparazzi; a “Super 6” shop featuring six outrageously price items; a brand new beauty bar; enhanced apparel shops for Joe Boxer, Jaclyn Smith and Attention, and an “Aisle of WOW!” offering selected items priced at $1, among other highlights for long-standing and loyal customers, “as well as a new Millennial Kmart audience,” Kmart said.