Sears is bringing back its once highly anticipated holiday "wish book," which hasn't had a run since 2011. This year's includes a digital version with an interactive format on desktop and mobile that allows for digital purchases, saving pages with "likes" and sharing on social media.
The struggling department store is also sending out print versions of the 120-page catalog to some of its best customers. Shop Your Way members who don’t receive it can pick up a copy at a nearby Sears store, the company said in a press release.
The digital version’s product prices will be updated in real time if they change, the company said.
Who could blame Sears for taking a trip back in time? When the retailer unveiled its first "Christmas Book" in 1933, it was a thriving retail disruptor that had begun as a mail order company selling one type of item (watches).
Sears went on to add merchandise categories of all sorts, and later capitalized on its reputation for price and service by opening hundreds of stores after its first in Chicago in 1925. (Remind you of anyone?) Perusing the retailer’s old holiday catalogs reveals its previous reach, as seen in an interactive collection from WishbookWeb, a blog that has scanned a number of historic holiday catalogs of once-prominent retailers from various eras. In some years, Sears' catalog ballooned to over 300 pages, with the fattest topping 800, according to WishbookWeb.
For retail more broadly, print catalogs are still paying dividends even though retailers send far fewer than they did a decade ago. (Sears itself stopped printing its bulky all-inclusive catalogs in the 1990s, as the internet became a more efficient storehouse of a retailer's full listings.) Especially during the holiday season, catalogs remain an important marketing tool for immersing customers in brands, and for driving trips to stores or online to explore products in more depth and make purchases.
Sears will need more than a holiday catalog to right the ship, though. This year has seen the retailer shuttering hundreds of stores, furiously tapping CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund for more and more loans, unloading some of its most iconic sub-brands and scrapping publicly with its suppliers, including curtailing its relationship with Whirlpool. The retailer's namesake in Canada, which was controlled by Sears Holdings until a few years ago, recently decided to shutter operations and liquidate after trying to restructure in bankruptcy.
Although few observers see much of a revival in its future, Sears this year has made some headway in taking stress off its books. Earlier this year it finally eked out a profit after months of cost cutting and asset sales, and two years of reporting quarterly earnings losses. The company followed that up in August with another loss (though smaller than the year-ago period) and a steep decline in both total and same-store sales.
The retailer has also piloted new stores and forged a partnership with Amazon to sell Kenmore products and connect them to the Alexa voice platform. But are those moves enough to keep Sears out of bankruptcy?
"Against such weak financials, Sears has been monetizing assets and securing credit lines to ensure it can stay afloat," GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders told Retail Dive in an email earlier this year. "However, this financial wizardry is not fixing the underlying problems; it is merely kicking the can further down the road. The bottom line is that as a retail proposition Sears is fundamentally broken. And its long and painful slide into oblivion shows no signs of abating."