By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sears Holdings has opened its first Sears-branded appliance store inside a Kmart.
The store-within-a-store debuted last month inside what had been the garden department of a Birmingham, Ala., Kmart. The 4,000-square-foot shop holds less than two-thirds of the assortment found in a typical Sears store, but substantially more SKUs than are found in the approximately 280 Kmarts that presently carry appliances, where the departments typically average about 2,500 square feet.
The new Sears shop has its own entrance, checkout counters and sales team, which was reassigned from a recently shuttered Sears store nearby, and will offer the chain's full suite of in-store and at-home support services, including price comparisons, installation and repair. The appliance store will also carry Sears branding, including the chain's “Blue Appliance Crew” marketing collateral, and the main exterior sign atop the Kmart was amended to read “Kmart Sears Appliances.”
According to Sears' home appliances president Doug Moore, the closing of the local Sears created a unique opportunity to test the concept, which he described as an “early stage initiative.” While it's too soon to evaluate the results, he said, the relocation into the minimally fixtured space was fast, efficient and supported in part by the local Birmingham government, and the several hundred Kmarts nationwide with garden shops present a significant opportunity “to expand the number of places we sell appliances.”
Sears has long tested various formats to extend its appliance and electronics franchise beyond the chain's mall-based box, including stand-alone specialty stores. The latter include the new Sears Home Appliance Showrooms, which target underserved metropolitan areas; more than 110 Sears Hardware and Appliance Stores, conceived as convenient neighborhood centers averaging 40,000 square feet; and about 60 independent Home Appliance Stores, which are operated under Sears' Hometown dealer network.
Utilizing the garden departments can help Sears boost majap sales and market share by leveraging Kmart's largely strip-mall real estate, a format preferred by shoppers for its easy access to stores. The strip-mall sites would also help Sears more readily tap into “take-with” sales, an advantage held by national competitors The Home Depot and Lowe's with their freestanding stores, and Best Buy with its stand-alone and strip-mall locations.
Moore said ongoing majap efforts like the stores-within-stores, the Blue Appliance Crew campaign and a recent buyer protection plan that safeguards purchases in the event of job loss, will ensure that Sears is well-positioned when the economy eventually rebounds.
“Times are still tougher than a year ago, and the unemployment news is particularly daunting,” he said. “It's a great time to help consumers.”
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