The CEO and president of Sears Canada, Calvin McDonald, was in Sudbury earlier this month to tour the New Sudbury Centre department store’s new look.
McDonald is the perfect spokesperson for the “refreshed” cool Sears. In his early 40s, the hip executive has his ears and eyes focused on what young consumers want as well as what the true-and-trusted Sears loyalists expect. He joined the company last year after working with Loblaws where he was the executive vice-president in charge of marketing, customer relationship management.
The “refreshed” Sears is no longer dowdy. The aisles are wider, the displays are stunning, the shoe department has expanded, and the employee “behaviour” improved. Sears Canada is attempting to reclaim its dominance with consumers just before Target opens its first stores in Canada next year.
The cluttered look is gone, says McDonald.
Gone are crowded aisles overflowing with merchandise. The store has reduced inventory to avoid redundancies but increased selection.
“We used to sell 10 kinds of men’s black socks.” he says.
He describes the store as a “stage for products,” and calls departments where Sears can maintain and grow customer loyalty as “hero shops.” These include men’s and women’s fashions.
Sears is the top seller of women’s dresses in Canada, says McDonald. Sears is building on this with special promotions such as the Little Black Dress shop and Great Gatsy-inspired holiday fashions
“Where else will you find a Sequin dresses for under $30.” says McDonald.
Sears Canada has relaunched its Jessica women’s wear line. “We’ve worked on style and fit.” The line complements popular designer brands such as Jones and Co and Nygard.
One of the new marketing initiatives is Canada Best, a kind of President’s Choice of retailing. These products are “the best quality at the best price point in Canada,” says Macdonald. He points to the Jessica woman’s classic black business suit priced at $80. Jessica cashmere sweaters are selling for $79.88.
The Sears Canada Best down parka sells for $179. Made with 90 percent gray duck down, it can compete with the higher priced brands, McDonald says.
While women look for designer and brand names, men shop differently and this is reflected in the men’s department. Shoppers will find suits, pants, shirts, sock and underwear in specific “shops” without having to search all over the store. The merchandising and displays are what one sees in exclusive stores.
Sears has spent more than $1 million to improve customer service in stores across the country and is promoting consumer-friendly programs such a 90-day price protection promise, and the kidvantage program which allows parents to return clothing that worn out before their child has outgrown it.
The New Sudbury department store is one of five being relaunched this month. The other stores are in Newmarket, Barrie, Belleville and Hamilton. Sears, which has had a faithful catalogue following in Sudbury since 1953, opened a department store here in 1974.
That history with the Canadian consumer is being reinforced in store displays and current advertising.
“Sudbury is a great market for Sears, we can be relevant here,” McDonald says.