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Sears spruces up as it makes move

February 22, 2002

Sears spruces up as it makes move



By JULIE E. GREENE
julieg@herald-mail.com


Sears shoppers will notice better lighting, plenty of space and tons of tools when the department store opens as a Valley Mall anchor store in a month.

The department store is opening in the mall after about 45 years at the Long Meadow Shopping Center.

"We're not used to all this space," merchandising employee Vicki Cramer said. "Not everything's on top of everything."

The new Sears will open in the anchor spot previously occupied by Montgomery Ward, which closed last March. Sears will go from 80,542 square feet at the current store to 122,711 square feet at the mall, Sears officials said.

The March 23 grand opening, which kicks off at 8:30 a.m., will feature a sale and at least one soap opera star, Store General Manager Peggy Campbell said. Sears probably will open to the public a few days earlier.

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The Sears at Long Meadow is expected to close March 17, Closing Manager Sharon Hammond said.

Two of the biggest differences shoppers will notice at the mall are how bright and how spacious the new Sears is.

The store was designed so all the aisles are wide enough for a wheelchair, Campbell said.

Another difference will be the checkout areas.

There will still be checkout registers in specific departments, but there also will be four general checkout areas, one on each side of the store, Campbell said.

Sears product offerings are likely to attract more male shoppers because the store will have plenty of "hard line" items such as appliances and tools, Campbell said.

The tool department, to be known as "Tool Territory," is almost four times the size of the hardware department at the Long Meadow site, Home Improvement Manager Joyce Lehman said. In addition to Sears brand Craftsman tools, the store will carry 72 other brands compared with about 12 brands at the Long Meadow site.

"I'm not a shopper, but the tool part - I can handle that," said Orville Adkins, 60, of Scotland, Pa., who was standing on the mall side of the closed entrance to Sears.

New departments at the mall store are fine jewelry and mattresses, Campbell said.

It was not known how much Sears invested in remodeling the store, but Montgomery Ward spent more than $1 million in 2000 remodeling the store before closing it in 2001, Valley Mall Marketing Director Julie Simmons said.

"We definitely think that Sears' impact is going to outweigh Montgomery Ward," Simmons said.

Simmons said she expects Sears to draw more people to the mall than Montgomery Ward, which drew about 1 million shoppers a year.

Sears will have about 175 employees compared with 130 at the current store, Campbell said. Sears is still hiring. A job fair will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 1 in the mall's community room.

New York-based RD Management Corp. owns the Long Meadow Shopping Center, including the Sears building, said Debra Hunt, Long Meadow's marketing director.

RD officials have not decided whether to find a new tenant for the building or raze it, Hunt said.

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