Challenge anyone to name a positive aspect of Sears and chances are that person will opine about the department store’s vast real estate holdings or the value remaining in house brands Craftsman, DieHard, and Kenmore. While we could certainly question the validity of Sears’ worth in real estate in today’s increasingly digital society, it’s the Kenmore stronghold that’s up for debate today.
Previously, I’ve discussed Sears’ waning, aging, and uninvested customer base in women’s apparel, and it seems as though these same problems are leeching into that feather in Sears’ cap: appliances. On the plus side, our insights indicate that Sears continues to be the top destination for everything from coffee makers and vacuums to microwaves and refrigerators; about a quarter of consumers overall (23.5%) assert that Sears is the store they would head to first for these items. Unfortunately, as its big box competitors have ramped up their offerings, service, and customer share in other merchandise categories, Sears has begun to slump in appliances.
Compared to the same period in 2008, customer share for Sears was down 5% in December 2013, while competitors are experiencing double digit increases: Lowe’s increased 44% over this five year span (and is heavily invested in those all-important female decision-makers), Walmart was up 63%, and Home Depot rose 55%. Best Buy is Sears’ only major appliance competitor to experience a decline over the past five years (down 5%), but the electronics giant seems to be making a go at a turnaround, with its customer share increasing 9% year-over-year.
Among the lucrative 18 to 34 year old set, the age group most likely to be in the market for home appliances, Sears is slipping further. Fewer than one in five (18.1%) of these youngsters would head to Sears first for appliances, dropping 10% year-over-year. In stark contrast, home improvement giants Lowe’s and Home Depot have increased customer share among this age group by 26% and 24%, respectively, over the past year.
Perhaps at least part of this decline can be attributed to 18 to 34 years olds’ relative indifference for the Kenmore brand. These shoppers are 30% less likely than average to gravitate toward the Kenmore nameplate while shopping for appliances and are the age group most likely to veer toward LG and Samsung, familiar electronics brands for this mobile device wielding group. A quick peek at the demographics among loyalists for each of these brands confirms the Kenmore conundrum: among those who would first consider Kenmore in their appliance search, just one in five (21%) are in the 18 to 34 year age range, while younger shoppers are driving loyalty for the LG and Samsung brands.
As we quickly move into an era of spending driven by younger Millennial shoppers, Sears desperately needs to turn back the clock on its shoppers. Without concentrated efforts to draw in a new base of shoppers with a consumer-centric strategy, time will inevitably run out for Sears.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.