By  on December 16, 2005

NEW YORK — Sears brands such as Lands' End, Craftsman and Kenmore may play in Peoria, Ill., but will they play in Manhattan?

That's what Sears Holdings Corp. wants to find out. The parent of Sears, Roebuck and Kmart will open two 150-square-foot Sears shops at Kmart locations here, at 250 West 34th Street and 770 Broadway.

"Sears doesn't have any stores in Manhattan at all," a spokesman said. "We want to see the customer reaction and response to Sears products. We want to introduce Sears merchandise into Kmart and see how it sells. We have Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools in some Kmart stores and Die Hard batteries in all Kmart stores. This is a further expression of that in a Manhattan location."

If the test succeeds, it could mean more Sears merchandise on Kmart shelves. And a company spokesman didn't rule out the possibility of a full store conversion far down the road.

The in-store Sears shops won't have a softline assortment representative of a Sears department store "because that would be confusing," the spokesman said. "We have a full assortment of Kmart apparel and softlines. This will be more of a vignette, if you will, with a limited selection of Lands' End."

"Sears is in a period of experimentation," said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. "For them to try to measure how well some of their best brand assets can do by cross-pollinating them with their other property, Kmart, is worth an experimentation."

Sears Holdings also is looking at The Home Depot, which aggressively has moved into Manhattan and is having some success. "That says there's an appetite for people here who are do-it-yourselfers," Aronson said. "Sears wants to get its share of that."

As part of Sears' effort to raise its New York profile, the company last month erected a snow globe in front of the Nasdaq building in Times Square. In addition, a 1,500-square-foot Sears holiday pop-up shop will open in the "Good Morning America" studios on Broadway and 44th Street on Saturday and stay open through Dec. 22. The store will feature 25 top-selling gifts such as portable DVD players; Lands' End squall jackets, gloves, hats and scarves; Covington cashmere cardigans; Apostrophe opera jackets; terry velour robes, and tools. Large items such as wide-screen TVs can be ordered through a wireless Internet kiosk with access to and store's hours of operation, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., "are unusual," the spokesman said, adding that they're necessitated by the ABC show's schedule. "The store has to be taken down and reassembled every night. That's as quickly as we get it together in the morning."

And why has the store "popped up" so late in the season? "It was planned as an exciting finish to the season and a way to attract last-minute shoppers and procrastinators," the spokesman said.

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