Sears Does It In ‘Grand’ Style

Sears, one of America’s oldest and best known retail chains, is adopting the ‘big box’ format, but as Bob Vereen reveals, they face stiff competition…….

Once America’s largest retailer, Sears, continues to experiment with different store formats, seeking to gain higher sales and a better reception from today’s American consumer.

View of the exterior, with entrance from the parking lot directly into the tool, paint and auto departments.

Its latest venture, Sears Grand, is a two-store experiment in which the company is adopting the sprawling one-floor format of its major competitors – Wal*Mart, Target and Kmart. The first unit opened earlier this year outside Salt Lake City in Utah. The second unit opened in February 2004 in Gurnee, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago.

Earlier, Sears experimented with another one-floor concept, The Great Indoors, aimed primarily at higher-income families and focused more on products of interest to women. It apparently did not meet sales expectations and no new units are being opened, but half a dozen or so existing units are still operating.

Sears Grand is different in a number of ways:

 

  • It builds on Sears’ basic strengths with powerful presentations of tools, appliances, auto accessories and parts, and paints
  • It includes some foods – a first for the company – selling milk, soft drinks, snacks, etc.
  • It is located adjacent to one of the largest malls in the United States, and even has an entrance to one part of Gurnee Mills.
  • Inventory includes magazines, greeting cards, books—even pet supplies as well as health and beauty aids.
  • It also includes apparel and shoes for the family, along with other soft goods and an eye-popping display of electronics (TVs, DVD players, etc.)
  • It also offers a full service bank, coffee shop and small snack bar.

    No ceiling fans or light fixtures….a limited range of electrical accessories contrasts with the more complete assortments found in any hardware store or home center.

    Sears Grand resembles one of its mass merchandising competitors – Target, in that the store is attractively merchandised, bright and cheery with high ceilings.

    Where it differs from Target, Wal*Mart and Kmart, is its heavy emphasis on tools, paints and major appliances.

    Where it differs from Home Depot, Lowes and other hardware stores and home centers, is that its inventory assortment of basic electrics, plumbing and hardware is miniscule and completely inadequate to serve anyone’s serious DIY needs. However, in tools and paints, it has a dominant presence. Apparently, this lack of inventory assortment in categories such as plumbing and electrical is already being noticed and reportedly will be expanded to meet market demands.

    Sears wisely concentrated on its private brands, in many cases the best known brand in the category, and supplemented its own brands with select national brands.

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i>A view of a main traffic aisle of this 200,000+ square feet giant, showing the overall, high class look.Thus, consumers have a choice in the tools category of Sears’ Craftsman, plus Estwing, Skil, Stanley, Channellock and others. In paints, its Weatherbeater paint is supplemented by such lines as Rust Oleum and Minwax.

In major appliances, where Kenmore enjoys a high market share, customers can also choose from Maytag, GE and other lines.

The store, measuring slightly over 200,000 square feet, devotes major space to powered lawn equipment, for which it has an excellent reputation, along with other lawn and garden products, patio living, and auto care – all categories in which Sears’ regular stores in mall locations do well. Its assortment of outdoor grills range up to $1,699 for an elaborate, stainless steel gas grill. To attract female customers, it offers small appliances, cookware and housewares, bed linens, etc, in addition to clothing for men, women and children.

Sears’ Store Formats

  • Sears in malls
  • Sears Appliances & Hardware
  • Sears Hardware
  • The Great Indoors
  • Orchard Supply Hardware
  • Sears Auto Centers
  • Sears Grand

Sears, Roebuck began as a catalogue mail-order retailer. It opened its first store on the west side of Chicago in 1925. It was one of the first major retailers to recognize the importance of big shopping malls and grew to have more than 800 such stores in prominent locations. Its Sears name brands, now supplemented by select national brands, have been trusted by generations.

A view of part of the tool department. Note huge graphics and names of national brands.

Over the last 25 years, however, firms such as Wal*Mart, Target, Kmart, Home Depot and Lowes have proved today’s consumer prefers to shop a huge ‘big-box’ with a dominating assortment of general or DIY merchandise.

Sears’ recent turnover is about US$32 billion, just half of Home Depot’s and less than 20% of Wal*Mart’s discount division, excluding Sam’s Club and its international sales. Target Corporation today also outsells Sears.

Powered lawn equipment includes mowers, tractors, riders.

Two more Sears Grand units are expected to open this year, including one in Las Vegas. This compares with Depot’s plans to increase square footage by 14%, while Lowes and Best Buy, which also compete with Sears on major appliances, plan to add 11% and 7% more space, respectively.

With Wal*Mart now having more than 3,000 such stores, Target and Kmart thousands more, plus Depot’s more than 1,500 and Lowes’ 800 units, the question facing Sears today is:
Is Sears Grand simply a quarter of a century too late?

Bob Vereen, Hardware Journal’s US Correspondent