Sears, Roebuck and Co., home to Kenmore appliances, will begin selling Carrier heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and products in 2003 after signing a three-year agreement.

The deal gives Carrier the ability to offer its products commercially as well as continuing its work through distributors.

"Sears is the most respected and best known retailer out there and now we are its exclusive provider," said Jon Shaw, manager of corporate communications for Carrier. "Consumers look toward retailers and this is an excellent way for Carrier to gain more exposure." The Carrier brand will benefit from an increase in exposure achieved through Sears' newspaper inserts, plus credit card inserts, direct mail, in-store displays, Internet exposure and television advertising.

Shaw added that distributors are happy with this move because the product will still be distributed through dealers to Sears. That, along with the added exposure, will benefit the distributors, Shaw said.

Jim Truesdell, president of NHRAW and co-president of the newly formed HARDI, said the move could help some distributors but hurt others.

"Urban areas probably won't be affected much, but rural areas may see a significant impact," said Truesdell. He said that some Carrier dealers, faced with Sears' presence in their markets, might be inclined to take on a second line. At any rate, commented Truesdell, it would be important for Carrier to continue its plans to utilize local, independent distributors and dealers who are best suited to serve customers with the kind of product availability and service demanded by today's customer.

Also in a related deal, International Comfort Products Corp. (ICP), a subsidiary of Carrier, will be the exclusive original equipment manufacturer of Kenmore brand residential central heating and cooling equipment for Sears, Roebuck and Co., providing the product though its distribution network and recognized dealers.

ICP had previously produced 70% of the Kenmore products. With this agreement they will get the other 30%.

Additionally, ICP's energy-efficient products will help Sears continue to develop programs to educate consumers to the features and benefits of using Energy Star-labeled products, a U.S. Department of Energy program aimed at helping businesses and consumers identify energy efficient solutions. Sears has been named the Department of Energy's Energy Star Retail Partner of the Year for the past three years.