It's common knowledge that Sears is a huge seller of dishwashers and power tools. But did you know it's also the No. 1 seller of fitness equipment?
"It's a surprise to some people," admitted Julia Fitzgerald, chief digital engagement officer for toys and sporting goods at Sears Holdings, noting that the retailer began getting data showing its leadership in the category during the first quarter of 2011.
"We didn't get here by accident. It's always been a category where we have great relationships with our vendor base," Ms. Fitzgerald said. And now Sears is taking those relationships and building them out with editorial content around fitness to create a bond with consumers. "We said, 'Wow, let's not just sell great equipment, let's have great content as well,'" said Ms. Fitzgerald. "When you buy a piece of equipment, you're really coming in for a healthier lifestyle or to lose that last 15 pounds."
It's a strategy that could be employed in other areas and may offer a clue as to how the much-maligned retailer intends to turn itself around.
"It's all part of our integrated approach to retail where content should support retail and retail should be supporting content," said Ms. Fitzgerald. Other examples of areas where the company is working to produce quality content and cultivate an audience include the Craftsman Club, which has more than 1 million members, and Kmart's Playdate Place, she said. Both offer exclusive newsletters, curated content and perks for members.
The approach -- identifying and investing in a distinct category and cultivating an authoritative voice via editorial -- is "absolutely" indicative of what consumers will likely see from Sears moving forward, said Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar who covers retail and fitness companies.