Can This Save Sears?

The very future of Sears may rest with the “re-invention” stores it is rolling out on a limited basis
January 12, 2017Warren Shoulberg

SearsreinventionstoreThe Sears “re-invention” store takes a strong cross-merchandising approach to its home departments.
By Warren Shoulberg

If there really is a future for Sears, it starts at the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, N.Y.

That’s where you’ll find one of 12 so-called “re-invention” stores for the venerable retailer, which has seen its share of disappointing financial results over the past several years. All of that disappears, however, once you walk into the home areas of the store, which feature a heavy reliance on cross merchandising, clever adjacencies and both signage and displays that are every bit as compelling as anything in the moderate priced general merchandising world.

The focus on what store executives call “room solutions” is at the heart of the re-merchandising effort. “The whole idea was to go from item solutions to full room solutions,” Kurt Staelens, president of Home and Footwear for Sears Holdings, told HFN in an interview after a tour of the Yonkers store, located in this suburban Westchester County town just north of New York City. “We wanted to bring various business units together and coordinate our members’ journey.”

Home textiles take a lead position with several display beds that are cross merchandised with furniture, decorative accessories and even tabletop. The theme is continued throughout the floor as tabletop is displayed on dining room tables, decorative pillows and throws are cross sold with upholstered furniture and holiday swing shops combine merchandise from across the broad home furnishings spectrum.

Housewares, particularly small electrics, get center positioning on the selling floor where products are displayed on branded pads, using bakers rack-style fixturing running on two sides of the drive aisle of the floor. The brand signage makes a powerful statement and helps organize the shopping experience.

Upstairs, two powerhouse departments–bedding and major appliances–occupy significant space. They, too, have gotten extensive remakes in fixturing, signage and floor displays.

Signage throughout the home department reflects what is going on in customers’ lives—sleep, bath, etc.—rather than earmarking merchandising departments.

The Sears re-invent program began in July 2015, according to Leslie Fleshood, division vice president for home, seasonal/outdoor living and mattresses, with two test stores near the company’s corporate headquarters in suburban Chicago.

Once the re-invent concept was worked through and refined, Sears opened an additional 10 units this past fall, including the Yonkers store. While the home departments remained essentially the same size, the test took into account several footprints, from 4,000 square feet up to 16,000 square feet. The average was about 8,500.

The results so far have been very encouraging, “We’re seeing double-digit increases in the stores,” he said, without giving any more specifics.

For the time being, there are just 12 re-invents, but Staelens said elements of their merchandising plan—particularly in mattresses and small kitchen appliances—are being rolled out to existing traditional stores.

And as Sears struggles to find its place in an ever-changing retail scene, these re-invention stores could help, he said. “It’s conceivable you’ll see more re-invents in 2017.”

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