Sears sees its appliance business slump

The company used to be the clear choice for Americans looking for washing machines and refrigerators. Now it's losing market share to Home Depot, Lowe's and others.

By Kim Peterson Aug 23, 2013 3:56PM
Sears store on in Milford, Connecticut Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesSo you need a new refrigerator. What's your first stop?

For many Americans, the answer to that question is no longer Sears (SHLD). The company is losing its status as the best place to go for appliances after essentially inventing the business during World War I, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A slide in home appliance sales stuck out like a sore thumb in Sears' quarterly earnings report Thursday. Overall sales fell 6.3%, and the weak appliance category was key to that.

Sears still leads when it comes to appliance sales, with a 29% market share, The Journal reports. Lowe's (LOW) comes in second with 19% and Home Depot (HD) has 12%.

But Sears' dominance is fading. In 2002, Sears' market share was a powerful 40%, while Lowe's and Home Depot were at 10% and 4%, respectively.

Part of the reason Sears is losing market share is because Lowe's, Home Depot and even Best Buy (BBY) have made huge strides in the home appliance business.

But another problem is one of Sears' own making, and has everything to do with its relationship with Whirlpool. Sears took a stake in Whirlpool in 1921 and partnered with the company for decades on appliances that consumers trusted. Whirlpool made many of the appliances that Sears sold under its Kenmore brand, The Journal reports.

But in 2009, Sears switched to LG Electronics and Samsung to make some Kenmore products, leaving Whirlpool a bit steamed.

Now, Whirlpool is the top-selling appliance brand in the U.S., The Journal reports, followed by General Electric (GE). Kenmore comes in third.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 23, 2013 6:45PM
Two years ago I bought a Kenmore refrigerator.  Because I had been told they didn't last like they used to, I bought an extended warranty for more than $400.  Sure enough, in six months the icemaker failed and dumped ice all over the kitchen.  Called for repair.  Given a date exactly two weeks later.  Two weeks, repairman came.  Walked in, looked, and said:  "They're all doing that, I'll order a new icemaker."  Two weeks later, got the icemaker.  (Why did it take so long?)  Two months later the refrigerator quit working-all lights out and not cooling.  Called for repairs.  The date was  exactly two weeks away.  The refrigerator was full of food along with the freezer.  Insisted that was the earliest possible even in an emergency.  I called a local appliance store and repairs were completed in one hour.  Fifteen years ago almost everything in my house was Kenmore or other furniture and items bought as Sears.  I'm 75 and doubt I need a lot more household items or tools, but you can rest assured that I will never own anything else sold at, by, or through, Sears.  
Aug 23, 2013 4:49PM
Sears was a top retailer when it had top products. Back in the day Kenmore meant something, they turned to garbage brands to make a few bucks off of their loyal customers. Now their loyal customers are going to the better products
Aug 23, 2013 5:06PM
Its all about customer service. Its been going down hill for a long time. There extended warranty prices  have skyrocketed so far out of contention against there competitors it is outrageous. There tools and other products used to be top notch and now are junk and they want top dollar for the junk.  Consumers have caught on to there crap and are fed up.  Its all called corporate greed.
Aug 23, 2013 5:27PM
Sears and JC Pennys and Montgomery Wards were all great stores when I was a kid and I actually know people who retired from there, draw a pension, and buy everything kenmore, craftsman, etc...just like a GM worker would by Chevy.   These companys started declining in the 80's, when the big catalogs started getting smaller,  by the 90's not much left and no catalog at all and now just a bunch of Junk....Haven't seen a Montgomery Wards in years, they went out of business in my state....I often tell my kids stories of how you could go to the mall and actually buy good quality hunting and fishing supplies at Montgomery Wards and JC Pennys and I get this crazy look, it was nothing to see someone carrying a case of Pennys shotgun shells through the mall (try that today and go to jail)in the 70's....all three had car care centers in my area, and quality made in America products that they stood behind....go to Sears and take a Craftsmans tool back now and see how much hassle they give you when you try to exchange it....I just herd last week that the last Sears in the area is about to fold....why, go in there and they have nothing to sell you...nothing on the shelf to see or look at before you buy it...they want to ship it to the end these companys cut their own throat and their loss of business was buy their own hand....Kmart (sears owned) who now sells Kenmore and Craftsmans products has a better selection of Sears Merchandise than Sears does, how sad......
Aug 23, 2013 5:29PM
the economy sucks  BUT  that's not what is killing sears.  sears is killing its self with poor quality, horrible sales people that don't know what there selling, there customer service is probably the worst in the retail sales industry, and there automotive repair section way below industry standards, they were the place to get major appliances but not any more, there tools were the best but not any more, I spent over 65k with sears in a 15 year period  BUT NOT ANY MORE!!   
Aug 23, 2013 6:08PM
Have you tried buying an appliance at Sears lately?  You have to hunt down a sales person to help you. There's no one on the floor! And one finaly shows up they get bombarded. I had to wait 30 minutes to get help and then the time it takes them to ring you up takes just as long. I witnessed many people just give up and leave.   
Aug 23, 2013 6:44PM
There was a time when I trusted Kenmore appliances more than any other brand...NO MORE !!!
Aug 23, 2013 6:07PM

They have the worst management in the industry.

They need someone who knows retail to run the place.

Aug 23, 2013 7:01PM
Customer service is horrible. They hire kids fresh out of high school, who frankly don't care as long as they have a paycheck. My Aunt went in to buy a stove and stood next to the model she was interested in for a half hour and eight employee's walked by and didn't say boo. She left researched it online, and found another retailer who'd answer her questions, and take her money!
Aug 23, 2013 7:09PM
I try to go in Sears first when Im buying something, they are in my heart I guess, because of when i was a kid....but now the sale people are morons, they don't have what you need in stock and the service sucks, wish they would get it together, I also wish Penneys would get it together too.
Aug 23, 2013 7:42PM
At the beginning of the month I ordered appliance off their website for 18 months free financing.  Purchased three appliances.  Noticed that the ordered had my old number so I called since delivery is supposed to be on 8/28 when I have the day off. On 8-2 the same day of the order they cancelled my order, but they still charged my credit card for the full amount and never emailed me to say it was cancelled. The reason they said was because the dishwasher wasn't in stock.  Went on their website it said it was in stock in my area.  This morning on the telephone it wasn't in stock.  Now I am stuck with $2000.00 bill and it could take 60 days to refund it to my credit card. And I still have no appliances and can't get anywhere with customer service. I would have went to the store but you can never find a single sales person to help or they have no idea what they are talking about,  Then Sears wonders why it is failing as a company.
Aug 23, 2013 5:54PM
Now all they sell is CRAP . My parents fridge 13 months old quit working they paid 900 bucks for it . My 2 vacuums in every year 5 plus times and they wonder why BTW both are Kenmore brand.  You can get the other name brands cheaper elsewhere for free delivery to boot .
Aug 23, 2013 7:03PM
The stores are old and dilapidated they smell like a mortuary. The staff has no idea what the stores are selling, The staff can't speak english, sears management doesn't care about customers, its the most disgusting place to shop. Sears and JC penny's needs a major overhaul I foresee them gone by 2015. Are sears has not been updated sence 1950's
Aug 23, 2013 7:13PM
They don't care.  They sucked all the profit off of Kmart and Sears they could for years....They have the most miserable re-investment percentage in the retail industry.  The reason their employees don't care is because they are treated like dirt and management could care less about their business.  The only thing they care about is draining down the profits until they go bust. 
Aug 23, 2013 5:27PM
Sears became a place were mechanic will charge top dollars for repairs and never replace the parts, their products blowers and anything relate to landscape third class quality an then service in appliance very expensive, parts in the washing machine made of plastic rather than metal, I was a costumer for more than  twenty five years. I will never be back. COMPETITION BE AWERE YOUR NEXT!!!!!!.
Aug 23, 2013 5:00PM
It is a shame...Sears, Montgomery wards, and a number of other retail stores back way back, how the world by the gonads....but were so stupid in not whatever happens to these stores, other than the poor people who words there, management should be sent to jail for killing their companies.  Example:  look at Eastman Kodak...when I first move to Rochester, NY there were 60000+ employees just in the surrounding area, when I left last year...there was less than <4000.  Shouldn't some senior managers gone to jail?  we are to nice!!!
Aug 23, 2013 5:24PM

I used to buy all of my appliances at Sears because they had the best deals - free delivery, removal of old appliance and installation, and if you had good credit you could get 0 interest and no payments for 18 - 24 months.  It was nice when I remodeled my kitchen and replaced all my appliances.  That inspired me to replace my washer and dryer. 

Last time i checked they charged for delivery and had 0 interest with minimum payments for 6 months.  I guess I will have to shop around the next time I need an appliance. 

Aug 23, 2013 7:03PM

SEARS was once a grat place to shop ! what happened ?  first they trash their best customers

and started selling junk ! their tools craftman used to be best --but now its crapsman !

and they are soo mean to older people ! like K-MART---Sears is history and no one will miss

them when there gone !  gyy

Aug 23, 2013 6:23PM
I can understand why they are going belly up. Went to get two 39inch televisions that were priced at $359.00 and they wanted to add an extra 399 labor for delivery and installation per television. What the heck!! Plus I would have had to buy the wall brackets...Plus their store smelled like mildew and smoke...Will never buy from there...
Aug 23, 2013 6:38PM
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