Home tanks at Sears

Carole Sloan, May 12, 2003

Hoffman Estates, IL — Home fashions sales declined in the low double digits at Sears for April compared with the companywide comp sales decline of 8.5 percent.

But, said Alan Lacy, Sears chairman and ceo, during a press conference after the annual meeting here last week, much of the home fashions decline could be attributed to the exiting of broadloom announced last year.

Despite the sales drop, Lacy called home fashions "very important." He added, "We are very pleased with our housewares rollout and the Kenmore brand in small housewares."

Lacy also noted, "We're in the early stages of the Whole Home rollout" which began in March across all home fashions lines. Sears had introduced some bed and bath Whole Home programs in 2002, Lacy noted. "We're very pleased with the quality, and we've had good customer response." But Lacy declined to give an overall assessment.

Overall, Lacy said while January and February were tough, March and April showed signs of firming up. Hard lines, he noted, "slowed and not just for Sears, and April weather was not good for lawn and garden.

Home fashions also will be a major component of the new Sears Grand test stores off the mall, Lacy said. "Home is very important to us and will represent what we have already" — but will be bigger in terms of space. Area rugs and mattresses are very important parts of the home, he added.

Las Vegas joins the previously announced sites of Gurnee, IL, and Salt Lake City for the Sears Grand stores, which are significantly larger than Sears' mall units. These stores plus two other locations, not identified, will open in the fall. "These three sites have different configurations and are different sizes. The Salt Lake City store probably is too big at 210,000 square feet."

Lacy noted that the mall stores "are space constrained," so the new stores will offer plants, fertilizer and seeds along with the lawn and garden products, toys year-round, pantry food items and more automotive. "Our mall stores are, largely speaking, profitable, but not at the level we would like."

Turning to The Great Indoors, Lacy said Deerfield, IL, is opening later this month. "But we've suspended additional units until they reach our profit model. They have good customer appeal and revenue performance —but not profit."

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