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Sears vs Target: Which store operates the best connected-home showroom?

Christopher Null | July 23, 2015
The connected home isn't just a dream for consumers, it's also a bonanza for retailers who stand to cash in big on shoppers looking to upgrade their home life with a few well-chosen gadgets. But connected-home devices are quite a new and emerging market, and confusion is rampant when it comes to products such as smart light bulbs and cloud-connected thermostats.

All the while, it's hard to forget you're in Sears, not something like, say, an Apple Store. Just about everything in the Connected Showroom is for sale, right down to the furniture. In fact, very few shoppers ventured into the space during my time there--most were seemingly drawn to the large wall of televisions just outside the showroom space--and the few who did seemed more interested in the dumber gear than anything else. A couple considered the refrigerator in the Connected Showroom kitchen for quite a while before wandering off, claiming it was too expensive.

The Connected Showroom has its own dedicated salespeople, and I was attended to quite capably by Lenny, a gregarious young man with a solid understanding of the devices on the floor. The showroom sprawls over an exhaustive amount of space, so even a "quick" tour to see all the devices will take you the better part of an hour. Lenny had a lot of favorites to share, and was able to talk in depth about the pros and cons of various devices.

One thing that he was careful to elaborate on was the fact that many of the devices on display required additional hardware to work, namely a smart hub that connected to your router. Ultimately I was completely confident that the sales staff would never have let me out the door without everything I needed to get my purchased gear up and running.

If you're not confident in your abilities, Sears does offer installation services, ranging from $120 for installing a smart thermostat to $330 for installing a hub plus 15 items (such as light bulbs and security sensors). Those rates seem a little pricey, as do Sears' prices in general. I only noticed one item that was on sale, a security camera at $20 off.

The name "Connected Showroom" really only describes half of the agenda, as the space is really built as a merchandising center, with boxes and boxes of products stacked on shelves and hanging on displays, all designed to encourage you to pick up the product and take it to the checkout counter. That said, the space is likely to be overwhelming to someone who isn't at least somewhat familiar with he's getting into.

Target Open House

Just as Sears and Target are radically different stores, so are their approaches to selling connected-home gear.

On the day I visited the Target Open House, located in downtown San Francisco in the Metreon center, it had only been open for eight days. You wouldn't have known it. Everything was operating smoothly and efficiently, and the red-shirted sales staff seemed completely confident in discussing the finer points of the various gadgets on display.


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