Tuesday, July 27, 2004 | 10:46 a.m.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. opened its Sears Grand concept Monday in the west Las Vegas Valley, the third such store in the country.
Sears is experimenting with a new layout and a one-stop shopping experience in an attempt to win back its core customers -- women ages 25 to 49 -- from Target, Kmart and Kohl's. Grand-opening events begin Thursday, with a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday.
Las Vegas' Sears Grand is in a large shopping center, owned and developed by Triple Five Nevada, already anchored by a Target and Mervyn's, just south of the planned community Summerlin at Flamingo Road and the Beltway.
The store has 355 full- and part-time employees and has longer hours than a traditional mall-anchored Sears, store officials said. Sears Grand's hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
"Pretty much this is set up so you can shop in your neighborhood," said Harvey Isom, the store's general manager. "You don't have to make extra stops, Sears Grand is a full-line store, it's just an extension of it."
Unlike Super Wal-Mart and Super Kmart, which have full grocery stores with produce and meat departments, Sears Grand only carries pantry items, such as milk, cereal, and baby food. The store does carry packaged deli meats, hot dogs and a small frozen section with meals and pizzas.
Sears Grand carries all the product lines found in a mall-anchored Sears store -- home appliances, electronics, tools, lawn and garden and apparel.
The concept store includes a year-round toy department (regular Sears stores sell toys only during the holiday season), cleaning supplies, home decor, pet food, health and beauty, cards and party supplies, books and magazines along with CDs and DVDs. New services include paint mixing, window blind cutting and key cutting and a plant nursery. The Sears Grand also will have an auto service center.
"It has a big feel, but shoppers can navigate easily through the store and they don't have to deal with mall traffic," said Corinne Gudovic, a Sears spokeswoman.
Sears has struggled over the years to stay relevant in an ever-changing retail landscape. The off-mall Sears Grand concept has exceeded analysts' expectations following disappointing earnings during the second quarter, attributed in part to soft sales in fashion product assortment.
But analysts don't expect the benefits of Sears Grand to start to accrue for the company until 2006.
Daniel Barry, an analyst with Merrill Lynch who covers Sears, said in a report that the two Sears Grand concepts previously opened were strong in apparel, home fashion, electronics and toys.
"The off-the-mall brand stores are generating higher sales per households versus the full-line stores, customers are cross-shopping more than in the mall stores," Barry reported.
Other existing Sears Grand stores are in West Jordan, Utah, a suburb south of Salt Lake City, and Gurnee, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. A fourth Sears Grand is scheduled to open this fall in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
The off-mall strategy has worked well for retailers such as Kohl's, which opened three stores in the Las Vegas area last year.
Similar to Kohl's, Target and Kmart, but unlike Sears' mall stores, Las Vegas' Sears Grand has cash registers at the front of the store and bright blue shopping carts.
The 165,000-square-foot one-level Las Vegas store was designed to be shopper-friendly, it has wider aisles -- 15 feet -- and has directional signs and do-it-yourself price checkers throughout the store.
Each of the three Sears Grand concept stores are slightly different. The reason, store officials said, was to see what works best. For example, Las Vegas' Sears Grand is the first concept store with a plant nursery and one of two with an exposed ceiling.
The Las Vegas Sears Grand store is also smaller than its two predecessors that are each more than 200,000 square feet.
"Based on information (from a survey group) we experimented with different things," Isom said. "The store is designed around the customer."
Sears has tried different concepts in the Las Vegas market before.
Its 121,310-square-foot one-level Henderson store has a different layout than a typical two-story mall-anchored Sears.
The Henderson store has most of its cash registers grouped at the front and offers shopping carts for its customers.
Gudovic said the Henderson store would not be changed into a Sears Grand, but said the store and other Sears stores would be fitted with price checkers and some displays, such as the shoe department, will be changed to reflect the new Sears Grand layout.
The company is focusing on growth, rather than converting old stores, Isom said.
"(Sears Grand) is where our growth potential will come from," he said.
Sears plans to increase the pace of its growth for its Sears Grand format, targeting three of the newly acquired Kmart locations for conversions to Sears Grand stores. Sears has said it will acquire 54 Kmarts. The locations will not be disclosed until Sears takes ownership of the stores, which is expected to happen next year.
Kmart officials have previously indicated none of the stores is in Southern Nevada.
Including the three open Sears Grand locations and the fourth to open in California this year, the company expects to be operating 12 to 14 Sears Grands by the end of 2005.
So far, three locations have been announced for 2005 openings, Austin, Texas, Bonita Springs, Fla., and Cape Girardeau, Mo., outside St. Louis. The stores are not Kmart conversions, Sears officials said.
As for future Sears Grand locations in the Las Vegas Valley, it is unlikely that any more will be built in the near future, Gudovic said.
"We continue to look for locations but we have no plans to add (another) one in the Las Vegas area," she said.