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Sears ends business relationship with Whirlpool after 100 years

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- In a letter to its stores, Sears says it decided to cut things off with Benton Harbor’s biggest business because of pricing.

“We want to believe that American business has that loyalty foundation, but it doesn’t,” said Professor Kimberly Pichot. “Loyalty in business lasts as long as profitability lasts. And that’s a very sad thing.”

For Whirlpool and retail-giant Sears, it was a match made in heaven for over a century.

But last week, Sears sent a letter to its stores saying the honeymoon and relationship was over.

“Whirlpool has sought to use its dominant position in the marketplace to make demands that would have prohibited us from offering Whirlpool products to our members at a reasonable price,” the letter reads.

This means you’ll no longer find Whirlpool appliances lined up on the store floor in Sears.

“Cutting off a large, well known, dominant player, I think actually will hurt Sears in the long run,” said Pichot, who is a marketing professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs.

She said Sears may have made a sour decision.

The retailer has been struggling to adapt to the modern-day market.

Pichot thinks shoppers are more likely to go where Whirlpool’s high-end appliances are, instead of staying loyal to Sears.

Though Whirlpool and Sears first partnered up in 1916 – when Whirlpool was started as the Upton Machine Company – Pichot said relationships like that won’t last forever.

“The people who made those alliances years ago are no longer there,” she said. “And Whirlpool needs to be profitable and if Sears cannot sell the product at a price that satisfies Whirlpool, it’s natural to see that split.”

In the letter, Sears said any Whirlpool inventory already in stores will be sold; but then no new orders will be made.

ABC57 reached out to the Whirlpool Corporation and Congressman Fred Upton – whose family started the company – for comment, but have not heard back as of Tuesday evening.

Though Whirlpool’s stock slightly dipped on Tuesday, Pichot said it shouldn’t impact the company significantly because only 3 percent of Whirlpool’s product was sold to Sears.

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