On the Verge of Bankruptcy, Sears Still Missing the Mark on Customer Service



Once a coveted, respected retailer, today Sears is a brand on the brink of bankruptcy, with empty shelves across many locations—and customer service is a big part of the problem, customers and experts agree.

A crucial turning point for Sears was its merger with Kmart, Reuters reports, because it led to some negative customer services changes at Sears stores. Customers used to be able to check out at multiple registers throughout the stores, and there were sales associates walking around and offering assistance, Judy Davis, who used to work at a Sears store in California, told Reuters. But after the Kmart merger, the checkouts were placed in one corner near the store exit, and cashiers could not leave their registers, she told Reuters. 

A frequent customer of Sears Auto Center in Shenango Valley, Pennsylvania, echoed Davis’ sentiment. “Even though Sears was a national chain, it always delivered great customer service,” M. J. Bartelmay told The Herald. But with empty shelves and minimal workers, customer service is at an all-time low. 

The challenge for Sears is similar to that of its competitors—the convenience of shopping on Amazon is eating away at brick-and-mortar shopping. But while its competitors—Target, Walmart and others—have made significant investments in improving their in-store experiences and in-store service in the hopes of at least differentiating themselves from Amazon and delighting customers in physical stores, Sears can’t afford to do the same.

As of September of this year, Sears Holdings spent just $32 million in capital expenditures for its 866 stores, which averages about $25,600 per store, The Motley Fool reports. Target, on the other hand, has spent over $1.8 billion, averaging about $1 million per store.

There was a sliver of hope for the retailer at the end of Q2, when its same-store sales declined by 4 percent, which was considerably less than they had been declining over the past four years. Still, Sears’ future looks grim. According to Reuters, bankruptcy is inevitable, and Sears CEO Eddie Lampert is exploring a bid for some of the retailer’s businesses and real estate after it files.

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