Holiday Central

Sears is putting 'the whole store on sale' to avoid the Black Friday crunch

Key Points
  • Sears is promising discounts ranging from 10 to 50 percent at Sears stores, and 10 to 40 percent at Kmart.
  • Sears says it wants to get a jump on the 2017 holiday season to help customers avoid a "Black Friday crunch."
  • Just last week, Sears announced the return of its holiday catalog, while Kmart will bring back Bluelight Specials.
Sears is putting 'the whole store on sale' to avoid the Black Friday crunch

Everything at Sears and Kmart stores is going on sale ahead of the holidays. Everything.

The troubled department store chain on Wednesday kicked off a promotional event that promises "first-of-their-kind" discounts ranging from 10 to 50 percent at Sears stores, and 10 to 40 percent at Kmart.

Appliances at Sears will be as much as 40 percent off, one flyer reviewed by CNBC shows. Tools, recliners and work boots made by DieHard are being marked down up to 50 percent. And family outerwear at Kmart will see markdowns around 40 percent.

This season will be crucial for Sears, which has been struggling with some of its vendors to keep merchandise in stock. Just last month, the company tapped CEO Eddie Lampert's hedge fund three times for additional financing. During its latest quarter, Sears posted a double-digit decline in same-store sales, a metric closely watched by Wall Street.

The deals will run through the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Sears said it wanted to get a jump on the season to help customers avoid a "Black Friday crunch."

"We will have deals in every nook and cranny of the store," Kelly Cook, chief marketing officer of Sears and Kmart, told CNBC.

"Our shoppers said they wanted four things for the holidays," Cook said. That consisted of: extra time, added customer service, more freebies, and "the whole store on sale."

In addition to the steep discounts at stores through the season, Sears will offer shoppers curbside pickup, free Sears "cash" in Shop Your Way points to spend on items, the return of the iconic Sears catalog, and Kmart's Bluelight Specials.

Cook described the new strategy as the biggest holiday push Sears has ever done.

In years past, promotions at Sears and Kmart stores have been more sporadic throughout November and December. But Cook and her team said they were finding "the holiday shopping period is growing beyond Black Friday, seeping into the beginning parts of November."

When asked about the retailer's margins being hurt by more promotions, Cook said Sears tested a similar "blowout" event at a select Kmart store earlier this summer, to monitor the economics of the idea.

Results showed Kmart shoppers were buying more during the month, and coming in more frequently, she said. "It was viable economically."

As October came to an end, America's department stores were already under fire for their holiday strategies. This year, Amazon's encroaching retail presence is on the minds of many. In turn, each retailer has its own way of trying to win sales.

Kohl's, for example, has signed a deal with Amazon to sell some of Amazon's tech products and accept Amazon returns in a handful of Kohl's stores, heading into the holidays.

Nordstrom, which has fared better on the stock market than all of its peers this year except for Kohl's, is betting bigger on its off-price Rack division and testing a smaller store format without inventory.

Stocks of retail rivals Macy's and J.C. Penney were downgraded by Citi on Monday, to sell from neutral ratings. Citi analyst Paul Lejuez is calling for "another promotional holiday season" ahead for the already-challenged department store industry.