Sears acts ahead of looming retail battle with Target

Retail giant Sears is sharpening its markdown pencils and getting ready to spruce up some of its stores ahead of a major new competitor entering the Canadian market.

U.S. retailer Target bought 189 leases from Zellers in 2011 with plans to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada beginning in March 2013.

“It was an initiative so we can compete with everybody.”

—Vince Power

In a move to stay competitive, Sears last month announced it would be slashing prices on 5,000 items. A Kenmore easy clean coil range, for example, was $499.99. It is now $399.97.

“Some prices were more unbalanced than they should be in the marketplace,” Sears spokesperson Vince Power said. “It was an initiative so we can compete with everybody.”

Last week, Sears announced it would close stores in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. The company sold the leases on the three stores to commercial real estate manager Cadillac Fairview for $170 million.

The money, Power said, will allow Sears to put forth initiatives to keep it competitive, including bringing a new, refreshing look to Sears stores beginning with four in Ontario, where Target has announced 30 of its first 60 Canadian stores will open in March and April 2013.

“If I was competing with Target, I would do a lot of activity beforehand, really make sure we are front and centre,” said Barry Waite, professor and program coordinator of Centennial College’s corporate communications and public relations program. “Target isn’t coming for another year so [I would] really try and increase public relations activities.”

In addition, Target’s competitors should focus on what they do best as it enters the marketplace, he said.

“Sears has to look at what it is they do well and concentrate on that,” Waite said. “My impression is they have more of the appliances and furniture than Target would, so maybe they focus more on that.”

Along with cutting prices and refreshing its stores, Sears is also taking a new approach to its spring fashion preview, which is set to be out by March 16.

“Sears is a store where you can get many things under one roof,” Power said. “We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to convey to customers that Sears is a great place for them and their families.”