Whether U.S. shoppers are still looking for the softer side of Sears may be debatable, but there's one line of merchandise consumers will no longer find at the department store: Whirlpool appliances.
The department store is ending a business relationship that dates make more than 100 years. In a note sent to its stores last week, Sears said that Whirlpool (WHR) was making demands that would've made it difficult to sell its appliances at a competitive price.
Sears (SHLD) has been ravaged by new competition for years, however, from stores like Home Depot and also from Amazon.com and other online retailers. The department store's sales have continued to plummet, with second-quarter sales declining 11.5 percent at stores open at least a year. The chain is restructuring its operations and shedding underperforming stores, but the loss of a major draw like Whirlpool may add to its challenges in drawing shoppers through its doors.
The end to the partnership is effective immediately and includes the larger appliances and small kitchen appliances of Whirlpool subsidiaries like Maytag, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air.
Sears said that it would sell off the remainder of its Whirlpool inventory. Its stores will now only sell its Kenmore products and other brands like LG, Samsung, GE, Frigidaire, Electrolux and Bosch. Sears recently struck a deal with Amazon to sell smart Kenmore appliances.
Fifteen years ago, Sears sold about four out of every 10 appliances in the U.S., although its market share has declined since then, according to The Wall Street Journal.