Sears Begins to Send Out Questionnaires But Questions Surround Review

CHICAGO – Questionnaires for what will likely be the most closely-watched ad review this spring – Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s apparel – are going out to five or six likely suspects this week. But yet another management shake-up due within the next two weeks has some agency executives questioning whether the review will ever be completed.
Sources close to Sears say that around five agencies will be sent questionnaires from New York consulting firm Morgan, Anderson & Co., which is helping Sears conduct the review. Beside incumbent O&M, Chicago agencies Foote, Cone & Belding and DDB Needham are expected to receive questionnaires. Likewise, New York agency Young & Rubicam also is expected to receive one and sources say that one or two others may be on the list. None of the agencies would comment last week.
But as time slowly ticks away during what is expected to be a long and drawn out review, the better O&M’s chances already seem to be on retaining the business, which is estimated anywhere from $10-$20 million.
For one thing, retirement packages are said to be now sitting on the desks of a number of executives at Sears, including the one person who called the review – senior vp/marketing Matt Howard. Even while Howard considers whether to take the early retirement option remains to be seen. And if he doesn’t, an impending structural change at Sears may eliminate his post. Sears may consolidate its seven different divisions into three, according to published reports.
Upgrading the apparel end of Sears’ business appears to have the full support of new Merchanidise Group chairman Arthur Martinez, who, having come from fashion shop Saks Fifth Avenue, is busy overseeing the operational changes within the huge retailer. ‘(Martinez) has so much on his plate right now that I think a review is probably one of the furthest things from his mind,’ a source said.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)