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Sears focuses on Web


Hoffman Estates, Ill. The chairman of Sears Holdings Corp. said Monday that the chain is working to change how customers interact with it online.

Speaking at Sears’ annual shareholder’s meeting, chairman Edward Lampert said the company was upgrading the selection and interactivity of its Web site to help the company emerge stronger than ever from the recession, particularly as competitors slash prices in an effort to sell merchandise.

Initiatives under way this year include boosting Sears’ proprietary brands such as Craftsman and Kenmore, and highlighting the chains’ home-and-garden products and its struggling apparel lines, said W. Bruce Johnson, Sears’ interim president and chief executive. The company also plans to promote some nonproprietary brands, such as Wrangler, Adidas, Levi’s and Vanity Fair in Sears stores, and Gerber, Fisher-Price and branded Nickelodeon clothing at Kmart outlets.

But a good part of Sears’ focus this year relates to the company’s online presence. Sears’ Web sites will offer more than 3 million products in 2009, up from 500,000 in 2008. The company has also launched an online venture that allows homeowners to solicit online bids for service and maintenance projects as well as an online community at, where customers can write reviews, take surveys and lodge complaints while interacting with Sears employees. An online ordering program that allows customers to pick up goods at nearby stores will expand to Kmart locations shortly.

Sears also said Monday that its layaway sales soared in 2008, adding $200 million to the fourth quarter, thanks to a holiday push that promoted paying in installments.

Lampert spent more than two hours answering shareholders’ questions. He said the company’s chief executive search continues, but that he remained comfortable with Johnson at the helm.

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