Sears Canada aims to improve shopping for consumers

LuAnn LaSalle
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No store closures planned

Sears Canada Inc. is looking to improve services for customers despite word this week that up to 120 stores will close in the United States. — Photo by The Associated Press

Sears Canada isn’t looking to close stores but instead wants to improve the ones it has, the department store operator said Wednesday, a day after its American parent announced the shutdown of scores of locations.

Shares in Sears Canada Inc. closed down 10 per cent Wednesday, a day after Sears Holdings Inc. said it would close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores in the United States.

The closures do not apply to Sears Canada Inc., the U.S. retailer’s Toronto-based subsidiary, which has been streamlining itself under a new leadership team to help reverse recent losses.

“We’re not in a position where we’re closing stores,” said Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Power.

“If anything, we’re looking on how to improve them.”

Power said he isn’t aware of any more job cuts at Sears Canada stores and added that it is too soon to comment on how the chain’s sales fared during the holiday shopping season.

Sears Canada shares closed down $1.16 at $10.40 Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Last month, Sears Canada laid off about 70 employees at its head office in downtown Toronto as the retailer works to overcome a loss of nearly $47 million in its latest quarter.

“Our new CEO, Calvin McDonald, has been putting plans into place to make the stores even more attractive, more relevant, more shopable for Canadian consumers,” said Power.

McDonald found that Sears’ stores were difficult to shop in and there was “too much clutter,” so the stores were “cleaned up” for the back-to-school season, Power said from Toronto. “Certainly, he sees a lot more potential for the stores.”

The stores will be refreshed and some will be selected for more significant changes, Power said, adding that Sears’ flyers have also been made easier for customers to read.

“Our goal is to be a complete shopping experience for customers.”

But retail analyst John Winter said Sears probably should consider the future of its underperforming stores in Canada.

“The question is really, why don’t they close a few stores in Canada?” asked Winter, of John Winter Associates in Toronto.

“There’s always stores that should never have been opened and where the market has moved away,” Winter said.

“Most retailers should be looking at the bottom end of the bell curve to see which ones are not performing up to their standards and see if they can close them down and that is certainly a boost to the bottom line, immediately.”

Sears also has to be a bit more price conscious to better compete with other retailers such as Wal-mart, he said.

Between lower-end Wal-mart and Target, which will enter the Canadian market in 2013, Sears department stores can find their place by appealing to the middle class.

“There is a space between Wal-Mart, which is basic necessities, and The Bay. There is a space in there that they can fill and they should be filling pretty well,” Winter said of Sears.

“The problem is Target is coming in and Target is a step above Wal-Mart in quality and in price. It will be competing, perhaps, with the lower end of the Sears’ line.”

The retail chain should also consider slimming down its catalogue further, which needs an “important rethink”, he said, especially with shoppers comparing prices online.

Winter said he also isn’t sure that McDonald, appointed last June, will be able to turn Sears Canada around. McDonald is a former executive from Loblaw Companies.

“What does he know of fashion?”

Organizations: Sears Canada Inc., Kmart

Geographic location: Toronto, United States.The, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • ReturnToTheOldSears
    January 02, 2012 - 03:37

    Sears was always more expensive but stood behind their product! Now same quality and poor service like everywhere. They have just kept the higher prices!

  • John
    December 30, 2011 - 12:17

    Sears should look at reducing some of their prices, why would I pay 75$ for a pair of jeans when up the road I can get the same jeans for 30$. All their prices are way to high for the middle class to do any shopping there. I like Sears but not their prices and sometimes quality of service. Check your prices and then maybe I will not go to Wal-Mart and buy but return to Sears.....

  • Mookie
    December 30, 2011 - 10:23

    I love Sears, but shopping at the store in St. John's is a nightmare!! The cash register line ups are crazy long and very slow moving. The other thing I cannot understand is why they don't have shopping carts? What is the problem with shopping carts. I know from my personal shopping experience that if I have to carry items in my arms, I am only going to be buying a few things, give me a cart and I will be doing a lot more shopping.. To the managers of Sears... get some shopping carts.. pleaseeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

    • Lynn
      January 01, 2012 - 23:06

      I just wanted to say that I've been working at Sears for 2 years now and we have shopping carts. Maybe they were all in use when you shopped at our store but we definitely have them.

  • mike in ontario
    December 29, 2011 - 17:51

    With the exception of appliances, everything that Sears sells is sold by Walmart, so I have not been into Sears in years, in Canada anyway. I do lots of cross border shopping and have found some solid deals in the US stores. But that is the US and here in Canada, we no longer need Sears to sell us stuff. I say shut them down, open more Walmart stores in thier place and allow us all to save more money with cheaper goods.

  • Anna
    December 29, 2011 - 14:59

    I used to shop at Sears every week when it was at the Village Mall. Then they moved to the Avalon Mall and moved the ladies department is in five or six different sections of the store. The dressing rooms are filthy and full of clotes that no one puts away. The staff that are there are lovely but they are way too busy. I gave up shopping and now go to Olsons where the staff is fabulous and can help you at any time. That is only one department, the store is a mess and unless management do something it will end up closing down.

  • Rick Bennett
    December 29, 2011 - 10:55

    Sears should have kept up the great extended service areements they used to have on all their applicances, snow blower etc... that is what drew a lot of people to their products and what they used to be known for; parts & service. Then they tried to reduce the service agreements and people started to look at other less expensive suppliers because their great service wasn't there anymore regardless.

  • Chris
    December 29, 2011 - 09:52

    WTF......the problem with Sears(well the one here in NL anyways), are the people they hire for Cash.......I understand that new hires will be slow at first, however there are 3 "senior" cash people that move slower than cold mollasses going up a hill. A credit card application should take a normal person no more an 3 minutes to enter in the information. If some of those working at that store worked on the mainland they would be fired after 1 hour.

  • r c brewer
    December 29, 2011 - 09:40

    Ditto to WTF. Corner Brook is another rat hole.All rejects from up-along ends up in C B . Ignorant staff to name a few more wrongs and i don't shop there anymore.

  • Scott Free
    December 29, 2011 - 09:38

    kudos to WTF....its amazing...about 160,000 sq' store with 1 or 2 cash registers open. lots of product, you just can't buy it! and, about encouraging shoppers to fill a cart! why did you think your policy of all you can carry is enough? prehistoric shopping at its worst.

  • wtf
    December 29, 2011 - 07:40

    This is for the people in charge of Sears. You want to find out what's wrong with Sears, try shopping there during Christmas. I was at the Avalon Mall, a clean store, good products but good luck in trying to buy something. Items on counters with no price stickers or shelf tags, no pricing scanners posted anywhere (the kind you find at Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire). Then you go to the checkouts to see there are only four checkouts but only two are ever used. Now toss in some moronic idea that the checkout would be a good place for people to return items or worse, fill out credit card applications. Yes sir, top that off with two spiffy looking managers that see the long line ups but choose to continue on as if this was an acceptable practice at Sears. I was third in line - for twenty minutes, but after seeing the managers walk away without seeing a problem, I just dropped my items and walked away too. Sears is a dinosaur and should be extinct.