Sears unveils revamped logo

Developed in-house, it is part of the company's ongoing 'strategic reinvention'

Chris Powell August 24, 2016

Sears Canada Inc. (CNW Group/Sears Canada Inc.)

Sears Canada has introduced a new corporate logo as part of its ongoing “strategic reinvention,” which includes both a revamped in-store and online shopping experience.

It is the first significant logo update in 32 years for the struggling mass-market retailer, and just the fourth major design change in the company’s 63-year history in Canada.

The logo is also historically significant, dropping the blue that has been a staple colour for Sears Canada since its 1953 debut. It is the first time in company history the Canadian logo is wholly distinct from that of its U.S. counterpart.

“The real purpose of [the new] logo is to demonstrate to the public that we are reinventing Sears,” said the company’s vice-president of corporate communications Vincent Power. “We wanted a logo that was a total departure from the past – not alienating anyone, but also saying that there’s a new Sears coming.”

Designed in-house with input from brand consultants, the revamped logo has jettisoned both what Power described as the “race track” design (the white line running through the letters) and the italics that have been fixtures of the company’s nameplate since 1984.

The new logo’s airy sans-serif font is intended to portray what the company described as a “redefined modern era” for the brand. It also features a prominent outline of a maple leaf – present in the Sears Canada logo in various forms since 1996 – beside the company name.

Sears cover 2Power said the maple leaf in the logo has historically played an integral part in distinguishing Sears Canada from its U.S. counterpart, particularly in border cities where Canadians are frequently exposed to U.S. marketing.

Power said the logo is intended to be clean, approachable and, most importantly, timeless. “Our past logos have been right for the time, but they weren’t a way to say we were really going after new,” he said.

Michael Richardson, partner, creative with Toronto design firm Jacknife Design, describes the logo as “milquetoast,” neither exciting nor offensive. “[I] wish it stood for something, somehow evoked something other than clean, modern, simple,” he said via email. “It could use some personality.”

However, Richardson said it was difficult to gauge its success without seeing the entire visual identity, and he’s unsure about why the maple leaf is included. “It seems to be an add-on that could have been integrated more effectively,” he said.

The new nameplate will be formally unveiled at two revamped “Sears 2.0” stores in Ontario: The Promenade Mall store in Thornhill and the Mapleview Centre store in Burlington. Opening in September and November, respectively, Sears said the new stores would be uncluttered and boast a “customer-focused” product assortment.

Sears Canada is also promising “significant” ecommerce enhancements and the introduction of new brand name fashion lines as it looks to reverse several years of declining sales. In its first quarter results in June, the company reported a 7.4% decline in same store sales and a 14.5% decline in revenues to $595.9 million.

The new logo will be rolled out in Alberta and Ontario during ongoing store renovation projects and pilot testing of the company’s new ecommerce site. It will roll out nationally in conjunction with the revamped Sears.ca as well as on newly redesigned shopping bags, catalogues and store flyers.

It is also prominently displayed on Sears’ pared down catalogue, debuting Sept. 1. The 196-page book is divided into two halves — fashion and home — each featuring its own distinct cover (which Power said is a departure from previous catalogues).

“They’ve been bigger books, but it’s been more clutter and more than the customer wants,” he said. “Curation is a big word in our merchandising philosophy, to make it easier for customers who are time-starved. We want to give them great quality at a great price, but curate it for them to make it a bit easier.”

Sears cover 1Sears is one of several old-school retailers that has seen its business disrupted by challengers like Walmart and online entities like Amazon in recent years. Power said the company was attempting to re-connect with young mothers as its core customer, while recognizing that the group is more time-starved then before.

While young mothers have traditionally comprised the company’s core customer, that segment has aged to the point where a large portion of Sears’ customer base is now 48 and over.

“We don’t want to alienate those customers, but we’re now saying ‘What about the 30 to 35-year-old mother who has got growing kids at home?’” said Powers. “She’s thinking differently about the shopping experience.”

Alan Middleton, assistant professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, described the new logo as “simple, straightforward [and] strong,” and gives the company high marks for its reinvention efforts, which include extensive marketing around the key back-to-school period.

“[It’s] all good stuff, but they are coming from a long way behind with ever-strong competition from The Bay, Walmart and most importantly omni-retailers like Amazon and Alibaba,” said Middleton.

Middleton said the key factors in the brand turnaround would be the quality of its online customer experience, its ability to expand its new store concepts and how well it manages the closure of low-performing stores to enable investment into growth areas.

“They must develop a new Sears, not just evolve from the old Sears,” said Middleton. “The new logo and activity is a start, but they really need to leap ahead in the online ordering and delivery logistics and customer experience to survive and thrive.”