Sears CEO visits Avalon Mall

Retailer commits to N.L. staff levels, says St. John’s top store in country

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on February 14, 2014
Doug Campbell, CEO of Sears Canada, was at the Avalon Mall location for a visit. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Sears Canada CEO Doug Campbell and a collection of over half a dozen of the company’s senior managers were at the Avalon Mall on Thursday, meeting with staff and reviewing the inner workings of the operation.

It is the company’s No. 1 store in Canada in terms of overall sales.

“I think its been eight, 10 years since the headquarters team has come out to St. John’s, so it’s one of the first things when I took over ... I said

St. John’s has got to be on our list,” he said, speaking with The Telegram.

Sears announced more than 2,200 layoffs in January, closing call centres and reducing staff at warehouses while making changes to management. The layoffs have drawn plenty of questions about the future of the retailer.

For that vision, Campbell suggested, look no further than the most easterly store in North America, where the company maintains a relationship with the community, a name recognition that draws returning customers, particularly for grab-and-go staple clothing and large purchases like appliances, where people want to touch before they buy.

Sears has seen double-digit growth online, he said. “But we recognize that customers want to shop in both ways. So some customers want to go to the stores and some people want to go online. So we have to make the right investments in the right place.”

The right investments for in-store sales, for company growth, will draw in the middle-class consumer, he said. That is the person looking for product lines that are not luxury pricing, but also not “cheap” quality; the winter coat that’s warm, but still reasonably priced.

“Every market is different. And it’s one of the things that I’ve learned living in Canada for the last three years is that every single community, every market is different — what’s important to them, what’s not important to them in terms of merchandise,” he said.

In that sense, he suggested, with a touch of the salesman, the trip to St. John’s was research.

“Seeing things is a lot different than looking on a piece of paper. Looking somebody in the eye, shaking their hand and asking what’s working and what’s not working is so much more effective than a report that a CFO gives you.”

In terms of what remains in those CFO reports, he was asked if Sears Canada employees, specifically in this province, might still see layoffs in the next year.

“I don’t think that we’ll see any changes in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “We’re looking at how we can grow this business.”