Sears Targets College Freshmen With Web Site

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A Web site launched yesterday by Sears, Roebuck and Co. brings together items from all three retail brands under parent company Sears Holdings' umbrella and targets them to a very specific market: freshman college students and their parents.

SimplySearsCollege.com was designed to make the transition into college life a little easier by offering a comprehensive online shopping experience that includes a wish list, videos of students offering advice on issues such as how to deal with a difficult roommate and other tips for surviving freshman year.

Merchandise on the site is divided in two ways. There are the more traditional product category sections where visitors can find glassware, bedding, grooming supplies, storage items, school supplies and clothing. The selection includes items from Kmart, Sears and Lands' End, though a recent visit to the site could find only two Lands' End items in the clothing category and a laptop attache under study gear.

Some items, like a Hewlett-Packard pocket PC and all-in-one printer, are available only online.

Some merchandise also is separated into product bundles with themes such as "Like my room at home," "Joys of communal bathroom," "I am getting on the Dean's list" and "I can't even boil water." When a visitor clicks on one of these categories, the merchandise is presented in a left-to-right scrolling horizontal window.

Sears also has partnered with AOL and SparkNotes, which are books created by Harvard students on college life, to create custom content including packing checklists for warm or cold climates, tips for move-in day, advice on how to ensure you get the bed you want and insight into campus terminology.

Through a university contest, students submitted video testimonials discussing the highs and lows of college life, which are also presented on the Web site.

This is the second recent initiative from Sears targeting students. In the first half of July, the company announced a national retail promotion for Discovery Education's online homework help tool Cosmeo Homework Help Service. The site offers learning resources for students in grades K-12.

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