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Sears scores off-mall spots from Kmart and Wal-Mart

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Looking to ramp up expansion of its consumables/general merchandise format, Sears, Roebuck and Co. will acquire up to 61 off-mall stores in from Kmart Holding Corporation and Wal-Mart for approximately $620 million in cash.

The majority of the stores are expected to be converted by fourth quarter 2005 to Sears nameplates, including a new mid-size format that is modeled on Sears Grand.

The Kmart stores are located primarily in large, urban markets with home, family and income demographics similar to Sears. The seven Wal-Mart stores are located in mid-size markets that Sears said fits its market and demographic profile.

Sears plans to increase the pace of growth for its Sears Grand format, targeting three of the newly acquired Kmart locations for conversion to Sears Grand stores. Including the previously announced four Sears Grand stores expected to be opened by the end of 2004, the company expects to be operating 12 to 14 Sears Grands at the end of 2005.

The discount boxes average 110,000 gross square feet and 84,000 selling square feet, compared with an average of 90,000 selling square feet for Sears' full-line stores. The new mid-sized format stores will offer "a relevant subset of traditional categories," including apparel, home appliances, home electronics, home improvement and home fashions, plus consumables and, in certain locations, a pharmacy. The floor design of the new stores will be on one level, utilizing a common layout similar to the open-racetrack design of Sears Grand stores, with exit cashiering near the door.

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