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Marianne Paskowski



‘Sears Has Everything’—and Now Comcast Cable

November 24, 2008 10:50 AM

Sears can thank me later for creating its new ad jingle. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, announced it is teaming with the retailer to promote the MSO’s digital video, cable modem and cable phone services in 400 Sears stores around the country.

Sears Television Department

What incredibly odd bedfellows they make. Comcast will train Sears’ employees to sell its bundled triple-play offering. Also in 100 of those stores, Comcast will have interactive HDTV display units set up.

I’m assuming Comcast is setting up in Sears’ consumer electronic departments, next to television sets and other gizmos.

But who on this planet would ever buy a TV set at Sears? Sure, I would buy a Craftsman screwdriver set there, if I were inclined to buy that kind of thing. But a TV set, let alone a cable package of services?

Wouldn’t it have been smarter for Comcast to team up with Best Buy, where people actually buy consumer electronic products?

I don’t like anything about this idea. New customers, and only new customers, who sign up for Comcast at Sears get a $100 mail-in rebate coupon for one product purchase, like a cable modem, or a $250 rebate for the triple bundled package.

So once again, Comcast is ignoring existing customers by not offering them the same rebate.

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Comments (22)

David Cohen:

The good news for me: Sears is a two-minute drive from my apartment. The bad news: I can't replace Cablevision with Comcast. :(

Marianne Paskowski:

David,

I always liked Cablevision when I lived in Westchester County.

I have a friend back there who had Cablevision, switched to Verizon's FiOS, which she hates, and is now considering going back to Cablevision.

I told her to call Verizon to let them know she didn't like the service. Bet you a sawbuck that they will offer her some incentive to stay.

That's what I hate about cable operators. It's great to be a "prospect," it blows to be a "customer."

m

Andy S.:

"But who on this planet would ever buy a TV set at Sears?"

Perhaps that's why a partnership like this works better for Sears than it might for Best Buy, who, at least in theory, is already selling plenty of TVs. Sears probably offered much better terms for this tie-in because they see more potential upside sales.

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
Sears probably got the better end of the deal here, no doubt.

Can you imagine Comcast trying to broker such a deal with Walmart?

The giant box store would take Comcast to the cleaners, enforcing its distribution terms on the MSO.

Just heard on CNBC, BTW, that Best Buy, Wall Mart, and yes, Sears (who knew) where in an aggressive marketing war, discounting certain TV sets to bring in foot traffic for the holidays, m

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

Just more evidence of Sears's decline, which began when it stopped selling guns, motorcycles, and even cars. I'll bet the fuddy-duddies who shop there now really dig buying a "triple play" from salespeople trained in the hardware or "softer side of Sears" departments. They can bundle Comcast with a new set of rabbit ears. Of course their TVs are digital. The channels are numbered, dummy!

Cruisin not bruisin

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

My first question is about the deals the real electronic retail biggies already have with rival MSOs, precluding Comcast from getting on the shelves at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, the ailing Circuit City, etc.

The next question is about the quality of customer support Sears will provide to cable customers, sans geek salespeople who know the product landscape.

But Sears? Sounds like the default choice for the World War II generation.

Jeff

Marianne Paskowski:

Cruiser,
Let me make myself clear here: I am not dumping on Sears or its customers.

My target is Comcast. I can't imagine a more unpleasant shopping experience, even if I were a new cable customer.

Let's say Comcast gets this move in play by Christmas, a time when retailers like Sears hires seasonal employees.

How well educated can they possibly be about selling a triple play bundle, making arrangements for installation, etc. Let alone the digital transition?

Comcast is not being very careful with its brand here. I would not trust my brand with second party suppliers, especially companies like Sears. This is not their core area of expertise.

Good to hear from you, long time no talk, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Jeff,

Good point, I vaguely remember the days when you could, maybe still can, buy DirecTV at consumer electronics stores.

Maybe those deals prevent Comcast from going there, not sure.

The more troubling issue to Comcast is will the brand be tarnished with quickly trained salespeople selling the bundle?

Potential for a bungle, I think, m

Poindexter:

Miss Marianne,

Millions of us consumers who aren't geeks, don't need the flashiest technology, and don't care about features but rather satisfactory results love Sears. My family has shopped from Sears since its first catalog made it into the farm's outhouse. And we still do (though the outhouse is thankfully gone).

In the Sears store, we generally find knowledgeable salespeople, and the store stands by its merchandise. They really mean thing like that lifetime guarantee on Craftsman hand tools. Whether Comcast can train Sears people, and train customers through proper product design and on-air advertising is another question.

But keeping in mind all those stories I hear about Circuit City firing good salespeople (so good they can make a living wage, which makes them too expensive for the store to keep), or the big box retail competition that drives profit margins and employee quality south, I'll take Sears anytime.

Poindexter punts

Joe Guerin:

Ms. Paskowski,

Are you kidding? Sears is big and trusted. The whole TV firmament is going digital. Cable becomes the hottest consumer electronics ticket in town in December and beyond. To the masses, being told in the store that you can save money buying cable (and get lots more program goodies) rather than buying a new TV set is appealing. And hey, you wanna go HD? Might as well get cable, from the nation's biggest cable system, by the way.

Let Best Buy and Circuit City eat their transistorized hearts out.

Joe

Marianne Paskowski:

Poindexter,

Think you're living in the past about Sears. That retailer did quite well when there wasn't such oppressive competition from the big box boys.

Frankly, I think Sears is the next candidate for
bankruptcy, not that I want to see that. Have many fond memories of Sears as a kid, including the catalog.

But back to Comcast. Do you think this move will help Sears or even itself? I doubt it.

Thanks for your post, m

Marianne Paskowski:

Joe,

This is futile. Most people already have cable or satellite service so the digital transition is no big deal for them.

I just don't see Sears as a consumer electronics biggie. So, no, I don't get the venue for Comcast.

Maybe I'm wrong, but as Poindexter, above said, older people seem to go to Sears, not the next generation looking for something else.

Thanks for your post, m

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD:

Dear Ms. Paskowski:

The Comcast-Sears arrangement provides an excellent example of the types of problems we address at The Institute with our new Bundle Metrics Analytic Model designed for strategic simulations at the second-order differential level. It reveals relationship variables heretofore hidden from retailer's perceptions, not to mention their quantitative sales algorithms.

Comcast success in selling bundled cable services with new TV sets, for example, depends on the log linear estimation of mean distance between merchandising displays for the service, the front entrance of the store, and the restrooms.

ANOVA studies across North American and European sales venues repeatedly find R-squared values for this variable three times greater than the logarithmic regressions among other variables, such as the salesperson's ability to speak coherent native languages correlated to linear shelf space (expressed in angstroms). In a word, we call it the "pee to pay" index; the greater the mean distance to the loo, the less likely the sale. We have recommended that Comcast sell their service from stalls in the men's room, but we have yet to receive a response.

Doc Willy

Marianne Paskowski:

Doc,

Hmmm. Thanks for you fake-head take here, m

Skeptical Sam:

It's been proven time and time again that national retail agreements to sell cable television service in local markets confuses the consumer, especially in markets with multiple cable co's like Los Angeles. Comcast will no doubt reclaim their Circuit City displays which were never utilized and deploy them to Sears......

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Sam,
Had no idea Comcast tried this before at Circuit City, where the should have done better.

Why where their setups never utilized? Circuit City employee training programs, or what?Or just general confusion in LA that has many options.

Where I live we have one cable op, Comcast. Satellite penetration is about 20 percent, but not a great option on the spit of sand, Cape Cod, too many weather issues.

For me, I know Verizon will never come over the bridge with FiOS, we simply don't have the population density.

Thanks for your post and telling us about Circuit City, m

FYI:

I was in a Circuit City just outside of Boston about a month ago and they were selling DirecTV subscriptions there.

You had pondered if they still did that... those days still exist.

Marianne Paskowski:

Jupiter,
Circuit City, even in bankruptcy makes more sense than Sears, thanks for your post, m

Ralph:

The reality is that Sears is for the older folks. People over the age of 55 love Sears because back in the day, I mean way back in the day, pre-'80s, Sears was the main store around along with Montgomery Ward. So if you grew up in the 1950s, 60s and 70s then you are still likely to shop at Sears despite the numerous alternatives. The larger spending market does not look to Sears unless there's a hot day after Thanksgiving sale going on there.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Ralph,
Just got back from a holiday party where people were weighing the options of buying a flat screen from Cicruit City.

Could be dicey with the retailer in Chapter 11. But nobody was interested in hooking up to Comcast, via Sears. This party was held in Comcast territory where I live.

I think this is a marriage of an apple and an orange, the Comcast/Sears pairing.

Thanks for your post, m

stan ogen:

Hi Marianne...

In truth, many cable companies worked hand in glove with Sears when the cable industry was "young". It was a very successful arrangement
for both. You could even pay your cable bill on your Sears charge in some areas. So this is not a new "partnership" for either party. The question could be: why did this successful arrangement cease? Perhaps the multitude of services and options. Anyway it is not a new idea...then again what is?
By the way, even though I am not usually a "Sears shopper",I have shopped in their stores. While I don't know the actual demographics of their customers, I recall many younger consumers in the aisles. Perhaps no one told them they are shopping in an "old folks store". Have a healthy and happy New Year.

Marianne Paskowski:

Stan,
Thanks for your historical perspective, had no idea that MSO's old their services via Sears way back when.

As to your question, why did that relationship end, I guess the answer is today there are so many consumer electronic retailers that probably provide a better venue.

So my question is why did Comcast go back to Sears?

m

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