Sears chairman takes over marketing and merchandising duties

Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Eddie Lampert has demoted Sears CEO Alan Lacy, replacing him with former Kmart CEO Aylwin Lewis, while expanding his own role in day-to-day merchandising and marketing duties, reports.

The announcement, made by Lampert in a letter to shareholders, came as Sears reported sales plummeted 7.4% at stores open at least one year and Kmart reported comparable-store sales of just 0.3%.

Lewis’ appointment is effective Sept. 30; Lacy will continue to serve as vice chairman and director of Sears.

Analysts and industry watchers lambasted Lampert’s move to take a more active role in merging marketing at Sears and Kmart, saying the hedge-fund manager and financier, whose company ESL Investments orchestrated the Sears/Kmart merger, should stick to what he knows best, reports. In addition, some analysts warned that Lampert’s decision to take on a more day-to-day role in marketing and merchandising could rile the egos and even paralyze the top-ranking marketing brass at Sears, and could be an obstacle in attracting top marketing and merchandising talent from other retail operations. “Lampert is a smart guy, but what makes him think he is qualified to do this?” George Whalin of Retail Management Consultants of San Diego, reportedly asked. “I think this is about Lampert being a control freak. The competence of the retailers he’s competing against—Wal-Mart and Target—all have highly experienced people handling merchandising and marketing right now. This is clearly not for people who don’t know what they are doing.”

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