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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas


NEW YORK —Sears and Kmart are counting on new product and label introductions to make their holiday season jolly, including the launch of an electric hammer, or nail driver, under the Craftsman umbrella and the rollout of a new line of CosmoGIRL bedding products.

For the holidays themselves, Kmart will offer 10 artificial trees—one of which can telescope from seven feet to nine feet to accommodate changed living spaces—and seven different holiday themes in Martha Stewart Everyday. The themed merchandise includes ornaments, decorative accessories and wrapping paper, much of which uses designs that are appropriate both for holiday and everyday gift-giving occasions.

Martha can’t provide all the holiday warmth, however. In addition to the MSE yuleware, Kmart is introducing a mass-market line of Christopher Radko ornaments. The line is designed to be a little younger and more contemporary than has been the case with his upmarket items. The Celebrations by Radko line at Kmart is priced at $9.99 for hand-painted figures and balls, and $7.99 for accessorizing balls. In addition, Kmart is offering a line of Elvis ornaments including an Elvis guitar and musical ornaments that have Elvis in concert, belting “Blue Suede Shoes” and on his motorcycle caroling “Sleigh Ride.” Consumers can complete their Elvis Christmas with the purchase of a musical centerpiece, a battery-operated, 18-inch-high Elvis, which comes ready to rock “Blue Suede Shoes.”

The Craftsman Hammerhead electric nail driver is part of the company’s Nextec line that includes a work light, drill and combination reciprocating/jig saw, each powered by a 12-volt lithium battery. Compact and lightweight, Nextec tools incorporate innovations including built-in LED lights to better illuminate the job at hand and, in the saw, a button that allows quick, easy blade replacement. The nail driver has a round magnetic head that properly aligns up to a 16-penny nail. Put a little weight on the Hammerhead tool, pull the trigger and it does the rest. The price point is $99.99.

Sears spokesman John Turrow said that while the products were made to work for do-it-yourselfers across the spectrum, the Nextec line had a particular audience in its sights. “These are real tools women will want to use,” he asserted. Turrow added that Nextec tools were designed to be flexible and effective so that purchasers who discovered their DIY muse could keep using them as their ambitions grew. “They conform to the skill of the user,” he said.

Sears’ Kenmore brand is using the holidays to boost its appeal to women, bringing out a new Chai color for its popular Kenmore Elite HE5t Steam Team washer and dryer, as well as expanding the small appliance offering with its first espresso machine.

In its fitness operation, Sears will incorporate new treadmills from NordicTrack for the holiday season, including the top-of-the-line $1,699 Elite XT, the first to offer a digital ATSC tuner in an integrated television set.

The CosmoGIRL collection, which will launch exclusively at Sears in the fourth quarter, also has a female consumer in mind, although the focus is more age-specific, ranging from the nine- to 18-year-old consumer demographic. Stylish colors and hip designs are critical to the brand identity in an offering that includes comforter sets and 220-thread-count, 50/50 polycotton sheet sets.

CosmoGIRL launches at Sears just as Cannon takes its place at Kmart. The Cannon line focuses on down alternative fiberbeds and comforters, as well as 100% ringspun cotton towels with a velour finish that reverses to terry loops.

On the apparel side, Kmart will be introducing three new collections. Attention focuses on women 25 to 40, while Blue and piper target juniors. Rather than collections of snowflake and Santa-decorated sweaters, Blue and piper offer contemporary styling for young women who want to make an appearance without wearing the holidays on their sleeves.

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