- The long, successful relationship between Sears and Whirlpool has come to an end, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The split comes at a time of struggle for Sears, as it battles to retain suppliers and customers amid a sinking retail market.
- The split allegedly occurred as a result of shrinking floor space allotted to Whirlpool as well as certain pricing demands made by the appliance builder. Sears will continue to offer its Kenmore brand, which is produced in part by Whirlpool.
- Recently, Whirlpool has specifically complained that rivals LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. are selling their machines below cost, gaining unfair market share.
The loss of Whirlpool could hasten Sears' fall, but its remaining brands may carry it through.
Sears has faced nearly nonstop pressure from suppliers since releasing its doom-filled annual report last March. Demands for upfront payments, harsh and more stringent terms for repayment, and vendors taking advantage of the company's struggling condition to press for better deals have all plagued the longtime retailer.
Now the bond between the first automatic washer maker and Sears has ended. It's tough to define it as an absolute break, however, considering that Whirlpool still manufactures the retailer's house brand washers: Kenmore. Because the two machines have often barely diverged except for branding, the loss seems less significant. What is notable, however, is Whirlpool's alleged objection to price manipulation by foreign brands. If that is truly part of the problem, it sounds more like a matter for government regulation than retail withdrawal.