Edward S. Lampert is taking an “if you can’t be ‘em, join ‘em” approach and linking with Amazon to sell Kenmore appliances.
Investors, who have been nervously watching Lampert’s cash-strapped Sears Holding Corp., gave the deal two thumbs up and sent Sears stock up as much as 24 percent in midday trading, before shares closed with a gain of 10.6 percent to $9.60 on Wall Street. Amazon stock also moved up, but much less definitely, gaining 0.2 percent to $1,028.70.
Kenmore has also incorporated Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa into its offering, for instance, adding smart air conditioners that will comply when the user said, “Alexa, tell Kenmore Smart to set my air conditioner to 70 degrees.”
Lampert, who is Sears’ primary shareholder and also chairman and chief executive officer, said: “The launch of Kenmore products on Amazon.com will significantly expand the distribution and availability of the Kenmore brand in the U.S. At the same time, Sears Home Services and our Innovel Solutions unit will benefit from the relationship as more customers experience their quality services for Kenmore products purchased on Amazon.com.”
Sam Cinquegrani, ceo of digital marketing technology firm ObjectWave Corp., said: “If you think of Amazon as your competitor, then you’ve lost the battle, but if you look at Amazon as a partner and a digital marketing expert, they have capabilities you don’t have, it’s a whole different story. When it comes to e-commerce, Sears was very aggressive, and actually back then, one of the first to post its products online. Now Sears is thinking of Amazon as a distribution channel rather than a competitor. And this represents the future of retail.”
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also furthers Amazon’s smart home ambitions, where music and appliances come to life with voice commands and artificial intelligence-backed closet assistances, dubbed the Echo Look, recommend styles.
Charlie Kindel, director of Alexa Smart Home, said: “Voice is a natural interface for the smart home,” and pointed to how consumers now will be able to use voice to cool their homes or start their laundry via the Kenmore Smart appliances.
While the deal puts at least the hard goods side on the front lines of the future, Sears is still struggling mightily with its past and present, closing stores and taking out loan after loan from Lampert, who is trying build a more nimble operation around his Shop Your Way membership program.
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