Sears said it planned to start selling its Kenmore-branded appliances on Amazon, giving the products their broadest distribution outside of the retailer’s stores. Sears is also launching a line of smart appliances that can be voice controlled with Amazon Alexa.
It’s a win for Sears, which has closed more than 200 stores this year amid declining foot traffic. Its shares jumped more than 15%.
But as Amazon extends into industries from social networks to grocery delivery, the deal with Sears is raising questions about the extent to which home-improvement stores can withstand competition from the ecommerce giant.
Home-improvement stores have largely weathered the downturn that has hit department stores which traditionally staked sales on store visits. They have also benefitted from strong demand for housing and rising prices, which can be lifted even more when renovations are done before listing.
That’s not to say that Home Depot is suddenly vulnerable; Oppenheimer described the share-price reaction as “overblown,” according to Bloomberg. Home Depot’s online sales rose 23% year-on-year in the first quarter. By fulfilling online orders from local stores, Home Depot is able to quicken its delivery times for web orders.
Home Depot and similar stores hold another key advantage over Amazon: some shoppers still prefer to physically inspect renovation supplies like paint, bathroom fixtures, and flooring instead of buying online.