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Shoppers Jam Stores For Sears New Low Prices

March 2, 1989

Undated (AP) _ Bargain hunters, loyalists and skeptics alike were among the shoppers who jammed Sears stores nationwide to get their first taste of the retailer’s ″everyday low pricing″ policy.

″The customers are filling their shopping bags,″ said Dick Warner, a Sears, Roebuck and Co. regional merchandise manager who was at a store in Traverse City, Mich., on Wednesday. ″The store managers have indicated the traffic they had was better than Christmas traffic.″

The nation’s largest retailer has switched to more name-brand merchandise and discount prices to lure shoppers away from cut-rate competitors like K mart and Wal-Mart, which have grown rapidly.

The 103-year-old Chicago-based Sears closed its 824 stores for 42 hours Monday through mid-day Wednesday to slap new prices on the 50,000 items of merchandise.

Eva Mae Dyer of Forest Park, Ga., wasn’t sure how significant the price changes were, but she said her shopping patterns probably wouldn’t change.

″I really care a lot for Sears,″ she said. ″We’ve been trading with them for 41 years, and I expect to keep shopping here even if the prices aren’t cut that much.″

Some politicians joined in celebrations. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson called Sears a ″good corporate citizen″ as she helped greet 500 shoppers at a store in St. Paul. In Peoria, Ill., Mayor Jim Maloof took part in a ribbon- cutting and told about 100 people who waited in the cold that ″Sears hung in with Peoria through the bad times″ earlier this decade.

″We have shopped at Sears for 57 years,″ said Bruce Boswell of East Peoria. ″If they come down on their prices, they’ll get all their old customers back.″

Some people thought the quality of merchandise would go down along with the price.

″I think it might cheapen them a little bit, but they’re a grade higher than K mart,″ said Pam Cage, 31, one of about 3,000 shoppers who crowded a Sears store in Miami.

Barbara Palazzolo, spokeswoman for the 2,265-store K mart Corp., based in Troy, Mich., said the nation’s No. 2 retailer planned no immediate response to the Sears move. ″We’ve had everyday low prices for the past 27 years,″ she said.

Prices under the new Sears policy may vary among the retailer’s 24 regions, but Sears officials were convinced they will win approval from customers.

Sears’ switch to more uniform pricing, a strategy pioneered by discount chains and adapted successfully last year by Montgomery Ward & Co., makes Sears comparable to the discounters in price but not in looks. Most goods are still shown in decorative displays, making Sears stores resemble a department store rather than a stripped-down discount operation.

A spot check at Chicago outlets of Sears, K mart, Montgomery Ward and Toys R Us, and a J.C. Penney Co. store in Schaumburg, Ill., found Sears with the lowest prices on many items Wednesday.

A 48-pack of Huggies diapers costs $9.69 at Sears, $9.89 at Toys R Us and $11.57 at K mart. A pair of men’s Levi’s 505 blue jeans cost $17.96 at Sears, $19.99 at K mart and $22.99 at J.C. Penney. A 3-pack of men’s Fruit of the Loom underwear cost $4.49 at Montgomery Ward, $4.96 at Sears and $8.99 at K mart.

The strategy marks a departure from the traditional retailing technique of hyping goods with periodic sales. Sears said it will still have sales, but less than in the past.

Not all customers were pleased.

″Prices seem to be a little lower, but I don’t see a heck of a lot of difference,″ said one woman at the Holyoke, Mass., Sears who declined to give her name but described herself as a regular Sears shopper.

Lynn Carver of Barkhamsted, Conn., said she drove to a West Hartford Sears store to exchange some sheets and found the price was about 20 percent higher than the week before.

Operating Manager Larry Glowa said the sheets had been on sale last week and were not among the items reduced in price Wednesday.

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