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The Great Indoors growth slows

Chicago — Sears is slowing down the pace of new store openings for its The Great Indoors chain, a move designed to improve the reach of this format and free capital for "broader corporate use."

While still strongly supportive of the home decorating/home remodeling chain that will have 13 units by yearend, Alan Lacy, Sears chairman and ceo, said that the challenge for The Great Indoors "is to increase its mass market appeal, improve installation capabilities and processes and reduce investment and operating expense structure."

Discussing this division at an analysts update meeting here late last month, Lacy said the issue is "that in affluent markets we do very well. But we want a broader appeal" for markets like Detroit that might not have the same demographics.

In addition, he remarked, "We are still analyzing multi-store markets, multi-level and mall based stores. This is an important learning year."

Lacy also emphasized that "the investment level remains higher than desired." The key point, he emphasized, "is to do it right, not just quickly."

Last year, Sears announced plans to open 30 new units for this year. However, in April, Lacy said that the opening schedule would be trimmed back to 11 new units for this year, which was later cut back to nine.

The pressures of the economy and his view that the format "requires more mass appeal than it is currently delivering" would reduce the chain to 13 units for the year. Seven new stores are planned for next year, including two deferred from this year, he said.

As part of the direct-to-customer initiatives, Lacy pointed to a narrowing of its licenses with outside company to produce Sears catalogs. Of the catalogs retained, four merchandised and produced by Direct Marketing Services Inc. will move forward. They are Show Place, Home Center, Room for Kids and Kitchens.

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