Wednesday, December 22, 1999

Sears to open urban store

Local person would own it

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In 2000, there will be Craftsman tools in the inner city.

        Sears Roebuck & Co., the national value chain best known for anchoring suburban shopping centers, is bringing its business to the urban center, and it wants a local entrepreneur to own the store.

        The concept is called the Sears Neighborhood Store, introduced in Atlanta in 1998. Cincinnati is pegged to be one of three more cities nationally to operate such a store, and Sears is preparing for a meeting with local business prospects Jan. 11 to discuss the venture.

        “Cincinnati just popped right to the top of our charts for a huge, untapped urban market,” said Paul Sill, development manager of Sears Neighborhood Stores. “There's a huge gap in Cincinnati.”

Big potential
        The Neighborhood Stores are much smaller than traditional Sears stores — roughly 7,000 square feet. Unlike big, national retailers, they are locally owned and operated. The Cincinnati store — targeted to open in the first quarter of 2000 — would include some appliances, a mix of lawn/garden and hardware, bedding, electronics and fine jewelry.

        It might be a sign that more retailers are hearing the plea of frustrated urban shoppers.

        America's urban centers represent a sizable retail market, estimated to be worth roughly $85 billion annually, according to 1997 research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

        “We see it with the success of the T.J. Maxx store and many stores that are opened downtown,” David Ginsburg, executive vice president of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., said of the Fourth Street retailer. “There really is an underserved market at all price levels.”

        Mr. Sill said 12 months' worth of research showed Sears that in almost every major metro market, there were urban areas not served by certain types of retail. Along with Cincinnati, Philadelphia and St. Louis are targets for new stores.

        “We want to serve the underserved communities, that is our main objective,” he said.

        But not anyone can operate the Sears Neighborhood store. The oper ator would foot start-up costs of $55,000 to $100,000 and ongoing costs. Sears provides inventory, advertising, online ordering and training. The store owner is paid commissions of product sales.

        Management or business experience is desired.

        The next meeting with Sears officials is scheduled for Jan. 11; a location has yet to be announced. Call Sears at (888) 259-2616.


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