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Sears uses credit card database for publicity

– Sears Canada is betting on using its 60-year-old credit card database, the largest in the country, to create advertising for targeted customers and help return the retailer to profitability by 2014.

“We recognize it as a huge opportunity, it’s been under-leveraged,” Chief Executive Officer Calvin McDonald, 41, said in an interview at the company’s Toronto headquarters this month. “We’re on it.”

Sears Canada, which has reported 12 straight quarters of sales declines, delved into its database for the relaunch of its Jessica women’s brand in September, analyzing customers’ past purchases to determine whom it should choose for exclusive discounts by direct mail and email.

The company, which operates the biggest chain of department stores in Canada, is running pilot programs to see how else it can use the database of addresses, contact information and shopping history for 4.5 million credit card holders, McDonald said.

The shopping history may be a competitive advantage over Minneapolis-based Target., which plans to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada starting next year, and Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

“The key leap here is the power to figure out what’s going to happen in the future, how long is it before someone is ready to purchase a new mattress?” David Smith, vice president of marketing at Revolution Analytics, a software company that makes analytical tools for statisticians, said by phone from Palo Alto, Calif.

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