Another Bad Fit

With the Kmart-Sears merger, executives will have to decide what brands will be sold where. You can bet that Sears will add Martha Stewart’s collection of home products, but what about Kmart selling Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances? Would the Kenmore brand be diluted, or would more appliances be sold? More importantly, what about Lands’ End, Sears’ very expensive acquisition from two years ago?

Sears paid a pretty penny — $1.86 billion — for Lands’ End, but the marriage isn’t working so far, and this merger with Kmart won’t help the situation. Lands’ End’s pricier apparel already has been cut back and moved to the backs of the apparel departments in several stores in lower-income and ethnic neighborhoods. So how would Lands’ End merchandise ever fly in Kmart, which offers clothing even cheaper than Sears? It won’t, despite what Kurt Barnard and some other analysts said last week. Naysayer Don Libey hopes they have the common sense to leave Lands’ End alone. I bet they don’t. I agree with Sean Egan, who says Kmart chairman Edward Lampert wouldn’t hesitate to sell Lands’ End if he would make money off the deal.

But would anyone pay what Sears did for Lands’ End? In this climate, that could be easier said than done. Look at Eddie Bauer. Spiegel couldn’t find a buyer at the price it wanted, so it took Eddie Bauer off the market. Meanwhile, we’re not told anything about the Lands’ End catalog anymore. Me? I’m still trying to figure out how Kmart — a company that was bankrupt a year ago — can buy one of the oldest retail names in the business. Nonetheless, my prediction: The Kmart name will be nonexistent in five years as they opt to go with Sears’ less-tarnished name.

‘The Apprentice’ and the Power of E-Mail

Sixteen million people saw the power of e-mail marketing during the Nov. 11 episode of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” While team Apex handed out fliers to commuters at New York’s Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, team Mosaic paid $1,000 to send an e-mail blast to 27,000 brides-to-be in the New York area using a list from No spam here. These women eagerly signed up for news and products from third parties. The results? With a day’s notice, Mosaic had women lined up out the door and sold 27 wedding gowns in four hours. It’s hard to beat e-mail when you want to hit a target demographic in such a limited amount of time.

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