Sears reins in growth of Great Indoors
Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, April 23, 2001
DETROIT — Despite its strong results in a test-mode format, Sears is scaling back the rollout of The Great Indoors to 11 new stores this year, versus the 30 that had been announced.
The reason, said Alan Lacy, chairman and ceo of Sears, "is that although it is a winning format with customers, we need to possess the skills necessary to succeed" beyond the four-store test.
Included in this year's activities at The Great Indoors are the building of an organization that will support a full-fledged business rather than what has been a hands-on test, getting sales people comfortable with the nuances of the business, building a logistics discipline and expanding its brand awareness to thegreatindoors.com, Bob Rodgers, president, The Great Indoors explained.
Lacy and Rodgers, as well as Jeff Boyer, senior vp, cfo and Kevin Keleghan, president, credit services, presented an update of Sears and its myriad businesses to more than 300 security analysts here last week. Despite the showcasing of The Great Indoors, which included a tour of a nearby store the evening before, Lacy emphasized that the company's focus would continue to be centered on its core 863 department stores.
Within this context, home fashions has been identified as one of "six winning categories that will be supported."
This core business, he acknowledged, "is simultaneously addressing three challenges: strategically repositioning the full-line stores, significantly improving the financial performance and 'making the day' in a difficult economic environment."
Addressing the merchandise segments of the business, Lacy indicated that the hardlines segments have been identified in terms "fix, exit deemphasize, defend/ grow, and maintain/grow."
Softlines still is undergoing analysis in terms of overall merchandise segments, promotional emphasis and presentation.
The test of new approaches to presentation as well as adjacencies and easier shopping environments that were tried in some 13 stores last fall will not be rolled out to the rest of the chain, with a few exceptions, Lacy said. One of the rollouts already in place is the use of shopping carts to make shopping easier for bulky purchases. Another is more centralization of checkouts, a process that will take some time to implement. Most of the other experiments, he said, "didn't justify rollout."
Another new change, designed to increase business synergies, is the alliance of the Sears' carpet cleaning services with the home fashions rug and carpet business. The cleaning services now are under the direction of the home fashions merchandise department.
During the meeting, Lacy emphasized that the full-line stores remain the core emphasis of the corporation's efforts, from an organizational, logistics and merchandising perspective.
After the meeting Lacy emphasized that The Great Indoors has had strong performances from the outset.
The store opening schedule has been cut back, Lacy said, reflects "my desire to make sure we did it right concerning execution." The business, he explained, is moving from a test format to an established business in a very short time. In addition to expansion in numbers of stores, it is expanding and revamping its organizaiotn and logistics.