Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Seeking to expand its direct response businesses, including Internet sales, Sears, Roebuck & Co. has formed a new business unit, called Sears Direct, and named one of its top strategists, Jane J. Thompson, as its president.
Sears said Wednesday that Thompson will focus on “building growth vehicles” and described her as a 10-year Sears veteran with entrepreneurial skills.
Thompson will report to Arthur Martinez, Sears chairman and chief executive officer. “Developing additional distribution channels that are exciting and innovative will enhance our ability to connect with our customers and their families in a meaningful and compelling way,” said Martinez, in a statement.
Thompson was president of Sears Home Services since 1996, president of Sears Credit from 1993 to 1996 and held various positions in planning at Sears from 1988 to 1993. Prior to Sears, she was with McKinsey & Co. for 10 years.
“Jane will bring to her new role the strategic focus she demonstrated in Home Services, where she established a centralized Home Services network and created a successful marketing campaign that introduced Sears Home Central,” Martinez said.
Sears said its direct response business produced double-digit profit growth in 1997. It primarily consists of 17 specialty catalogs for toys, apparel and special sizes, among other niche businesses. The catalogs and their distribution are developed from the Sears customer database. Last year, 150 million catalogs were distributed.
The direct response business also includes clubs and services, such as magazines, discounts and benefits for customers over 50, and the Sears credit card protection program.
Eight months ago, the company launched its first electronic commerce site on the Internet to sell its Craftsman line of tools. Sears plans to sell its lawn and garden products on the Internet and is considering adding other categories, but hasn’t announced any new ones yet.
In another Sears appointment, Richard J. Srednicki was named president of Sears Home Services, which includes product repair, home improvement services and service contracts. He also reports to Martinez.

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