Sears, still struggling to find its place in a disrupted retail landscape, is looking to one of the stars of TV’s original Charlie’s Angels to solve the puzzle of livening up its fashion lineup.
Sears is going to offer the apparel from the line of the actress and businesswoman Jaclyn Smith, who has been one of most reliable draws over 33 years for Kmart, a chain also owned by Sears’ corporate parent.
Can the Smith line help reverse Sears’ slide, which has included the closing of scores of stores and a warning last year that a bankruptcy filing is a possibility?
“I don’t see new Jaclyn Smith collections moving the dial much at Sears,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultancy, GlobalNext. “The problem is that no matter how good her collections are, they will be under the umbrella of a brand in decline.”
Sears Holdings, parent company to Sears and Kmart, won’t disclose sales of Jaclyn Smith apparel. But officials do say more than 100 million women have bought apparel and accessories bearing her name — with more than five million members of ‘Shop Your Way,’ Sears Holdings’ loyalty program, purchasing items in the last year.
“Jaclyn’s clothing line at Kmart has been extremely successful for more than three decades,” said Greg Ladley, president of apparel and footwear for Sears Holdings. “That kind of longevity and relevancy in the fickle fashion industry is rare.”
Sears is closing another 103 stores and most will close by April.
Sears, once a fixture in American life, has struggled as shoppers increasingly do their buying over smartphones and computers, or by going to specialty stores.
Sears will stop selling Whirlpool appliances after a pricing dispute. Sears was once the top dog in selling refrigerators, washing machines, and other home appliances, but has since lost its footing over recent years.
Sears has already crept into the Jacklyn Smith arena by first carrying her branded products in the fall, when it began selling her infant line, “Spencer by Jaclyn Smith.”
In an interview with USA TODAY, Smith said she feels she has a particularly strong bond with her shoppers. “I have a very loyal customer that I’ve sort of grown up with,” she said. “With all that’s going on in retail … they’ve stuck with me.”
The goal is to freshen up Sears’ merchandise, including clothing, and dispel the notion that its selection is limited or unappealing.
The once-iconic retailer is struggling to survive. To raise cash, Sears sold its vaunted Craftsman tool brand along with other assets. It’s laid off employees, shuttered stores and borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from its CEO, Edward Lampert, to stay afloat.
Last month, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sears reported that it had reduced the value of its brand name by another $50 million to $100 million just a year after it had previously slashed that figure by $381 million.
As it looks for answers, turning to Jaclyn Smith was an easy choice. Shoppers were asking for it, Ladley said. “When the opportunity arose, it was an easy decision to expand the line across to Sears.”
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