Business

Sears meets challenge of changing markets

Sears in Nanaimo opened in 1959. In that time the store has expanded, renovated, moved from its original Harbour Park location out to Rutherford Village Mall in 1990.

Marketing changes with the times. Rutherford Village is now Nanaimo North Town Centre and Sears is renovating to refocus its merchandising strategy to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving retail market.

The renovations have meant customers confront columns of white tarps that hang floor to ceiling to cut dust noise and conceal store upgrades taking shape, but when done Sears Nanaimo will have fresh colours, cleaner sight lines and incorporate new merchandising techniques, such as "power towers" and "event hubs" making their ways into Sears stores across Canada.

"The power tower is a fixture that identifies a commodity in a department and it really shows it off to its best potential," said Thomas Gemma, store general manager.

Event hubs pull together groups of merchandise, such as home appliances, in settings created under accent lighting to highlight the products' visual appeal and show the lifestyle benefits of owning the products.

"Part of this work is to expand two key businesses," Gemma said. "We're the number two volume, full-line Sears store of major appliances in the country. Our major appliance business is being expanded. It's one of our strengths, so again the environment will be refreshed with fresh paint, new flooring, new fixtures. It will look really dynamic and will have sitting and consultation areas."

Furniture and mattress departments – two more traditional key businesses for Sears in Nanaimo – are also being expanded to capitalize on the businesses Sears is strong at.

Sears also does well with fashion and children's wear sale, which will be bolstered by the arrival of Carter's and Oshkosh B'gosh babies and children's wear lines.

Gemma said the store is well positioned for a profitable future, as is Nanaimo North Town Centre, which will soon be home to Target and Vancouver Island's largest Canadian Tire store. The combination of major anchor retailers, including London Drugs, is sure to draw a sizable portion of Nanaimo's buying public.

"We want to invite people to come and see us," Gemma said. "We're open for business today and every day and we're happy to be able to tour people through. We have extra staff on to actually do that with people because we're sort of in a state of flux right now."

The renovations mean the store is investing in local trades and its more than 160 employees. The entire staff is undergoing Sears' Show Time customer service training.

Brian Stone, special project manager, said store renovations and staff retraining are proving to be a highly successful combination.

"We really want our associates to sparkle when our store sparkles after it's all said and done," Gemma said.

Renovations are scheduled to be completed the store ready for a grand reopening in mid April.

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