Sears Essentials store. Image is property of Sears Holdings Corp.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In case you blinked, you may have missed the advent -- and apparent demise -- of Sears Essentials, a young "off-the-mall" store format by Sears Holdings Corp.
Barely a year after announcing the creation of Sears Essentials, Sears is planning to end its run. Sears will convert the roughly 50 existing Essentials stores into a similar store concept called Sears Grand, Sears spokesman Christian Brathwaite said Tuesday.
Two Tampa Bay area Sears Essentials stores, at 9500 Ninth St. N. in St. Petersburg and 2130 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in Clearwater, will adopt the new Sears Grand name and a new store design, he said. Brathwaite couldn't give a timetable for changes, but some conversions could be months in the future. In the meantime, the stores will keep operating as Essentials, Brathwaite said.
Sears decided to eliminate the Sears Essentials brand because it wanted to consolidate operations, Brathwaite said. In recent years, Sears has been trying to expand outside of malls, where it traditionally has built stores.
So it developed two separate formats that operate "off-the-mall": Sears Grand stores, which generally are huge supercenters built from the ground up; and Sears Essentials stores, which were converted Kmart stores. For example, the two Essentials stores in St. Petersburg and Clearwater formerly were Kmart stores.
Sears Grand stores are bigger than Sears Essentials stores, but they generally feature the same assortment of Sears' brands, such as Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools, along with pharmacies, food pantry items and health and beauty products, Brathwaite said.
Sears decided it didn't need two similar store formats, so it decided to re-brand its off-the-mall stores as Sears Grand, Brathwaite said. During the next few months, Sears will focus on converting 14 Kmart stores (none of which are in Florida) into Sears Grand stores. Later, it will come back and convert the existing 50 Sears Essentials stores into Sears Grand locations, Brathwaite said.
When they are converted to Sears Grand, those former Essentials stores will remain the same size but receive several improvements, including new flooring, lighting, fixtures and signage. They also will have a "store-within-a-store" feel, meaning each merchandise department will feel like a separate store, Brathwaite said.
Although Sears may have wanted to consolidate its operations, Sears Holdings Chairman Edward Lampert may be frowning on the Sears Essentials concept, which at one time was thought to have great potential. After Sears Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Corp. merged last spring, the newly merged company touted Sears Essentials as a great way to renovate and re-brand some Kmart stores. By July, Sears spokeswoman Lisa Gibbons told the Tribune that Sears Holdings planned to convert up to 400 Kmart stores into Sears Essentials stores by the end of 2007.
However, in a letter to Sears Holdings stockholders on Dec. 6, Lampert says Sears Essentials was never the "strategic rationale behind the merger."
Through December, the Sears Essentials stores had "achieved various degrees of success," Lampert wrote.