The multi-product retailer's CEO, Alan Lacy, revealed in an analysts' meeting yesterday that its "Sears Grand" concept is doing better than expected. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Grand stores' sales are 30% above projections, with strength in several areas, including the clothing and home-and-bath departments. The stores' Sears-on-steroids format follows the lead of other "Big Box" retailers such as Target
Before you rush off to buy Sears' shares, though, keep in mind that there are only two Grand sites operating, and one of them opened just this year. Success at the two outlets has not had much impact on the chains' overall soft revenue. The firm does expect the Grand concept will account for most of the stores it adds in coming years, though.
Sears' Grand initiative is just one of many efforts by the company to remake itself into a fresher brand. The purchase of well-known clothing labels Lands' End and Structure and the sponsorship of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition reality TV show are among other bids to capture the younger crowd. The retailer also announced yesterday that it had hired Extreme Makeover's carpenter host Ty Pennington as spokesman, perhaps hoping for a hipper image than that offered by Craftsman tools pitchman Bob Vila. (No offense, Bob).
Even with this charm offensive, I still have a hard time thinking of Sears as anything other than the place where my grandfather would go to buy lawn care products. With the company's outlook stuck in the doldrums, something has to be done. But Sears will have to work hard to prove that metrosexuals and hardware junkies are natural shopping companions.
Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.