Early Xmas Cards From Sears, Kmart

Sears and Kmart are bringing back the Christmas Club card.
The retailers, owned by Sears Holdings, launched the money-saving program last year to boost consumer shopping during the holidays. Now, they’re touting the Christmas Club card once again via an effort that includes in-store, social media and online ads.
The program lets consumers accumulate money for holiday spending with as little as $5, $10 or $20, and the retailers will add an extra 3 percent towards the amount accumulated on the card (up to $100) by Nov. 15. Consumers may open up a new Christmas Club card online or in-store and the funds can be used to pay off layaway, in-store or online purchases.
Although the focus is still on value, retailers will be closely watching their ability to get consumers to trade up and splurge as the economy continues to improve. A survey conducted by Kelton Research on behalf of Sears and Kmart found that 60 percent of Americans have tucked away money in a savings account to pay for big spending occasions, such as the holidays. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they’ll take advantage of rewards and savings programs, and even coupons — more so than they did last year.
Recognizing the trend, Sears and Kmart have started pitching the Christmas Club card earlier this year. (Last year’s program kicked off mid-August.) “We want people to understand you don’t have to put all your money away now,” said Susan Ehrlich, Sears Holdings’ financial services president. The goal is to “focus on [contributing] a little bit each week and over time, it can add up to a lot,” she said.
In addition to touting the program on Facebook and Twitter, Sears and Kmart are getting the word out via their own social networking sites. The cards are available in store now and the retailers will include them in circular advertisements.
Last year’s program drew “millions of shoppers,” and resulted in “tens of millions of dollars in savings,” Ehrlich said. Consumer electronics (TVs in particular), toys and children’s apparel were among the top Christmas Club card purchases in 2009. Both retailers expect the same this year.
Ehrlich declined to speculate on what the holiday shopping season will look like for retailers, but said value is always a smart way to go.