Bloomberg News

Sears Names Boire Chief Merchandising Officer Amid Closings

January 04, 2012

(Updates with analyst’s comment in sixth paragraph.)

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Sears Holdings Corp. named former Brookstone Inc. executive Ron Boire chief merchandising officer to revamp its retail experience as the largest U.S. department store chain works to revive sales.

Boire, 50, will lead merchandising for both Sears and Kmart, the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company said today in a statement. He was previously president and CEO of Brookstone, an electronics chain, and also spent 17 years at Sony Electronics Inc. in various roles.

Boire joins the retailer as Chairman Edward Lampert, who along with his hedge funds owns 60 percent of Sears, attempts to reverse four years of declining sales. Sears tumbled 27 percent on Dec. 27 after announcing plans to close as many as 120 stores. Same-store sales fell 5.2 percent in the eight weeks ended Dec. 25, the company said last month.

Using technology “there’s opportunity to dramatically change some of the presentations,” Boire said today in an interview, without providing specific plans. “The commitment is there to invest in great ideas.”

Sears fell 1.1 percent to $31.43 at the close in New York. The shares declined 56 percent last year.

“It’s a good match with Lou because Lou’s more of a technology person,” Gary Balter, an analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG in New York, said in an interview. “He’s had success in previous companies.”

Increase Investments

Balter, who rates the shares “underperform,” said Sears needs to upgrade stores and customer service to attract shoppers. The company’s brands such as Kenmore are not enough, he said, as shoppers can find comparable national and private- label merchandise elsewhere.

The company will increase investments in its best- performing stores, Chief Executive Officer Lou D’Ambrosio said today in an interview, adding that he’s looking for “more theater, more engagement” for customers. He declined to say how much Sears planned to spend.

D’Ambrosio, a former Avaya Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. executive, said in an interview last week that he is seeking to gather more information about customers’ buying patterns and product preferences and to boost Internet operations. He aims to combine technology with spending on stores to turn around the retailer.

“We’re going to take whatever actions are necessary to restore greatness to this company,” D’Ambrosio said in an interview.

iPads Tracking Inventory

D’Ambrosio today said the company can build on its database of “tens of millions” of customers enrolled in its loyalty program to drive online and mobile sales and services. Boire will help the company “sharpen our focus on merchandising.”

Sears has given store salespeople more than 5,000 Apple Inc. iPads and 11,000 iPod touches to track inventory and customer orders.

D’Ambrosio is the fourth CEO since Lampert merged Sears with Kmart in 2005. Lampert, who has presided over 18 consecutive quarters of declining sales, has tried several strategies including opening smaller “specialty” stores.

Sears have lost customers and market share to discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., which are attracting budget-minded consumers.

--With assistance from Carol Hymowitz in New York. Editors: James Callan, Kevin Orland

To contact the reporter on this story: Lauren Coleman-Lochner at llochner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net


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