Sears, Ama­zon forge deal to sell Ken­more on­line, tie in Alexa


Shares of Sears Hold­ings Corp. rose Thurs­day af­ter the com­pany an­nounced an agree­ment to sell its Ken­more ap­pli­ances on Ama­zon. com, a re­as­sur­ing sign for a re­tailer that’s been rat­tled by e-com­merce up­heaval.

In ad­di­tion to of­fer­ing the Ken­more lineup on Ama­zon’s site, Sears will in­te­grate its smart ap­pli­ances with Alexa — the tech giant’s speech-ac­ti­vated as­sis­tant. That means the com­pany’s air con­di­tion­ers and other de­vices will re­spond to voice com­mands.

The an­nounce­ment brings fresh hope that Sears can adapt to a rapidly shift­ing re­tail land­scape. De­part­ment-store chains have been hard hit by slug­gish mall traf­fic and on­line shop­ping. By team­ing up with Ama­zon, Sears brings new life to its more-than-cen­tury-old Ken­more name and opens up a new sales chan­nel.

“The launch of Ken­more prod­ucts on Ama­ will sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand the dis­tri­bu­tion and avail­abil­ity of the Ken­more brand in the U.S.,” Sears Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Ed­die Lam­pert said in a state­ment.

The Ama­zon deal sent Sears’ shares up as much as 24 per­cent in Thurs­day trad­ing, the big­gest in­tra­day gain since May 25. The shares rose 92 cents, or 10.6 per­cent, to close Thurs­day at $9.60. The stock had been

down 6.6 per­cent this year through Wed­nes­day’s close.

Shares of ri­val ap­pli­ance sell­ers got ham­mered. Home De­pot Inc., Lowe’s Cos. and Best Buy Co. all fell at least 4 per­cent on Thurs­day, un­der­scor­ing concerns that shop­pers will start buy­ing more large ap­pli­ances on Ama­zon.

Terms of the part­ner­ship weren’t dis­closed, and it’s un­clear how much help Sears will get from the ar­range­ment.

But the com­pany is badly in need of growth.

Once the world’s largest re­tail chain, Sears has racked up more than $10 bil­lion in losses over the past six years.

In an­other blow, Sears Canada Inc. — par­tially spun off from Sears Hold­ings in 2012 — went to court in June to seek pro­tec­tion from cred­i­tors.

Lead­ers at Sears’ flag­ship chain have also voiced concerns about its out­look this year.

The com­pany added so­called

go­ing-con­cern lan­guage to its an­nual re­port fil­ing in March, ac­knowl­edg­ing there was “sub­stan­tial doubt” about its fu­ture. The move sent the stock on its big­gest de­cline in more than two years.

Lam­pert, a hedge fund man­ager who serves as Sears’ largest in­vestor, has used his own money to help keep the busi­ness afloat.

Ear­lier this week, his in­vest­ment firm agreed to lend Sears an ad­di­tional $200 mil­lion.

Sears had said last year

it was seek­ing a buyer for its Ken­more name, along with the DieHard bat­tery and Crafts­man tool brands. It sold Crafts­man to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. this year for about $900 mil­lion, but the other two brands re­main part of Sears.

The Ken­more name first ap­peared on a sewing ma­chine in 1913, then ex­panded to wash­ing ma­chines in 1927. The lineup later grew to en­com­pass everything from mi­crowaves to the Lady Ken­more elec­tric shaver.

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