Sears looks to boost Kenmore and Craftsman brands with new hire

Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:01pm EDT
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By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O: Quote) named a former Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N: Quote) executive to a new position as president of "hardlines" as the struggling retailer tries to stem the declining market positions of the Kenmore, Diehard and Craftsman brands.

The new executive, Lynn Pendergrass, previously held senior positions at Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N: Quote) and General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote), Sears said in a statement on Monday.

Pendergrass will focus on boosting sales of the three brands while working with the appliances, lawn and garden, tools and auto center units. She will report to Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert, a spokesman said.

Given her background promoting big global brands, the Pendergrass appointment could signal that Sears wants to look at expanding sales of Kenmore, Diehard and Craftsman products outside its own stores, an investor in the retailer said.

"She could help them open up new channels where it makes sense as they reduce their physical footprint," said Don Ingham, a portfolio manager at Tenth Avenue Holdings.

As worldwide chairman of consumer at Johnson & Johnson for parts of 2013 and 2014, Pendergrass managed a number of iconic brands including Listerine and Tylenol, according to her LinkedIn profile.

The Kenmore, Craftsman and Diehard brands are among the company's most prized assets. As of the end of January, Sears listed the value of trade names and other intangible assets on its balance sheet at $2.1 billion.

Sears sells Kenmore products only in Sears, Kmart and Sears Hometown & Outlet stores. It has taken steps to sell the other two brands outside the group, with Craftsman tools available at Ace Hardware, Costco Wholesale Corp, and Blaine's Farm & Fleet stores, and Diehard batteries sold through Blaine's and the Meijer chain.   Continued...

Customers walk into a Sears store at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, January 7, 2010.   REUTERS/Larry Downing