SEARS MEXICO AIMS AT YOUTH

Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — In its first effort to revive Sears Mexico, Grupo Carso plans to remodel and remerchandise much of its newly acquired chain this year as part of a bid to lure more under-30 shoppers.
“In Mexico, we have a big population below 30, and we have to draw more of this group,” said Fernando Chico Pardo, managing director of Grupo Carso, which holds the majority stake in the 45-unit chain.
“I think that the whole store concept — the design and the merchandising — has to be modernized to get younger shoppers into Sears Mexico,” Pardo said during a telephone interview from his office in Mexico City.
While noting it was too soon to detail the scope of the makeover, the Carso executive emphasized that the redone units will be easier to shop. For example, he said sporting goods, currently scattered across several areas of the store, will be remerchandised in one department. Pardo also noted that more selling space would be allocated to apparel and soft home goods as has been done at Sears’ U.S. stores over the past few years.
Grupo Carso Sa de CV, a diversified holding company based in Mexico City, agreed on April 2 to buy a 60 percent interest in Sears Mexico from Sears USA, which continues to hold a 15 percent stake in Sears Mexico.
Sears USA will also retain one or two seats on the board of Sears Mexico, Pardo said. “We will work closely with them to speed our growth,” he added. Sears officials, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., have said they do not want to invest the time and funds necessary to turn around the money-losing operation in Mexico.
Carso — known for righting other ailing Mexican concerns such as the Sanborn’s chain it purchased in 1989 — plans to open the first new Sears Mexico store late this year or early in 1998, Pardo said. He added that Carso is eyeing several sites for the unit, including one in Cancun.
“When we bought Sanborn’s, it was a struggling business of 30 stores,” Pardo related. “We’ve expanded it to a chain of 150 units in three store concepts. We grew the business by about 12 stores a year.
“That’s the kind of thing we might do with Sears Mexico.”
Although he didn’t state how large Sears Mexico would grow, Pardo said Carso might expand it into a nationwide enterprise as it did with Sanborn’s. Sanborn’s merchandises an eclectic mix of goods, ranging from apparel to general merchandise and food. Since acquiring the business, Carso has also developed Sanborn’s cafe and music-store formats and has built these chains into national franchises as well, the managing director explained.
“We identify undermanaged companies in Mexico that we believe we can help to grow,” Pardo offered, placing Sears Mexico in that category. Carso’s retail operations also include Denny’s restaurants in Mexico, and Mix-Up, a chain of record stores.
“We also expect to realize real estate synergies from the Sears deal,” Pardo added. “Between Sears Mexico and the three Sanborn’s formats, we should be gaining more clout with the mall developers.”

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