Approximately 7,000 online retailers list 65 million products for sale on Sears.com’s marketplace, but these merchants found themselves in the dark this week, wondering if the Sears marketplace was going to shut down and if they were going to get paid after Sears Holdings Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday.
Sears finally sent Sears Marketplace sellers an email Wednesday afternoon with more information, a copy of which Internet Retailer received. The memo led with the message that the “Sears Marketplace is business as usual” and that the bankruptcy filing will have “little impact to our current day-to-day operations.”
However, it was less clear on the status of payments due to sellers on orders processed prior to the Oct. 15 bankruptcy filing. “We are working to get more information on pre-petition payments and will send a communication to all sellers once we have that information,” the memo reads. It said payments related to orders placed after the filing would be paid according to normal terms.
For good or ill, active Sears marketplace sellers Internet Retailer contacted this week largely shrugged off any impact Sears’ bankruptcy may have on their business because they say few sales are coming to them through Sears.com these days. Of the top 10 online marketplaces in the United States, Sears was the only one to see the total value of goods sold through its marketplace decline in 2017, down an estimated 10%, according to Internet Retailer’s 2018 Online Marketplaces Report.
Marketplace sellers react
Jason Becker, CEO of BabyHaven.com, No. 514 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000, says his company sells online through 40 different sales channels. “[Sears is] such a small percentage of sales that it doesn’t matter to us,” he says, noting that Baby Haven gets one or two sales through Sears.com a day. Becker says he’ll delist his products from the marketplace.
Nathan Gordon, vice president of ChristmasCentral.com (No. 998), which is operated by Gordon Companies, says Sears.com accounts for 1.2% of its online sales. The wholesaler and e-retailer of holiday décor sells through numerous online marketplaces and sells wholesale direct to 15 major online retailers. Because the Sears risk is minimal to the business, Gordon says he’s taking a “let’s wait and see what happens” approach with Sears.
Electronics e-retailer Monoprice Inc. (No. 230) is taking a similar approach. “It’s really too early to tell what the bankruptcy really means for our operations,” says Jon Reynolds, marketplace director. “We plan to continue to actively sell on Sears Marketplace for the time being.”
Matthew Becker, owner of Beckertime LLC (No. 967), which sells pre-owned Rolex watches, has more concerns. The average ticket for a Rolex Beckertime sells is $4,000, and to have that type of payment tied up would be a problem. “It’s not like we’re selling $5 or $10 widgets, where not getting paid for five or 10 orders wouldn’t have much of an impact,” he says. “This can really disrupt our cash flow.”
Fortunately for Beckertime, which has almost 500 watches listed for sale on Sears.com, it’s not awaiting any payments from Sears on orders placed prior to the Oct. 15 filing. He says it typically takes two to three weeks from when an order is placed on Sears.com until Beckertime receives payment. Becker says his account manager at Sears did reach out to share what was transpiring at Sears and how business would be moving forward.
He says his account manager said Sears would be investing in marketing for the marketplace during the upcoming holiday season, which might mean a boost in sales for Beckertime. Becker thinks consumers may associate Sears’ bankruptcy as a deal-hunting opportunity for holiday shopping. “Even though Sears doesn’t own our inventory and isn’t liquidating it, that’s the association, and they might come shopping,” he says.
Beckertime has already received two new orders through Sears.com this week. At ChristmasCentral.com, Gordon says there’s been a slight uptick in orders through Sears since the filing, so there may be something in that deal-hunting association. Becker says he’ll be monitoring the situation. “Provided that Sears follows through with what they’re saying and we get paid as normal, we are OK. That’s the reason we haven’t pulled down any listings.”
Sears is No. 24 in the Top 1000.