Sears is ready to stop closing its mega-stores and start opening leaner, more focused locations.
The company that made its mark with one-stop shopping at giant retail centers is now paring down its offerings, and even opening a new store or two. The company plans to launch prototype outlets in Kansas, Alaska and Louisiana.
The company has also changed its name and adopted new slogans in the attempt to dig out of bankruptcy after it shuttered hundreds of stores nationwide. It also plans to partner with rival retailer Amazon.
Sears, which narrowly survived bankruptcy earlier this year, is opening stores that will be much smaller than its regular outlets.
The company announced Thursday the new stores are called Sears Home & Life and will be about 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, rather than the 160,000 square feet of a typical store. They won’t sell apparel and instead will focus on home goods like appliances and mattresses.
Three stores will open at the end of May in Anchorage, Alaska, Overland Park, Kansas, and Lafayette, Louisiana. The company didn’t disclose how many more it plans to open beyond those three.
“We are here to serve these communities and this is part of our strategy to maintain a presence in markets where we have right-sized our footprint,” said Peter Boutros, chief brand officer for Sears and Kmart, in a release. “Sears Home & Life supports our strategic plan to become a stronger, more profitable business and these test stores will enable us to learn and improve as we move forward.”
New Sears stores will not feature certain items, notably clothing.
They won’t include apparel, something other department store chains are increasingly struggling with selling today. And clothing hasn’t ever been much of a draw for shoppers to Sears locations, though the retailer tried to make a push into that category in the 1990s. That’s when it debuted a marketing campaign called “The Softer Side of Sears” in an attempt to reach more women with button-down tops and dresses.
Sears also said it will be expanding its DieHard automotive brand into new categories, including lawn and garden equipment, to put in the Home & Life shops.
It will additionally be working more closely with Amazon, Sears said, to make more products from the Kenmore appliance brand available on Amazon Dash’s reorder platform. Sears partnered with Amazon in the summer of 2017 to sell Alexa-enabled appliances, and later to offer full-service tire installation for orders from all tire brands on Amazon.
Yet opening a new location is a far cry from the news Sears has had to share over the last several years as it shed stores, brands and profitability.
Sears has closed more than 3,500 stores and cut about 250,000 jobs in roughly the last 15 years as sales cratered, leading to the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October.
The company was on the brink of liquidation, but its largest shareholder and former CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments made a $5.2 billion offer for the company that was approved in February by a federal bankruptcy judge. About 425 stores and 45,000 employees were transferred to ESL.
Now, almost two months later, Sears says in its statement that the openings are “part of a new era.”
Sears’ new moves are part of major shift across the retail sector as many mega-chains are slimming down their offerings and trying to target specific consumers.
Sears is following a trend for retailers, which are slimming down their footprints. Retailers believe the smaller stores can attract new shoppers, save money and keep them competitive amid the growth of online shopping and the dominance of Amazon.
Swedish retailer Ikea announced it will open the first US location of its smaller store format in Manhattan. The company already operates the smaller stores in some European cities.
Kohl’s (KSS) has been among the most aggressive in slimming down its stores and it has decided to lease out the extra space at a handful of locations to outside partners. The retailer announced in March it would lease out space to Planet Fitness next to 10 of its stores later this year.
Sears is trying to capitalize on its storied history yet still present itself as something fresh and new.
To win back customers after bankruptcy, Sears wants to go back to the future.
That’s how Peter Boutros, chief brand officer of Sears and Kmart and president of the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands, thinks of the company’s efforts to make itself relevant to today’s shoppers by drawing on what made it successful in its heyday.
“The thing that we were good at was making moments matter,” he said. “As people built homes and started families, Sears was there for those moments … so we went back to go forward into the future, building on our legacy but making that relevant to today.”
The message is being driven home by new slogans or “mantras” as the chain tries to redefine itself.
The Seattle Times continued:
Both Sears and Kmart stores have new “brand mantras” of “making moments matter” and “love where you live,” respectively. They were created in-house, unlike earlier campaigns like “There’s more for your life with Sears,” developed with Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and “Good Life, Great Price,” developed with Young & Rubicam, Boutros said.
But Boutros said they’re more than just slogans and guide “what the brand stands for.”
While shoppers tend to see Sears as a destination for big-ticket home items, Kmart customers tend to shop more frequently for everyday purchases, and the company wants stores to feel more connected to their communities, Boutros said.
“We’re starting to become far more deliberate, far more focused in connecting with those consumer groups,” he said.
Existing stores in both chains will get new signs, and employees will get new uniforms. The company is also opening new stores, called Sears Home + Life, that Boutros described as an updated version of earlier experiments with smaller specialty stores.
The new stores will focus on appliances, mattresses and home services, with a sample kitchen stocked with Kenmore products. There will also be a “search bar” kiosk where customers can order any product carried by Sears or Kmart for delivery to their home or the store.
What do you think of Sears’ new branding, PR Daily readers?
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