August 25, 2015 / 2:03 AM / 4 years ago

Sears looks to boost Kenmore and Craftsman brands with new hire

(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp SHLD.O named a former Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) 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.

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

The new executive, Lynn Pendergrass, previously held senior positions at Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) and General Electric Co (GE.N), 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.

Its market share has been slipping. The Craftsman brand accounted for 29.9 percent of U.S. sales of hand tools in the April-June quarter, down from 32.7 percent four years earlier, while Craftsman’s share of power tools dropped to 11.4 percent from 13.6 percent during the same period, revenue share data from the TraQline survey of consumers shows.

Diehard’s share of the auto battery market fell to 5.8 percent from 7.3 percent during the period, while Kenmore’s share of major appliances has fallen to 13.9 percent from 16.1 percent, the survey data shows.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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