The retailer, which just recently reemerged from bankruptcy, is opening three new stores under the Sears Home & Life banner, one each in Anchorage, Alaska, Lafayette, La., and Overland Park, Kan., in May.
The new stores — which will be much smaller, at around 10,000 to 15,000 feet, compared with the full-size stores that averaged around 150,000 feet — will not include apparel.
Instead of the latest fashions, the stores will sell tools, lawnmowers, appliances, mattresses and so on.
“The exciting new Sears Home & Life stores will carry power categories where Sears has a real strength: appliances, mattresses and our home services business, Peter Boutros, chief brand officer for Sears and Kmart and president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands, said in a statement. “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. 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.”
A representative from Sears confirmed that the new store sizes and selection are a combination of space available and response to customer needs. Shoppers looking for clothing can still browse Sears clothing racks while in stores — albeit virtually.
Each location will be equipped with a “Search Bar,” where customers can shop all of Sears products online and then picked them up in stores or have them shipped directly to their homes. In addition, the Kenmore brand, which is also owned by the new Sears company, announced an expansion of its Amazon Dash Replenishment program, which allows shoppers to reorder Kenmore products, like laundry appliances and dishwashers, directly from the Amazon web site.
These new developments are likely an attempt to win back shoppers, many of whom were left unimpressed with the retailer after it filed for bankruptcy last October.
At the time, Sears had just under 700 brick-and-mortar locations nationwide. But the combined Sears and Kmart store count was down to just 425 locations when Edward Lampert, former ceo of Sears, bought the company for $5.2 billion in February, tentatively renaming the new company Transform Holdco.
“We believe that the smaller footprint will allow us to buy the right amount of product for those stores,” Rob Riecker, Sears chief financial officer, said during the Feb. 6 hearing in New York. “As opposed to having stores where we’re trying to optimize the inventory and merchandise contained in those stores and starving other stores.”
Lawyers for ESL Investments, the hedge fund owned by Lampert, argued during the February hearing that saving Sears from liquidation would also save around 45,000 jobs.
At its peak, in 2006, Sears had roughly 3,700 stores, more than 300,000 employees and revenues of $53 billion. But those numbers had dwindled to fewer than 70,000 employees and just $16.7 in revenues last year.
The new company has been tight-lipped about its plans to revitalize the brand. But Kunal Kamlani, president of ESL and a member of the Sears Holdings Corp. board, said during the February hearing that the company was actively searching for a new ceo.
Other have been left wondering if Sears will exit its soft lines category, which includes things like apparel and linens, all together.
But Gerald Storch, ceo of Storch Advisors, a retail consultancy firm, said that would be “ridiculous.”
“They need to remain fundamentally a department store or otherwise they risk alienating their base consumers who are still loyal to them,” Storch said. “And there still are some.”