That’s what the companies say – IT analysts have a more pessimistic view…
Kmart Holding Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. claimed that the planned merger they announced last week will broaden their U.S. retail presence and make their procurement, marketing, IT and supply chain management operations more efficient.
But the marriage could require a daunting amount of IT work, depending on the degree to which the retailers decide to go to common systems, said several retail technology analysts.
One key part of the strategic plan, for instance, calls for many of Kmart’s retail locations to be converted to Sears stores as the latter operation tries to branch out from its base in shopping malls.
Sears previously agreed to buy 50 stores from Kmart, and Sears CEO Alan Lacy, who will be vice-chairman and CEO of the new Sears Holdings Corp., said this week that “several hundred” Kmart stores could be switched over altogether.
But the conversion could require “dramatic” IT changes, said Stephen Smith, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “We could find that they’re more compatible than is often the case (with retailers), but there is a big risk that this will be far more challenging than they’re promoting today,” he said.
Not surprisingly, the two companies have accumulated plenty of different systems. At the store level, Kmart in 2001 announced that it was buying IBM Corp. SurePOS 700 cash registers running the vendor’s point-of-sale operating system.
Earlier this year, Sears said it planned to install newer SurePOS machines running 360Commerce Inc.’s POS software on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP Embedded operating system.