Friday, February 24, 2006

Sears to convert 14 Kmart stores

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sears Holdings Corp. is converting 14 Kmart stores, including five area locations, to smaller versions of its Sears Grand concept.

Stores in Kansas City, North; Lee’s Summit; Lenexa; Liberty; and Merriam will hold grand openings as Sears Grand locations in May. They are expected to remain open during the conversion process.

Sears Grand is a one-stop, home-and-family solution center offering clothing, appliances, lawn and garden supplies, electronics, tools, toys, automotive products and services, sporting goods, apparel, hardware, health and beauty products, greeting cards, dry grocery items, pet food, books and magazines, mattresses, and home and seasonal decor.

The stores will still operate pharmacies.

Sears’ brands such as Kenmore, Craftsman, Lands’ End and DieHard will be featured in the stores, as well as Nike, CoverGirl, General Electric, Levi’s, Sony, Carter’s, Huggies, Apostrophe, KitchenAid and other brands.

“This is fundamentally a Sears store and so it will not at this point have Kmart brands,” said Chris Brathwaite, spokesman for Sears. “But Kmart has been in the pharmacy business, the convenience side, pantry, etc. business a lot longer than we have and they do that very well.”

Brathwaite would not release employment figures for the Kmart stores but said typically a few additional employees are needed to operate the smaller Sears Grand concept.

Other area Kmart stores are continuing to operate under the Kmart format, for now.

Sears selected the Kansas City market for several conversions to identify the value of having several of the stores in a single market “in terms of operating efficiency, synergy and strategic benefits, such as localizing assortments,” Brathwaite said.

The converted area stores are a bit smaller — an average of 105,000 square feet — than new Sears Grand stores, which average about 160,000 square feet. However, while they might not have the depth of products as a new store, they will have all of the same departments, Brathwaite said.

Sears Holdings, parent company of Kmart and Sears, Roebuck and Co., has annual revenues of about $55 billion. The merger of the two companies closed March 24, 2005.

Sears converted 50 Kmart stores to its Sears Essentials concept, which offers typical Sears departments along with convenience items. However, Sears recently said it made more sense to have one name for its off-mall formats, and would now convert those stores to the smaller Sears Grand format. The company also has eight large Sears Grand stores, though none in the Kansas City area.

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