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Sears seeks owner for new store
Retailer to replace mall location with ‘Hometown Store’
Thursday, October 18, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Sears hopes to open a smaller store in the Martinsville area by the time its department store at Liberty Fair Mall closes, according to a company official.
The new store, which would have a limited merchandise selection, is to be locally owned, said Chris Mock, Sears’ regional development manager.
Efforts are underway to recruit someone to be the owner/operator.
Since the mall opened in the late 1980s, Sears has been one of its anchor tenants. Sears recently announced it would close the mall store after failing to come to terms on a new lease. Company officials have said the closing may occur by mid-December, but a firm date has not been set.
“Our goal is to open a (smaller) store as close to the closing date as possible,” Mock said of Sears.
A location for a smaller store has not yet been found.
The new store would operate as a Sears Hometown Store. The concept basically is the same as Sears’ “catalog stores” that operated in small cities before the company shut down its catalog division in 1993, Mock said.
Most Sears department stores are in large metropolitan cities, a company website indicates.
The nearest Hometown Store to Martinsville is in Reidsville, N.C. There are more than 900 Hometown Stores in the United States and its territories, according to a company website.
Hometown Stores sell a limited variety of merchandise found in most Sears stores, mostly home appliances, electronics, lawn and garden equipment and tools, the website shows.
Mock said Hometown Stores can arrange for products bought in the stores to be serviced when needed.
The most noticeable difference between the larger and smaller stores may be that Hometown Stores do not sell clothing like Sears department stores do, he indicated.
At a Hometown Store, customers can order items for sale in larger stores and have them shipped either to the store or to their homes, he said.
Hometown Stores are locally owned and operated to try and give customers the feel they are shopping with a locally based merchant instead of a major company, Mock said. Shoppers are able to get to know the people who run the stores, which can lead to better customer service, he said.
To operate Hometown Stores, Sears seeks people with backgrounds in sales and/or management, particularly with retailers selling “big ticket” items, and who have excellent customer service skills, according to the website.
Hometown Store owners must spend an average of about $96,000 toward expenses such as store fixtures and equipment, utility deposits and permits, legal and insurance fees and travel for training in how to properly run the store, the website shows.
Prospective owners should have $25,000 in cash on hand and an ability to borrow $100,000 in capital, according to Mock and the website.
Sears supplies a store’s inventory on consignment. There are no licensing or franchise fees, ongoing fees or royalties, the website shows.
Anyone interested in running a Hometown Store can fill out an application online. Sears executives will review applications. If it is determined that an applicant may qualify for a store, a personal interview will be set up. If the applicant is chosen, a store development team will help the person with all phases of establishing the store, the website shows.
Training in operational and management procedures will be provided to new store owners, the website states.
Mock said when Sears wants to establish a Hometown Store in a retail market, usually there is a pool of applicants to be the owner/operator, so he is optimistic that such a store will open in the Martinsville area.
But he cannot guarantee that until applications are received and a qualified owner/operator is chosen, he emphasized.
Anyone interested in the opportunity to own a Sears store can call Mock at (843) 270-7736.
The Sears department store at the mall has about 75 employees, whereas a Hometown Store generally has about six, including the owner/operator, Mock said. Because the owner/operator would be in charge of hiring, he could not say if current Sears employees would have an advantage to getting a job at the planned new store.
Online reports from media show at least several other Sears department stores around the country are expected to close in December or January due to lease matters. In each instance, Sears officials have declined to elaborate.