By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sears is testing sales of major appliances at eight of its freestanding Sears Hardware stores as part of its sweeping strategy to recapture market share lost to the home-improvement channel.
The six-state experiment began in Batavia, Ill., in March and has since been extended to hardware stores in suburban Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Long Island, N.Y. All have been renamed Sears Appliances and Hardware.
The company said the pilot program would be evaluated this summer.
Sears maintains 160 hardware stores nationwide in 20,000-square-foot and 55,000-square-foot formats. The units are largely located in strip malls, unlike Sears' mostly mall-based full-line stores.
Selling majaps through its hardware stores would allow Sears to share in some of the same positive appliance dynamics enjoyed by its home improvement competitors, including their off-the-mall locations and house and garden adjacencies.
Like the full-line stores, the test sites are carrying up to 260 different majaps — including 50 cash-and-carry models — that are merchandised by brand in a good-better-best floor layout. Similarly, the specialty stores are offering an expanded assortment of opening price point appliances.
To make room for the majaps, the company eliminated more than 10,000 SKUs in slower moving categories like faucets, ceiling fans and exterior lighting.
Sears has also eliminated "top stock" inventory and signs over the aisles to improve visibility and lighting in the stores.
"The Sears Appliances and Hardware Stores are the first of many significant changes Sears is making to maintain and grow our appliance market share and better serve our customers," said Lyle Heidemann, executive VP/general manager of hardlines. "This format gives us the ability to extend our great appliance offering in a new way, right in our customers' neighborhoods."
He continued, "This is a test. This is only a test. We'll be evaluating every aspect of the store and making adjustments as we receive feedback from customers."
Sears has previously experimented with a majap and CE-only specialty store concept called Sears Appliances & Electronics, but is not actively pursuing that format.
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