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Sears: More Than Just Washing Machines and Refrigerators

22 Sep, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

In the ongoing commoditization of sellthrough DVD movies by mass merchants, Sears, Roebuck and Co. recently upped its offering of DVD movies from a smattering of titles to 500 releases expected in select stores and online by the end of the year, according to company officials.

The titles, which run the gamut from recent theatrical releases — Shrek 2 (DreamWorks), Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (Warner) and Barbershop 2: Back in Business (MGM) — to catalog fare — The Thomas Crown Affair (MGM); You've Got Mail, The Lost Boys (Warner) — TV DVD fare — Felicity: Season Three (Buena Vista) and special editions Star Wars Trilogy (Fox) — are priced from $5.

A friend of mine, however, wondered aloud why anyone would go to Sears to buy a DVD.

“I wouldn't go there to buy a DVD,” Angela said. “Sears wouldn't even cross my mind.”

A Sears spokesperson admitted the concept has been a work in progress.

“It makes for easy one-stop shopping,” she said. “It's a convenience for our customers. [The titles] are positioned by the electronics area. It's an easy thing to purchase. By the holidays, we should see over 100 new movie titles.”

In reality, Sears, with more than 860 retail stores nationwide and revenue exceeding $41 billion, has had a long history marketing the improbable.

Did you know that Sears rents cars, and sells consumer credit and flowers?

Remember the Sears Financial Network, the company's 1981 foray into investments and real estate?

After acquiring Coldwell Banker and Dean Witter & Co., Sears helped launch the Discover credit card in 1986 and later sold the commercial real estate division of Coldwell, which became CB Richard Ellis.

In 1908, Sears, which originated as a catalog retailer, offered a 68-page supplement with 44 individual house designs, ranging in price from $695 to $4,115. A separate schoolhouse design sold for $11,000.

According to the Web site www.oldhouseweb.com, interested customers could order a model's blueprints and building materials list for $1, which was credited back on the actual home order.

An order arrived by train in two boxcars containing 30,000 pieces, including 750 pounds of nails, 22 gallons of paint and varnish, 20,000 shingles for the roof and siding, and a 75-page leather-bound instruction book.

The home kit did not include masonry and plaster, but the materials list advised that 1,100 cement blocks would be needed for basement walls and foundation.Sears estimated the cost of related labor included $34.50 for a painter and $450 for the carpenter to assemble your house.

More than 75,000 Sears homes were sold; The Washington Times reported in 2001 that a Sears home in Chevy Chase, Md., sold for $816,000.

This summer, Sears spent $621 million to acquire 61 undisclosed Kmart and Wal-Mart retail locations that the company plans to convert into Sears Grand stores, which will reportedly offer a racetrack design, centralized checkouts and a pharmacy.

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