Magazine article American Banker

Strategy: Sears' Big Plans for Discover

Magazine article American Banker

Strategy: Sears' Big Plans for Discover

Article excerpt

Some bankers may say that they are not terribly interested in what Sears, Roebuck and Co. is doing. But when Sears talks, a lot of bankers are listening.

American Express Co. just might be listening, too, now that one of Sears' top consumer executives has said the company's new Discover card is taking dead aim at American Express. The number of outlets that accept Discover eventually will exceed the number that accept the American Express card, predicted Robert E. Wood 2d.

"We won't surpass American Express this year or maybe not next year, but we will," said Mr. Wood, recently named chairman and chief executive officer of the consumer banking division of Dean Witter Financial Services Group, the Sears unit that Administers the Discover card.

Mr. Wood estimated that American Express has about 450,000 retail and business outlets around the country that accept its card. An American Express spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny that figure, but she did say that more than 1.3 million outlets around the world welcome the company's green, gold, and platinum cards.

Sears wants premium businesses, Mr. Wood said, and is being selective as to whom it solicits to take Discover. Some retailers that accept MasterCard and Visa will not be approached, Mr. Wood said, but he declined to be more specific about which merchants will not get the Sears pitch.

Sears representatives now are crisscrossing the country to line up merchants for Discover, a combination credit and financial services card that is being tested in Atlanta and San Diego. …

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