Appliances: Apparently the Last Bastion for Bricks and Mortar Retail

Sears is opening an all-appliance store:

Sears, which has been struggling financially due to falling sales, is opening a store that will be dedicated solely to the sale of appliances.

The retailer says that the 10,000 square foot store opening in Ft. Collins, Colorado on May 19th will be its first solely featuring appliances, the product category that has been one of its core businesses.  .

“Appliances is one of our best categories,’’ said Leena Munjal. senior vice president, customer experience and integrated retail, for Sears Holdings.  “We’re trying to figure out how you take the physical store and complement it with the online capability to make it a really powerful experience for our customers.’’

I essentially predicted this here several years ago:

 I see the same thing now at Best Buy, with workout equipment and other oddball products.  I told my son on a visit a year ago to Best Buy to expect to see the a larger appliance selection next time we visit.  He asked why, and I said "because Wal-Mart does not generally sell them, and not a lot of people buy their large appliances at Amazon."  Sure enough, you see more appliances nowadays.

And here:

But it probably was no accident that the article was illustrated with this picture:


What don't you see there?  CD's, DVD's, speakers, DVD players, computer games and most of the other stuff that used to make up a lot of Best Buy's floor space.  Because they have already been demolished by online retailers in those categories.   The picture above is of appliances, one of the few high dollar categories that has not migrated to the web.   Go to Best Buy and you will see appliances, health equipment, and TV's, all categories where bricks and mortar stores have some advantages over online.

This makes perfect sense, but don't tell me Best Buy is ready to take on the online retailers.  They are bobbing and weaving, ducking this competition wherever they can.

I wrote specifically about the Sears appliance business here


  1. marque2:

    I actually purchased my dishwasher from an outfit in New Jersey and they shipped it to CA. There are a few groups that do this. Some are more scammy than others (Abe's of Maine - very scammy). What I find though, is most of the time the items I would want to get are cheaper or so similarly priced that it isn't worth the bother of ordering one from mail order, when I can just go to Sears or Home Depot, and actually get to touch and see the item I am about to purchase.

  2. timworstall:

    That safe harbour isn't going to last all that long ""

    US geographic distances might limit it a bit but....

  3. Fred_Z:

    The disintermedition process will continue to include appliances. The easy things to retail online are done.

    I buy a lot of appliances for rental properties and will move online as soon as the online appliance merchants improve at providing adequate detail and a firm, low price. As for detail, getting online sellers to provide truly accurate dimensions and weights, high definition photos from multiple angles, capacities and features has been surprisingly difficult. As for price, most people do not know that usually an appliance price is as negotiable as an auto price. Right now, if I go to Home Depot with a printout of an online store appliance similar to what Home Depot carries, they'll meet and beat by $50.00.

  4. Bruce Zeuli:

    Don't know what's different about this location, but I have been to several appliance only Sears locations in the San Francisco Bay area. They are called Appliance Outlets. Some have a section of appliances with dents and blemishes. Saved $1,000 on my last fridge because a couple of scratches.

  5. Dan Wendlick:

    Probably the two biggest assets Sears has left are the Kenmore and Craftsman brands. In fact these are the only two product lines out local franchisee stocks in house. Otherwise Wal-Mart and Amazon have been eating their lunch for 20 years. After how they botched Lands End (putting Lands End merchandise in Sears stores didn't upscale Sears, it downgraded Lands End). After how they botched the Diehard auto batteries and service segment, I'm waiting for them to screw up these last two.

  6. ErikTheRed:

    Ehhh... I've been buying major appliances online for years now, without any major problems. I would actually pay some premium for brick & mortar (convenience of physically checking product functionality, ease of dealing with returns, etc) if a store nearby actually had the models I want to choose from, but that never seems to be the case.

    Where I do strongly prefer brick & mortar is clothing. The US tends towards sloppy / loose-fit clothing and that can easily be purchased online. I like a cleaner, tailored look that generally requires trying clothes on. I realize that this puts me towards the tail of the curve, but for those of us who like looking a bit more put-together it's the better choice. I'm a fairly normal size, but even then it's much faster and easier to shop in-person.

  7. ErikTheRed:

    I've bought several appliances from East Coast retailers, and all of them have been sketchy to deal with. The sad thing is.... it's still better than the local brick & mortar options.


    Kenmore and Craftsman. All that is keeping Sears (and Kmart) treading water. They be living in the past on the rest of their repertoire....................

  9. Mike Fritz:

    “Appliances is one of our best categories,’’ said Leena Munjal. senior
    vice president, customer experience and integrated retail, for Sears
    Holdings. “We’re trying to figure out how you take the physical store
    and complement it with the online capability to make it a really
    powerful experience for our customers.’’

    Yeah, I haven't been impressed with brick & mortar establishments and their use of online retail space. Consider the following: I own an old truck. I had to perform maintenance that required draining the coolant. Some engineer didn't realize that it's a bad idea to put the drain cock right over the chassis guaranteeing I create an environmental hazard.

    So I used a shop vac to suck up the coolant as it drained. I'd like to recover it using a household water filter. So I look online at the major local home improvement stores and find a $15 filter that's not too expensive for the occasional use of reusing otherwise good coolant. Then I realize I have to select "my local store only" shopping option. I'm then left with a $30 filter, cheapest.

    Whenever I enter a new search, I again, have to make sure I'm not looking online. I suppose I could order the $15 part, but that's often not fast enough for a project I'm working on this exact moment, and I need to run to the store to pick the part up now!