Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sears Hopes Makeover Will Regain Customers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Sears Hopes Makeover Will Regain Customers

Article excerpt

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Sears Roebuck will attempt to win back customers with a radical makeover of its retailing business, which will include slashing prices, creating new advertising and intensifying its Internet presence.

In what Chairman and Chief Executive Arthur Martinez called its "second revolution" of the 1990s, Sears hopes to revitalize sluggish sales with new lines of clothing and in-store displays aimed at younger audiences.

Sears also promised price cuts of up to 15 percent on certain clothes, the introduction of dinnerware, flatware, gardening and other housewares and new credit card promotions. The nation's largest department store chain also revealed Wednesday that it is considering dumping or sharply scaling back its long-running "Softer Side of Sears" advertising campaign as it struggles to win back customers lost to such discount chains like Target and Wal-Mart and specialty stores, including the Gap and Abercombie & Fitch. "The softer side has brought us a long way indeed," Martinez said, during a meeting with Wall Street analysts and investors. "But we expect it to morph into something else. I don't think it disappears, I think it transforms and modifies itself." Sears executives acknowledged they became too complacent following the retailer's phoenix-like rise from the brink of bankruptcy earlier this decade. They promised more aggressive measures against the increasingly tough competition. "It's all about focus," Martinez said. "The issue we saw emerging in the business was lack of sales momentum. We're working to restore focus and accountability." Department stores last year generally lagged in sales to specialty chains and discounters as shoppers sought bargains and wide selections. But Sears performed worse than most. Sears in 1998 saw sales at stores open at least a year, an industry measure of performance, tumble 4 percent in the men's wear category, 1 percent in women's wear and 2 percent in children's wear. During the crucial holiday shopping period, the retailer saw overall same-store sales fall 1.6 percent, well below the average increase of other retailers. …

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