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Sears moving to the mall

March 27, 2001

Sears moving to the mall



By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Sears at LongmeadowPhoto: Associated Press

Sears will remodel the former Montgomery Ward store at Valley Mall and open by next spring, a Sears official said Tuesday.

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The fate of Sears' store at Long Meadow Shopping Center was unclear. Sears officials have not announced plans for existing stores in areas where it is taking over former Montgomery Ward stores, said Jan Drummond, a spokeswoman in Sears' Hoffman Estates, Ill., corporate office.

Earlier this month, another Sears official said Sears was considering relocating from Long Meadow to Valley Mall.

The store has been at the North End shopping center for at least 40 years.

"We're excited. We're just glad we're going to have someone in there by next spring," said Valley Mall Marketing Director Julie Simmons.

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Montgomery Ward closed its Valley Mall store on March 18, Simmons said.

The mall has not seen a huge drop in traffic since Wards closed, but won't get customer traffic numbers until the end of the month to compare them to March 2000, Simmons said.

Even then, the effect of the store closing may not be clear because the mall has Easter activities and many individual stores are having sales as the holiday approaches, she said.

Traditionally it takes much longer to fill an anchor store, but Simmons said Sears' familiarity with the local market probably helped speed up the process.

With its Craftsman tool line, lawn and garden department and auto center, Sears will provide features other anchor stores in the mall don't have, Simmons said.

The stand-alone auto center by the mall formerly operated by Montgomery Ward will become a Sears Auto Center, according to the Sears news release.

Drummond could not say what specifically made Sears officials want to open a store in Valley Mall.

Many years ago, Sears did seek to buy stores in prominent regional malls, but Sears is not currently embarked on a strategy to move freestanding stores to malls, Drummond said.

Most of Sears' 860 stores are in malls, Drummond said.

"We know where our gaps in our coverage area are and are looking for more complete store coverage in our key markets," Drummond said.

When Wards stores became available, Sears officials matched those stores up with their "want list," she said.

Sears expects to finalize by mid-April the agreement to take over 18 former Wards stores. The Montgomery Ward at Frederick Towne Mall was not included in the list of the 18 stores being taken over by Sears.

Under an agreement with Aon Innovative Solutions Inc., Sears could service approximately 2.4 million former Wards service contract customers, the news release states. Sears technicians would repair and provide preventative maintenance checks for appliances, electronics, exercise equipment, and law and garden products that were serviced by Wards.

The department store also will buy Wards' inventory of repair and replacement parts and accessories under an agreement with A&E Signature Services, the release states.

Terms of the agreements were not made public.

The general manager and store manager at the Sears in the North End could not be reached for comment.

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