The year 2008 started off on a sad note; on the 11th of January, Sears Canada lost a long time friend, Sir Edmund Hillary, who passed away following a life of significant personal and humanitarian achievements and with whom the Company held a special relationship since 1972. Not only was Sears the exclusive retailer of Hillary branded camping equipment for over 35 years, but the Company also was a significant supporter of the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation of Canada. Condolences were extended on behalf of all Sears associates by Dene Rogers to Sir Ed’s family.
From a business point of view, Sears experienced growth in several areas. The Company opened a full-line store at Eastgate Square in Hamilton, Ontario. Sales on www.sears.ca grew more than 18% in 2008 and the number of visitors increased to 63 million. In fact, the website received two prestigious awards from the industry: The Retail Council of Canada 2008 Excellence in Retailing Award for Best Online Retailer and The Canadian Marketing Association Silver award for the email newsletter, “What’s In Store for You?”
To do its part for the care of the environment, Sears established a three-pronged approach to sustainability: provide products and services that make it easy for Canadians to live a green and healthy lifestyle, reduce the environmental impact of the Company’s operations, and to nurture a culture of sustainability with associates, customers and the communities in which Sears does business. Sears was named ENERGY STAR® Retailer of the Year by Natural Resources Canada and was awarded the BC Hydro PowerSmart award for Outstanding Energy Efficiency Project. Sears also participated in World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour and sent out over 4 million reminders to its customers to turn off the lights on Saturday, March 29th.
2008 saw improved benefits of Sears Club membership, offering instant redemption of loyalty points at any retail store for a gift card to use immediately or give as a gift. Sears also became the first major retailer to offer personalized gift cards.
The year also saw Sears increase its breadth and depth of commitment to its Community Investment. The newly-rebranded ‘Sears In Your Community’ moniker reflected this dedication. Due to Canadians’ increased concern about health issues, and the Company’s longtime emphasis on helping children and youth, Sears undertook to support the cause of childhood cancer, in addition to its mandate to assist after-school programming. Sears sponsored the inaugural “Sears National Kids Cancer Ride”, a 7,600 kilometre cycling event from Vancouver to Halifax which raised $1.1 million for children’s cancer research and treatment programs.
The Company’s third year of “Operation Wish”, conducted in cooperation with the Military Family Resource Centres, was augmented with the creation of a series of large 4-foot by 8-foot banners containing the photographs of families of troops serving overseas. The banners toured many Sears stores where customers and associates signed the banners with their best wishes to the troops. The banners were then sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan where Canadians were serving and displayed at Canada House.
The fall of 2008 saw a major recession take hold of the worldwide economy, which affected consumer spending throughout the rest of the year including the Holiday season. This posed a major challenge to Sears and all retailers. Sears continued to fulfill its Vision of “improving the lives or our customers” in new and value-added ways. In response to the difficult economy, Sears launched a new program called “Budget Relief Price Drop” which gave customers exceptional value and stretched their budgets on key desirable items. This program proved popular with customers. A poll conducted in January, 2009 showed that more Canadians perceived Sears as having reduced its prices than eight of its major competitors.
Revenue of 2008 was $5.733 billion.
2009 was a challenging year marked by the deepening recession which took hold in 2008. The year began with Canadian employment reports showing the highest job losses since 1976 and the lowest consumer confidence index in almost three decades. Sears was prepared for the recession’s effect on sales and adjusted inventories accordingly.
During 2009, Sears reinvigorated its women’s apparel business to increase its relevance to Canadians seeking the latest fashion trends at affordable prices. In spring, “Liz & Co.” by Liz Claiborne was launched, bringing designer-inspired women’s fashions to Sears customers at wallet-friendly prices. In fall, our Attitude® for women and Distinction® for men private brands were re-launched, both attracting a younger-minded customer. Attitude was showcased at the prestigious Toronto LG Fashion Week and received media and industry accolades.
Our traditional cosmetics selling model was re-invented to incorporate new product categories, such as mass-prestige, and a more fulsome beauty product assortment including hair care accessories. As such, two pilot shops, featuring an increased emphasis on self-service, a growing customer trend, in Square One and Burlington were launched, called “Oasis”.
In 2008, Sears initiated plans to rapidly grow its Gift Registry business and by the end of 2009, Sears had full registry services in 107 of 122 department stores, featuring a wide spectrum of products and services, unequalled by any other Canadian store registry.
Our hardlines areas also strived for innovation in difficult times. Sears significantly increased its presence in custom furniture by offering Canadians a comprehensive range of customized home furnishings including more than 1,500 individual fabric and leather options and a broad range of furniture styles. For Major Appliances and Home Improvements, Sears was named the ENERGYSTAR® Retailer of the Year for the second consecutive year. Sears also took steps to introduce fashion into its appliance assortment with more than 400 new style/colour choices. Sears sustainability initiatives continued to roll out in 2009 with sales of eco-products increasing 45% in 2009, under the new ‘Live Green’ banner. Sears continued to expand its range of home improvement services to become an end-to-end provider, a one-stop shop. By the close of 2009, Home Services were offered in over 150 locations coast-to-coast. Sears also launched a new residential paint service in May offering help to Canadians for both interior and exterior projects.
Sears.ca continued improvements in navigation, search, checkout, speed and reliability functions, and grew its product offering by 76,000 skus giving it Canada’s largest online retail assortment.
Sears introduced a no-cost “Sears Travel Vacation Rewards” loyalty program to reward members with travel and vacation options worldwide.
Sears became one of three official sponsors of World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour event, and played an integral role in bringing this event to a wider national prominence in 2009. CEO Dene Rogers and WWF Chair Patricia Koval, with the help of WWF mascot Panda, unveiled the official Earth Hour clock used to countdown the time left until “lights out” on the evening of Saturday, March 28.
At the end of the fiscal year, in January 2010, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto opened the new Sears Cancer Clinic funded by donations from the Sears Canada Charitable Foundation. This open, bright, and interactive space provides more comfortable and functional outpatient space for children and parents from across Canada. In addition, the Sears Drama Festival, already established in Ontario for over 60 years, was launched in British Columbia and gave gifted young Canadian artists a chance to advance their performing, organizing and leadership skills. Sears also engaged with Scouts Canada and helped them raise awareness and funds for the Scoutrees program which helps plant over 200,000 trees in Canada each year.
Sears also had the pleasure of welcoming some special guests to some of its stores during the course of the year. Alex Tagliani, Canadian IndyCar Series Driver and 2009 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, sported the Craftsman brand on his car at some of his Canadian races and was in stores to sign autographs in the days leading up to the races. Also, Sears became title sponsor of Sears Stars on Ice presented by Samsung which toured across Canada in the spring. Customers and the general public were able to meet and obtain autographs from the likes of Kurt Browning, Jeffrey Buttle, Sasha Cohen, Jennifer Robinson, Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, Shawn Sawyer, Jessica Dubé, Bryce Davison and Joannie Rochette, who was to win the hearts of Canadians in major fashion months later in February of 2010.
Revenue for 2009 was $5.201 billion.