Looking to play to a core category strength, Sears Holdings announced plans to open a pilot standalone appliance store in Fort Collins, CO on May 19. If the concept is a success, it would quickly be rolled out in other markets.
The move comes as rival J.C. Penney announced it plans to expand appliance sales to 500 stores this year, after a successful pilot earlier this year in three markets. It will be interesting to see how other appliance-focused major retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s react to moves by both Sears and J.C. Penney.
Sears, still the top appliance seller in the country, will offer the top 10 brands of refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, ranges, wall ovens, and vacuum cleaners in the 10,000-square-foot store, roughly one-tenth the size of its big-box outlets. It claims to be the only retailer selling all 10 top brands.
The store will also feature interactive displays that allow customers to view home appliances in kitchen vignettes, and offer in-store consultations. The “Kitchen Creator” includes a 122-inch interactive digital display that visualizes how new appliances would appear in a full-scale kitchen. Using a tablet, shoppers can select common kitchen layouts and appliances and further customize the experience by choosing colors and finishes.
Other features and services at the pilot store include in-store ordering and free shipping on items not carried and fulfillment options like buy online and ship to store, curbside pickup and handing off pickup to a family member or friend, all via the Sears app.
“We’re using digital innovation and this new store space in a different way which will enable us to deliver a superior shopping experience to our members,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president, customer experience and Integrated Retail, Sears Holdings, in a release. “The store in Fort Collins is a great example of how we are focusing on our best categories, stores and members and how the right blend of a physical store with Sears’ digital capabilities can deliver a fresh, innovative and convenient way for our members to shop.”
While appliances is a strong category, as is hardware, Sears has been struggling in other categories, most notably apparel. Many Sears and Kmart locations have closed in recent years, and the company’s losses continue to pile up. There are also 52 Sears hardware and appliance stores, part of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, which was spun out from Sears Holdings in 2012.