Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sears Essentials brand to be shelved

Sears Essentials store. Image is property of Sears Holdings Corp.

Michael Sasso
Tampa Tribune

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.


  1. This makes a lot of sense. I thought that Sears was muddying its brand by operating 3 seperate formats.

    It's great that Sears is revisiting the "Essentials" locations and remodeling them more extensively. I haven't visited an Essentials yet, but from what I hear the stores weren't improved much the first time around. If Sears wants to get more shoppers at its former Kmart stores, it needs to show that it's a whole new shopping experience.

    I like the idea of using "Grand" because it implies a wide assortment of goods. "Essentials" was a poor choice because it was rather limiting, as though only a small range of goods could be found within.

    From what I read here, Sears isn't abandoning the process of converting former Kmarts, just slowig it down and refining it. I think the new Sears Grand stores have a better chance of success. I still think that the Kmart name will eventually die...whether Sears can do better with its real estate remains to be seen.

  2. I think that whatever name Sears decides to use, it needs to take a long, hard look at the physical condition of its stores. Most of them look horrible and are badly maintained. Adding in Kmart's less than tidy reputation makes things worse.

    In most cases, those stores need to be completely renovated from the ground up, leraving not a single tile, or lighting fixture unturned.

    Also, I think Sears should scrap all the appendages to its name and just be Sears. Bring some of the proven Grand ideas to tha mall stores, and evolve the Essentiasls stores to compliment them.

  3. I think they should give it a shot. It's not like they have a whole bunch of great ideas floating around Sears headquarters these days.