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Sears opens new high-tech home showroom as it goes all-in on connected homes

Michael Brown | July 2, 2015
The nationwide retailer is expanding its connected-home inventory online and in hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores.

"They'll be able to show a customer how a motion sensor can be programmed to trigger a light to turn on, for instance," Ciovacco said. "And if they sell the customer a router, they'll know how many devices that router will be able to support."

Installation services for devices such as in-wall light switches and thermostats will cost extra, but tech support will be included in the purchase price of any connected-home device Sears sells.

"We have an installation network offering for all connected products," Ciovacco said. "And our installation goes beyond just putting a thermostat on your wall, for example, it extends to connecting the thermostat to your network, downloading the apps to the customer's devices, and showing them how to program them. Our value proposition is tying all the products and services together."

The cost of installation will vary by location and is based in part on how far the customer's home is from the store. But Sears provided me with a recommended price list that looks reasonable if you really don't want to do it yourself.

Installing a smart door lock will cost $120, for instance. Installing a home-control hub plus three devices will set you back around $180, while a hub and 15 items will cost $330. Installing a smart light switch or power outlet costs $120, which is a little higher than what my local electrician charges, but his services don't include integrating the device into the rest of my connected-home system.

Ciovacco said the flagship store in San Bruno will be used for "training, instructional time, and new product launches. But we won't stop there. We'll have experts come in on Saturdays and conduct sessions on how to accomplish more niche projects."

The next step for Sears, according to Ciovacco, is to roll out smaller versions of its connected-home setups in 200 additional Sears stores across the United States over a three- to six-month period. Those displays will be more product focused, with about half the number of SKUs in stock, and they'll be staffed by the existing employees who sell other electronics devices, too. But buyers will get the same tech support and custom-installation options no matter how they shop.

This being 2015, Sears has also built out its online presence, so that consumers can buy its complete product line without needing to set foot in a brick-and-mortar location. 

The online store is organized into five segments: Simply Secure (smart locks, home security cameras, garage-door controllers, etc.), Simply Automated (lighting controls, thermostats, and the like), Simply Connected (routers, smart appliances, and even NAS boxes), Simply Entertaining (streaming boxes, smart TVs, remote controls, and so on), and Simply Fit (fitness trackers, Wi-Fi bathroom scales, and similar products). Online shoppers can also use a top-down view of a connected home to shop for products as if they were in one of Sears' Connected Solutions mini stores.

 

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