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  • Cecile Corral

Sears Making Essential Changes

Company Begins Converting Some Kmart Units To New Format

Stuart, Fla. — In a former, aging Kmart unit that has been spruced up with a fresh coat of paint, clean lifestyle bilingual signage and reconfigured departments; new freestanding prototype Sears Essentials made its debut here and in four other former Kmart stores around the country last week.

These store openings mark the initial rollout of 38 total stores in 16 states, scheduled to open through the end of the summer.

Sears Essentials represents a fusion of the two merged retailers — Kmart and Sears — “offering the convenience of Kmart with its pharmacy, health and beauty and pantry, combined with Sears quality,” explained Michael Koecheler, general store manager for the Stuart unit.

Sears plugged in its brands and assortments in ready-to-wear and home goods, and kept from the Kmart business the pantry, health and beauty aids and pharmacy departments.

Also reminiscent of Kmart is the positioning of departments and merchandise presentation, which is plain and simple with limited cross-merchandised vignettes.

Shoppers enter flush left of the store, first encountering the “missy” apparel department, where the Lands' End, Apostrophe and Covington Sears brands are the focus. In total, ready-to-wear for the family is dominant, occupying about one-third of the total selling floor.

The home fashions department is located to the right of apparel. At the Stuart unit, it takes up about 8,000 square feet, of which roughly 60 percent is dedicated to home textiles.

Brands at the Stuart store from Sears included — Ty Pennington's Style brand (representing the signature label) which shared shelf space with Martex Elegance, Utica, Whole Home, Colormate and New Traditions, as well as several juvenile licenses like Disney, Nickelodeon and CosmoGirl. A smattering of un-branded promotional goods in bedding and bath are also offered.

Omitted from the home fashions mix are Sears' Lands' Endbranded goods.

Prices and sale events for products within these brands are not competitive with Sears — rather they work in synergy, Koecheler said.

New bilingual signage hangs from the ceiling, directing shoppers to the different departments. A few signs feature lifestyle photography with major brands.

On the question of the fate of Kmart's Martha Stewart Everyday, which is not part of the merchandise mix at Sears Essentials, the brand “could possibly” be added in the future, said Corinne Gudovic, Sears spokeswoman.

“We are now able to look at all of our brands and determine which makes the most sense to grow and where,” she continued. “Once we do this, we could possibly see Martha Sears Everyday in any of our Sears formats.”

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