Two: The Fanciful Notion That Sears Has Actually Embarked On A Meaningful 'Transformation' (It Hasn't Even If It Thinks It Has)
What Sears calls a transformation or a turnaround isn't a transformation or a turnaround at all. And it's just pure comedy to call what Sears is going through a "radical transformation," as SVP Leena Munjal recently riffed on the company's corporate blog.
The Shop Your Way program, which is a cross between an Amazon.com (AMZN) Prime knockoff and a grocery store rewards program, does not indicate "radical transformation." Neither does the delusion the CEO Lampert spewed on his section of the blog:
We are transitioning from a business that has historically focused on running a store network into a business that provides and delivers value by serving its members in the manner most convenient for them: whether in store, at home or through digital devices.
Granted, I have the luxury of being able to step away from the situation and do a more conceptual, higher-level thought-based analysis.But, that aside, most of the executives in place at Sears and other struggling physical retailers simply cannot wrap their heads around the enormity of what needs to be done. When I talk to these guys about the need for a truly radical transformation, from a theoretical standpoint, I feel like I'm trying to teach advanced calculus to a third grader. The scope of what needs to happen sits far outside their intellectual wheelhouses. And, even if they understood, conceptually, what needs to be done, they don't have the will or, shockingly, the urgency to do it. These retail lifers still believe something that looks pretty much like what they're used to will be enough to salvage the mess they created for themselves and their soon-to-be laid off and potentially unemployed frontline workers. It doesn't dawn on them that doing what the rest of the world is doing now isn't the answer. Sears' "radical transformation" consists of getting with the times. Getting with the times is fine and good, but it doesn't prepare the company -- and, more importantly, the broad brick and mortar space - for what's next. So, what we'll end up seeing is what we watched develop a decade ago. Amazon.com -- or another company loaded with visionaries and actual difference makers -- will create a new future for commerce. As the new reality emerges, Sears and its equally-as-dead counterparts will finally be doing what Amazon set in motion in 1999. But that approach will then be dated. Simply put, Sears' "radical transformation" amounts to little more than chasing the hot trend, but several years too late. What Sears -- or somebody in the space -- should be doing is hunkering down not to get in step with the times, but to vision and create the future. To take charge of their destiny, not allow somebody else (probably Amazon again) to control it. Companies like Sears, unless they embrace the notion of truly radical transformation, will always be chasing trends conceived and perfected by others. Companies such as Sears would rather burn cash and lose hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter while executing a plan that doesn't look all that different from what has failed them the last 10 years.
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