Jay Manuel helps give Sears a makeover

The host of Canada's Next Top Model is the new creative director of Sears' Attitude brand, with a robust media plan expected to promote the retailer's new look.

Sears Canada is reaching out to the ‘daughters’ of the core Sears customer with a greater marketing focus on its fashion platform.

In its continued effort to shed its image as an appliance-and-bedding retailer, Sears this week announced that its private label collection Attitude will now be under the creative direction of Jay Manuel, who is best known for his sassy role on Tyra Banks’s US and Canadian Top Model series.

Manuel, a Toronto native, has a connection with the fashion industry that might help Sears garner an image as a low-price trend shop. The celeb is putting his own social media push behind the line on his Twitter page and website, as he hypes his fans for the line’s debut at LG Fashion week in Toronto on March 30.

‘Our key marketing objective is to get new customers at Sears. We’re very much focused on young families; mid- and high income,’ says Mark Malinowski, divisional VP brand strategy, advertising and creative.

This means shifting more dollars into online media for 2011 and a heavy magazine buy in order to build awareness about its new department, the Modern Shop. Rolling out into 43 stores across Canada, the Modern Shop will feature the private brands Attitude, Jay Manuel and Nevada, but also national brands like Buffalo, Guess and Kenzie. Creative for Sears is developed by BBDO while media buying is handled by MEC.

‘We’ll be using traditional media, such as TV and outdoor, and radio will play a key role in our promotions,’ says Malinowski of an upcoming spring fashion campaign.

While the Modern Shop will target the fashion-conscious in magazines like Fashion and Flare, a repositioning of the older-skewing Jessica line as more of a fashion brand means the threads are being advertised for the first time to new consumers in magazines like Chatelaine and Canadian Living.

While the Manuel line, which includes clothing as well as shoes and accessories, will not roll out until August, the debut at LG Fashion Week is meant to gain credibility through third-party media organizations, and show that Sears is serious about its new fashion image.

But the platinum-haired Manuel is also expected to have a direct impact on sales. His commitment to making in-store appearances should increase traffic into the stores, says Cynthia Florek, brand and trends director at Sears Canada.

‘Sears is one of the places that his mom used to take him, so he has an emotional attachment to the company; he grew up with it. And [similarly], what happens is, a lot of kids perhaps started at Sears, they left to start a family, and they come back,’ Florek says.

This type of connection with the store is what also might set Sears apart in the competitive retail industry, which is expected to get even more crowded as US-based Target announced its Canadian expansion earlier this year.

People often say that when they were growing up, the Sears catalogue is the only fashion magazine they got in their home town, says Florek.

‘I think that’s the one of the advantages we have – that reach across Canada to different segments that perhaps a boutique or a specialty shop couldn’t,’ she says.

The old look: A Sears catalogue page from the ’80s.