NEW YORK — Don’t look now Wal-Mart, but Sears is eyeing your format — and that includes beauty.
When Sears opens its 210,000-square-foot Sears Grand pilot store in West Jordan, Utah, in September, along with the introduction of dry groceries and a garden center, it will present an array of traditional mass market beauty and health care brands including Revlon, L’Oréal and Maybelline.
And the big-box format of Sears Grand, which will only be found at off-mall sites, is already drawing comparisons to Wal-Mart. Sears spokeswoman Linda Blake, did not respond to the me-too issue directly, but coyly noted that the first of five Sears Grand stores happens to be breaking ground in a Wal-Mart neighborhood.
“Interesting enough is that the first one is very near a Wal-Mart and a Kohl’s,” commented Blake. “So we are going to be piloting this in a very robust competitive environment.”
In all, the five stores are expected to be built by 2005. The second store is slated for Gurnee, Ill., a Chicago suburb followed by a unit in Las Vegas. Sites have not been selected for the remaining two.
On its Web site, Sears describes Sears Grand as a “new freestanding Sears store that is easy to get in and out of.” It also touts the convenience of the off-mall location with “its own parking lot.”
Striking at Wal-Mart’s essence, the Sears site tells viewers: “This unique store allows you to get more of your errands done in one place while offering an enjoyable shopping experience in an updated setting.”
The spokeswoman describes Sears Grand is a full-line Sears store that introduces some new departments. In addition to cosmetics, there will be an emphasis on other convenience categories like household cleaning supplies; CDs and DVDs, and greeting cards.
It will also feature standard Sears merchandise such as Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools and Lands End sportswear.
Like mass merchandisers Wal-Mart and Kmart, Sears Grand stores will have extended shopping hours every day. There will also be shopping carts and a centralized checkout. Specialty departments including fine jewelry and appliances will be “highly” staffed, according to the company. It is unknown if the beauty department will have advisers.Sears considers the Sears Grand stores, “learning laboratories,” said Blake. “They will vary in size and merchandise categories. We will have a garden center in Salt Lake, but maybe not in all the pilot stores.”
For its traditional store, Sears had done an about-face on cosmetics last year. After working to build its proprietary Circle of Beauty brand, a vast collection of color and skin care, the retailer pulled the plug on all color cosmetics. Currently in the beauty area, Sears carries fragrance, bath and body — including its own Time Out line — and a smattering of cosmetics gift sets.
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