Sears, Roebuck and Co. showed reporters its first Sears Grand, a larger store it hopes will win back customers who are wandering to huge off-mall locations offered by competitors like Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The stand-alone building, which at 210,000 sq ft is larger than traditional Sears stores, is the biggest U.S. department store chain's latest attempt to lure back customers. The retailer had reported almost 2 years of negative monthly same-store sales until August.
The new Sears Grand store, located 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, UT, U.S., features top Sears products like Craftsman and DieHard tools and Kenmore appliances. But it also sells new items like health and beauty products, food, magazines, greeting cards, household cleaning supplies, toys, CDs, and DVDs as Sears tries to meet consumers' desires to stop at only one store.
But Sears must fend off competitors ranging from discounters such as industry leader Wal-Mart to specialty "big-box" chains like Home Depot Inc. The location places Sears Grand in a complex that already includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Lowe's home improvement center. In the stores, Sears will try to pair new products with areas it sees as strengths. "We have a leading lawn and garden business but we don't sell fertilizer and we don't sell grass seed and we don't sell plants," Sears Chief Executive Alan Lacy said of traditional Sears stores in a recent presentation.
"We've got a very strong consumer electronics business but we don't sell CDs and DVDs. We've got a very nice kids apparel business but we don't have toys," he added.
Most of Sears' 870 stores anchor shopping malls, which have been losing customers to smaller, more convenient stand-alone buildings that offer one-stop shopping, so the Sears Grand prototype is a key test of whether the retailer can succeed off the mall.
The stores offer a limited selection of nonperishable food items such as snacks and cases of soft drinks. But Mr. Lacy insists Sears has no intention of taking on Wal-Mart's supercenters, which boast full-line grocery stores alongside general merchandise offerings.
"We're not trying to out-Wal-Mart Wal-Mart," he said. (Reuters)
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