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New Look Part of Overall Shift in Marketing Direction

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Sears, Roebuck & Co., which is in the process of selling off its credit-card division and remodeling stores to include its recently acquired Lands' End line, is making changes to one of its key marketing strategies, the Sunday circular, executives said.

"The whole company is focused on the customer -- that is a change for us," a company spokeswoman said. "We are trying to communicate to our customer, in a simple interesting way, the great merchandise we have to offer," she said. "It's all about Sears as a destination."

53 million inserts
One of the first changes in this

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direction has been to the retailer's 53 million weekly circulars that are distributed with Sunday newspapers, a vehicle considered by many in retail as a marketing cornerstone.

Sears has initiated a new look for the circular, starting with more fashionable covers. One circular this month, for example, showed off its spring Covington fashions. Other elements of the circular have become less cluttered. Sears also made the back half of the circular about three-fourths of an inch longer and created tabs, so that different sections, such as appliances and so-called softlines like clothing, appear more distinct from each other.

So far, the circular stays with the tagline "Sears: Where else?" but that is likely to change; the retailer is under discussion with its advertising agencies and other consultants regarding a new theme. WPP Group's Y&R Advertising and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Chicago, are Sears' agencies.

CMO Janine Bousquette
Some Sears watchers believe the changes to the circular reflect the growing power of Janine Bousquette, Sears' executive vice president and chief customer and marketing officer. Ms. Bousquette, who joined the retailer in October, seems to have scored a victory in what is a common battle between merchants and marketers at retail stores. Merchants tend to demand that as many products as possible appear on the pages of Sunday inserts, said one veteran in the business. Few retailers, like Target, are able to resist and strike more of a branding message via the design and appearance of their circulars. Ms. Bousquette's predecessors had little success in cutting down on the Sunday insert's clutter, one former Sears' executive said.

Sears' new focus on its department store comes as executives this week announced their plans to sell its credit card division, which has 25 million accounts. Sears rival JCPenney was able to successfully divest itself of its credit card division and refashion its apparel offerings.

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