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New Sears CEO pledges to fix sales decline

New York City -- Sears Holdings' new CEO, Louis D'Ambrosio, committed himself on Tuesday to help turn around the faltering chain by emphasizing its core brands, including Craftsman, Kenmore and Land's End, and by smarter marketing to customers, the Associated Press reported.

D’Ambrosio told shareholders at Sears Holding Corp.'s annual meeting that improving the company's clothing business will be a priority. He said he has high hopes for two new apparel lines in particular: The Kardashian Collection, which debuts in August in 400 Sears stores, and Sofia Vergara, from the star of ABC's "Modern Family."

The chief executive spoke after the company warned on Monday that its first-quarter loss will be bigger than expected. Same-store sales at Kmart stores fell 1.6% during the quarter, and was down 5.2% at U.S. Sears stores.

D'Ambrosio, who was brought in by chairman Edward Lampert two months back, is Sears' first permanent CEO since 2008. He previously was CEO of the technology company Avaya.

In addition to capitalizing on Sears’ core brand, another top priority, D'Ambrosio said, will be extending the company’s lead in appliance sales through innovation discounting. Sears maintains a 30% share of the appliance market and has a 20% or more in tools, power fitness equipment and power lawn and garden tools, the Associated Press reported.

D’Ambrosio also wants to grow Sears' services business, possibly by extending out into electronics and by outsourcing home improvement services to outside firms.

Speaking at the meeting, Lampert was upfront about his frustration with ever-declining clothing sales. He said the company needs to "repurpose" the huge amount of space devoted to apparel, either by adding new brands or partnering with other retailers.

Redirection for Sears

I think one of the striking things about Sears is when you walk into one of their stores you're immediately hit by the vast difference between hardline and softline quality. Sears quality in hardware, appliances, etc. is at the head of the pack. But, if you want to witness really lame clothing just walk to the other side of the store.
Sears needs to scrap its softline merchandising program, and begin rebuilding its resource line, its focus, and its objectives. More than likely Sears will also need to reevaluate its various teams (buying, merchandising, display, etc.) to make sure everyone's on board and producing.
The road ahead for Sears is not impossible, but it is going to be a constant challenge. The potential payoff is tremendous.

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