The new store — opened on Thursday — represents the latest category concept store from Sears, and follows the opening of its first category concept store — Sears Appliances — last year in Ft. Collins, Colo.
Leena Munjal, senior vice president for customer experience and integrated retail, said the reaction to Sears Appliances was “overwhelmingly positive,” and the company decided to expand to the mattress category. Appliances and mattresses are the retailer’s two strongest categories.
Sears’ new 20,000-square-foot store format allows consumers to view the appliances in kitchen vignettes. Ten major appliance brands are showcased, including its Kenmore brand. Consumers in the store can also see how the appliances would look in a full-scale kitchen through “Discover More,” a 122-inch interactive digital display. Consumers shopping online can reserve an appointment time for a meeting with an in-store associate.
Munjal said in a company blog post that plans are “underway to open additional Sears freestanding stores” focused on two key categories.
The foray into a specialized appliance format is a move — even though it’s still a small step — that could help Sears compete more effectively with J.C. Penney & Co. Inc. Penney’s last year re-entered the appliances category after a 33-year hiatus, and is now Sears’ biggest competitor. The appliances category is estimated to bring in about $4 billion in sales for Sears.
Sears on Friday confirmed the closure of 20 more stores, of which 18 are Sears stores and two are Kmart units.
A Sears spokesman said in a statement Friday, “Sears Holdings continues to actively manage our real estate portfolio to identify additional opportunities for reconfiguration and reduction of capital obligations.”
He said the 18 Sears and two Kmart stores will close in mid-September. Liquidation sales will begin by June 30.
The company in 2015 sold 235 Sears and Kmart store locations to the real estate investment trust it formed, Seritage Growth Properties. At the time, the sale and leaseback agreement in place gave Sears the option of exiting a lease when the store becomes unprofitable, provided Sears makes payment of one year’s rent for the space.
Per a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Seritage, the 18 Sears stores and two Kmart stores are locations within the REIT’s portfolio base.
The Sears spokesman said, “We understand that members may be disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes it doors.”
Sears’ chairman Edward S. Lampert has been trying to turn around operations from an old bricks-and-mortar-focused business model to one that is member-focused and is mostly online, while including a smaller physical store base.
Credit analysts are still cautious about Sears’ credit profile, and concerned about its cash burn rate. The company lost $2.2 billion in 2016 and more than $5 billion over the last three years. Once the store closures are complete — at least for the stores announced to date — the company will operate about 550 Kmart and 1,200 Sears stores, down from the 1,200 Kmart locations and 2,100 Sears domestic stores at the start of 2012.
That was also the year Sears Holdings spun off most of its holding in Sears Canada, although it retains an 11.7 percent stake in the overseas operation. Sears Canada on Thursday filed for bankruptcy protection, with plans to close 60 of its 140 stores. Sears Holdings in 2012 also spun off its Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, consisting of more than 1,100 Hometown and 122 outlet locations. The outlet stores carry Sears merchandise at discounted prices, while Hometown stores are operated mostly by franchisees, with Sears supplying much of the merchandise.