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Sears Cuts Full-Line Fleet, Expands Appliance Concept

One day after its Canadian counterpart announced it was seeking bankruptcy protection and closing 59 stores, Sears Holdings is reportedly planning to close 20 more locations in the U.S.

That drops Sears’ store count to just over 1,100 doors, down from almost twice as many five years ago. The cuts have largely been an attempt to reduce overhead. In the meantime, the company has been engaged in a lot of financial maneuvering that doesn’t address issues related to product or customer satisfaction.

However, it seems Sears has identified a couple of areas for which it is still relevant. And based on those, it has launched its first Sears Appliances & Mattresses store.

The inaugural location opened yesterday in Pharr, Texas, to capitalize on two of the chain’s bestselling product categories. The model was also motivated by the success of the company’s Sears Appliances store, which opened in Ft. Collins, Colorado, last year, and has since surpassed projections.

“Response to this new concept has been overwhelmingly positive – from member feedback to business performance – so expanding it to another key category like mattresses, and in an important local community like Pharr, made perfect sense,” said Leena Munjal, senior vice president, Customer Experience and Integrated Retail, Sears Holdings.

Despite its success in this area, the question is whether this appliance concept will ever get a chance to fully take off. And even if it does, it might be too little too late given rival JC Penney’s ramp up in the same arena. JCP has been aggressively opening appliance showrooms with 100 more last month and plans for 600 before it’s all said and done. For its part, Morgan Stanley has already identified JCP as the natural beneficiary of Sears’ territory should the latter halt operations.

Sears’ 20,000-square-foot, standalone store features interactive displays that showcase the products in lifelike settings, and the Discover More digital displays allow shoppers create settings with different layouts so they can visualize how their kitchen might look with products from any of the 10 brands on display.

In addition to appliances and mattresses, the store offers vacuums, floor care products and countertop microwaves.

The store also provides a range of services, including expert help by appointment, free shipping and buy online, pickup in store.