THE SMALLER SIDE OF SEARS

NEW YORK — Though its profits keep growing, Sears, Roebuck & Co. is managing to think small.
In a pilot project, the national chain has begun tailoring its merchandise at a total of 76 stores in southern California, southwest Ohio, south Florida and upstate New York to more effectively meet the demands of local populations and regional preferences. In California, for example, smaller shoe sizes were bought for stores where many Koreans shop. In south Florida, 18-karat gold items were added to some stores where only 14-karat was carried because Sears sensed shoppers wanted higher quality items. An eight-member “local market focus initiative” team overseeing the project visited stores in the four regions last month to explain the program to regional and district managers, business managers and store-level employees. It’s headed by Joe Baron, a divisional vice president. Other departments are included in the program as part of an attempt to improve communications between store employees and regional managers and help field executives and buyers get a better idea of “what’s going on and what people are saying at the store level,” the spokeswoman said.
“Our goal is to have a state-of-art understanding of what is unique about every market and then merchandise and market accordingly,” she said.
Sears hopes to gain a better understanding of the stores in the four markets by December and integrate aspects of the project at all 800 of its stores next year.
All buying will continue to be done from the company’s headquarters in Chicago “but people out in the field will be able to influence buying decisions,” the spokeswoman said.
“It’s a way to sensitize right down to the associate level to local market needs,” she said.

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