Retail Pulse: Sears To Open ‘Home & Life’ Stores, Amazon Reduces Whole Foods’ Prices

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Iconic American retailers that have been around more than 100 years are creating new concepts for the new era of retail. Sears, in one case, plans to open three Home & Life brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. just ahead of the busy shopping holiday of Memorial Day weekend.

The new stores, which are to range from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, are set to offer appliances, connected home products and home services, among other offerings. The locations, which the company said were created based on insights from Sears Appliances & Mattresses stores, are set to be located in Alaska, Kansas and Louisiana. Major appliances, for instance, will be offered from Kenmore along with other brands and showcased “in kitchen and laundry vignettes.” At the same time, the stores will feature a selection of smart home products.

Peter Boutros, who serves as Sears’ chief brand officer and as the president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands, said in an announcement for the stores, “The exciting new Sears Home & Life stores will carry power categories where Sears has a real strength: Appliances, mattresses and our home services business.” Boutros continued, “We are here to serve these communities and this is part of our strategy to maintain a presence in markets where we have right-sized our footprint.”

The locations will also offer omnichannel features, with the company letting customers receive free store pickup on products that they purchase through the sears.com website. At the same time, merchandise that shoppers buy on sears.com can be returned at the stores. With another feature, the company will allow in-vehicle pickup. Through that offering, which will be offered at the Kansas and Louisiana stores, the retailer will send shoppers emails when their items are ready.

Customers will then park in a reserved spot at the locations, and the company claims that a store associate “will be out with your order in five minutes or less — guaranteed.” The stores will also have a “Search Bar” kiosk that will provide customers with access to the retailer’s products and services. A Home & Life expert will help shoppers, and their selections can be delivered to their homes or picked up within the stores. 

Sears is currently called “Transform Holdco” following its bankruptcy, until the time that the company announces a new name, CNBC reported. The company has 205 Kmart locations and 220 Sears stores still in operation. And, while Eddie Lampert is not the company’s chief executive now, he has stayed on as chairman. For now, 125 years after its opening, Sears is finding a new way to weave itself into the fabric of American life with brick-and-mortar retail.

In Other Brick-And-Mortar Retail

Amazon is intending to cut the prices of hundreds of items at Whole Foods stores to bring in customers and change the brand’s image as a high-priced grocery store, per a report earlier this week. The lower prices, which will reportedly mostly focus on produce and meat, are said to impact 500-plus products. Whole Foods actually raised prices in February due to high ingredient and transport costs.

Amazon planned to initiate the price cuts on Wednesday (April 3), with discounts on some items to be as high as 20 percent. The price of Black Forest ham was said to be reduced $3 a pound, to $9.99, while the price of organic rainbow carrots was to be cut by $1 to $1.99. Amazon has reduced prices at the store before on eggs, avocados, and other items.

And the second-largest retailer in the world, H&M, reported a smaller than expected decline in profit for Q1. The merchant credited a narrower profit decline to selling more items that were full-price. At the same time, the company was able to keep margins up, which marked a sign that its turnaround strategy is proving to be effective.

News of the results sent the retailer’s stock up more than 15 percent. The company also predicts that the sale of products at prices that are discounted will continue to fall during the current quarter. CEO Karl-Johan Persson said in a statement, “Our ongoing transformation work has contributed to stronger collections with increased full-price sales, lower markdowns and increased market shares.”

On another note, the vacancy rate of community shopping centers in the first quarter reached 10.2 percent, which was unchanged from the last quarter of 2018 but higher than a year prior. Real estate research firm Reis found that the vacancy rate in 28 of the 77 metropolitan regions rose during the first three months of this year per reports.

To keep tabs on the latest retail trends, check next week’s Retail Pulse.

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