Sears Hopes Stores Become Essential Shopping Destinations

Feb 09, 2005

By George Anderson

Sears, Roebuck and Co. has decided what it wants to be when it grows up (even before it formally joins with Kmart). It wants to be Kmart…or Target…or Wal-Mart or at least its approximation of a mass merchandiser and supercenter operator.

Yesterday, the retailer announced the launch of its newest off-mall store format – Sears Essential. The new banner will fly over 56 stores Sears purchased from Kmart and Wal-Mart.
The first 25 are scheduled to open for business beginning in the spring. (To download a list of locations in a Microsoft Word document,
click here.

Sears’ chairman and chief executive, Alan Lacy, said in a released statement, “Sears Essentials will lead the way as we embark on the most aggressive growth initiative in company history.”

The stores, ranging in size from 80,500 to 100,000-square-feet, are about half the size of Sears’ Grand format. They combine the retailer’s appliance and power tool brands (Kenmore and Craftsman) with other “essential” items, such as apparel, electronics, home fashions, health and beauty care, food pantry items and other goods typically found in a mass merchandiser.

In a company press release, Sears said once its deal with Kmart is finalized it expects Essentials will offer the “best of both” companies by being able to meet “the everyday needs of our customers as Kmart does now, while offering more destination-focused purchase categories that Sears traditionally offers. Sears Essentials will be a one-stop shopping destination for home and family needs from everything from back-to-school, backyard living and birthdays to appliances, apparel and soft drinks.”

Not everyone is convinced that consumers are going to see Sears’ new format as an essential shopping destination.

Kim Picciola, a retail analyst at Morningstar in Chicago, told the Sun-Times. “We’ve yet to see Sears provide consumers with a compelling reason to shop at the off-mall locations. Buying a washer and dryer at the same time you’re picking up shampoo doesn’t quite make sense,” she said.

Fred Marx, a retail expert out of Farmington Hills, Mich., quoted by the Detroit Free Press asked, “Does the world need another place to buy potato chips? You have a number of people doing that and doing it well … are they going to do it better or cheaper?”

“You want to hope this is a good salvation for Kmart and Sears,” he said. “The question is can they sustain it at a time when so many other respected retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Meijer already have their oars in the water? Sometimes these things look better on paper.”

Moderator’s Comment: Will Sears Essential be successful?

While we disagree with Fred Marx’s sentiments on potato chips – there can never be too many places to buy them – we do agree that sometimes things do look
better on paper than in real life. For all those working at Sears and Kmart, we hope we’re wrong.

George Anderson – Moderator

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2 Comments on "Sears Hopes Stores Become Essential Shopping Destinations"

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Rodney Garringer II
Rodney Garringer II
17 years 28 days ago

As a member of management at a Kmart location, I would like to respond to a few remarks and questions made on this topic.

1) I have had many customers come in and purchase small items, such as chips, shampoo, cold and cough medicine, as well as large appliances, such as 32″ TVs, vacuum cleaners, Car Jacks, microwaves…all in the same purchase.

2) Yes we do have customers that come in asking about refrigerators, washers, dryers and the like.

One thing that seems to be missing from this discussion is that Kmart already is a one stop shop. For many of our customers, we are the only place they shop. We have customers that come in at 10 am every morning for a cup of coffee and leave with cat litter, shampoo, CDs, etc and a TV, microwave, vacuum, etc.

Out of all the changes, our customers will still come in through the doors and more will follow just because we got rid of our tarnished name.

Joe Harmon
Joe Harmon
16 years 3 months ago

Let us all consider the fact that Sears, as well as Kmart, has staying power. Sears has dealt with many conflicts including the automotive scandal of the 80’s, poor management, and the list could go on and on. Kmart was once the nations largest retailer, but has fallen to its rivals including Wal-Mart, Target, and Kohl’s due to outdated stores and merchandise, and poor management. However, they have both emerged time and time again. This new concept can be the basis of a whole new way of thinking about retail in the U.S. Seriously, can you see yourself buying one of those generic brand TV’s, washer and dryers, or refrigerators from Wal-Mart? Or can you see yourself buying chic, but generic brand shoes Target sells? Or maybe fighting with Kohl’s on its false advertisement issues? Sears has great brands, some of which are exclusive, and their prices has dramatically decreased. If Sears Holdings Corp. can overcome these obstacles, the sky is the limit.


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