Mark Cosby, Sears’ president of full-line stores, has left the company.

NEW YORK — Sears, Roebuck & Co. shook up its executive ranks Monday in an effort to ensure its investment in the off-mall format will succeed.<br><br>The nation’s largest department store chain said it created a new executive position...

NEW YORK — Sears, Roebuck & Co. shook up its executive ranks Monday in an effort to ensure its investment in the off-mall format will succeed.

This story first appeared in the July 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The nation’s largest department store chain said it created a new executive position — president of Sears retail — which will include oversight of the company’s burgeoning off-mall stores format, as well as responsibility for all existing U.S. full-line and specialty stores.

At the same time, Sears said president of full-line stores Mark Cosby left the company “to pursue other interests.”

The company said it launched an external search to fill the new role. Chief executive officer Alan Lacy will handle the president of Sears retail duties on an interim basis until an executive is found.

“We are establishing this important new position as part of the next phase of Sears’ strategic plan, which involves execution of our off-mall growth program, full integration and alignment of the retail organization and the continuing turnaround of our mall-based business,” said Lacy in a statement.

Kurt Barnard, consultant and founder of Barnard’s Retail Trends report, said the change reflects Sears’ determination to make its off-mall format work.

“Cosby wasn’t brought in as an off-mall specialist and that’s what Sears wants,” said Barnard. “Sears is pretty much committed to the off-mall format and they don’t want to mess around.”

Barnard said Sears will try to lure talent away from a competing off-mall retailer to fill the newly created position.

“Did you ever hear the term stealing?” said Barnard, laughing. “They will look at virtually every successful off-mall retailer.”

Sears said it plans to have about 70 off-mall stores by the end of next year, including 12 to 14 mid-size Sears Grand stores. Just two weeks ago Sears inked a $620 million deal to acquire 54 Kmart locations and leasehold interests in seven Wal-Mart Stores. Sears said the acquisition is intended to jump-start its off-mall expansion.

The new retail president will also oversee merchandising, supply chain management and marketing, Sears said.