Sears Chief Executive Eddie Lampert has finally figured out how to make money off his retail chain — and it has nothing to do with getting more fannies into stores.
The hedge fund mogul, who owns Sears and Kmart, is turning a profit in a little-known company offshoot that delivers and installs appliances for its store and a handful of rivals.
Innovel Solutions, which was called Sears Logistics until Lampert renamed it two years ago, is actually growing and doing something very strange for a Sears asset: It’s not losing money.
The 1,100-truck delivery service has signed up Costco as a customer — so when a shopper at the wholesale club orders a washer or refrigerator and has it delivered, a Sears Holdings-operated truck and driver drops it off, though the buyer doesn’t know it.
The driver and truck are simply labeled Innovel Solutions. The company’s website makes no mention of its Sears connection.
Sears has lost money for five straight years and has seen sales decline every year since 2006. Lampert, failing at running a retail chain, has tried to monetize parts of the company like its valuable real estate assets, its iconic Kenmore, Craftsman and Diehard brands — and now its 77-year-old delivery division.
“We are in a burning building right now, but we are good at delivering and installing stuff, which is a revenue opportunity,” Brandon Cates, an Innovel vice president, said at the D3 retail conference in Brooklyn on Thursday.
Innovel has seven customers including Costco, with another 15 in the pipeline, he said, and has grown 238 percent since 2014.
“No one who works at a Costco wants a Sears guy delivering their stuff to their customers, so we rebranded the company,” said Cates, a former counterterrorism consultant who joined Innovel 18 months ago.
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