Bill Bortz, Resident Storyteller/Sr. Director Consumer Insights and Market Research at PlaceIQ

As of Friday the 12th of October, Sears Holdings finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, just before its Monday loan payments were due. 

This wasn’t exactly a surprise, as this might be the longest, and slowest of all retail declines, which amazingly spanned a significant chunk of my two-and-a-half decades in this industry.  

What may prove surprising is that in reality, Sears still has pockets where they’re relevant and comparatively well visited. And up until those stores actually close, their customers will likely be spending some of that coveted holiday share-of-wallet with Sears, and not you.    



I can hear the share-savvy retailers asking:  Where did Sears still matter, and how do I find some of those up-for-grabs shoppers?” I asked myself that question too. By taking a look at the PlaceIQ analytics dashboard, I was able to easily uncover Sears top markets as measured by strong visit share.     

What metrics do I usually look at to zero in on attractive visitation opportunities? Visits per-store is a great velocity measure. In visitation data, visits-per-store is an equalizer. It’s a way to balance few vs. many locations to see how they matter independently. If we stick with Erie, we see that over the past quarter or so, Sears is still strong on visits-per-store vs. the rest of the retailers – it even takes the top spot on several occasions. This means there is still conquesting opportunity in this market – a chance to inform a consumer of a nearby alternative.

Next, we’ll want to look where Sears visitors are going (in addition to Sears), and then look at if those retailers’ visitors are still patronizing Sears.

This chart shows the percentage of shoppers that continue to shop in both places, and at what rate. I specifically looked at each one of the competitive stores in the Erie, PA market. You’ll see that Walmart has a low percentage of cross-shoppers still shopping at Sears. This means that Walmart has taken most of their opportunity already. Only two percent or so of their shoppers still go to Sears.


However, in this market, the remaining Sears visitors are still up for grabs as they cross-shop between the remaining set of

competitive retailers. A few retailers (see above) have the opportunity to pick up the share of wallet from Sears.


I hear you saying “Great to know, but how do we actually conquest them?” I find that campaigns of this nature that target audiences that “live-by, work-by, and drive-by” those newly-vacant locations, and welcoming them with promotions in similar categories where Sears was once dominant are the most effective in the ‘ailing store’ scenario.


Retail, like nature, abhors a void.

In summary, here’s how to capitalize:

  • Quickly find markets where the brand still has a loyal following
  • Level the playing field using a visitation velocity measure to see how things are really going
  • Look at cross-shopping to see where there is opportunity for your retail brands
  • Target the right audiences efficiently 

If you have specific questions, I’m always available via our team here at