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Lampert: Membership model is wave of the future

Hoffman Estates, Ill. - In his annual letter to shareholders today, Sears Holding chairman and ceo Eddie Lampert once again pooh-poohed the idea of investing money in improving stores and asserted the transformation of Sears and Kmart into membership retailers addresses changing consumer habits. "That may sound odd given our financial results," he noted.
Lampert cited a Jan. 17 piece in The Wall Street Journal that reported consumers are making more targeted shopping trips - now averaging three store visits per mall trip compared to five store visits in 2007.
Sears' Shop Your Way Rewards program and Integrated Retail omnichannel ecommerce platform - along with the newly unveiled In-Vehicle Pick-up Service - address those changes, he wrote.
"Furthermore, if the way the entire American retail industry ended 2013 is any indication, I believe 2014 may well be a year in which Sears Holdings begins to clearly demonstrate the advantages of this transformation," wrote Lampert. "We build relationships with our members, anticipate their needs and serve them in the manner most convenient for them - whether in store, at home or on-the-go."
Shop Your Way member transactions accounted for 72% of sales in Sears and Kmart stores during the fourth quarter, up from 58% in the year-ago period. For the fiscal year, Shop Your Way members provided 69% of the company's sales, up from 59% in 2012.
Those figures are the result of Sears Holdings decision to invest in technology rather than modernizing bricks-and-mortar locations, according to Lampert.
"These are areas where much of our investment has been focused over the years, despite the widespread and, we believe, incorrect belief among many outside commentators that what our stores need most are hundreds of millions of dollars more in décor and fixtures," he wrote.
Per usual, Lampert also pointed to the company's assets and said the company will continue to create shareholder value from its real estate portfolio.

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