Impact on Sears Auto Centers unclear as 100+ main stores to close

Jan. 1, 2020
Citing poor sales, Sears plans to shutter 100 to 120 of its Kmart and Sears department stores throughout the country. With specific closings yet to be revealed, the impact on the 840 Sears Auto Centers in various markets remains unknown pending the r
Citing poor sales, Sears plans to shutter 100 to 120 of its Kmart and Sears department stores throughout the country. With specific closings yet to be revealed, the impact on the 840 Sears Auto Centers in various markets remains unknown pending the release of further details.

In early December, prior to the store closure announcement, the company’s auto centers and LeasePlan USA introduced a new fleet vehicle repair program.

The system, called E-Auth, is designed to improve the speed of service for fleet drivers by electronically streamlining the process and significantly reducing the amount of time required to obtain service authorizations.

“The application removes the need for the Sears staff to call our maintenance and repair management department,” says Tony Blezien, LeasePlan’s vice president of operations. “This allows Sears, and LeasePlan, to run a more efficient operation while also devoting even greater attention to clients and drivers.”

Service providers and fleet managers will be able to communicate all the details of service orders electronically, including work-order submission, call center review and response, and the ultimate repair decision, according to Blezien.

The program is open to all U.S. service providers and fleet management firms; new adopters “need only to establish an IT project to integrate their system. There are no external fees, such as subscription or per-transaction charges,” he says.



“We are always looking for new ways to improve on the service we provide our fleet customers and to increase the efficiency of our automotive fleet service business,” says Joe Finney, president of Sears’ automotive division. “Providing this industry first in North America ties in with the company’s overall business strategy; offering competitive pricing, superior products and excellent store service.”

The holiday shopping season netted a significant pattern of negative results for the retailer’s overall operations and brought criticism from several stock market analysts over the chain’s reported reluctance to increase spending on upgrading its individual stores.

“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big- ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” says Sears CEO Lou D’Ambrosio.

“These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail – at the store, online and in the home,” he adds, noting that additional store closings may be in the offing.

D’Ambrosio reports that “we will carefully evaluate store performance going forward and act opportunistically to recognize value from poor performing stores as circumstances allow. While our past practice has been to keep marginally performing stores open while we worked to improve their performance, we no longer believe that to be the appropriate action in this environment.”

He goes on to say that “we intend to accentuate our focus and resources to our better-performing stores with the goal of converting their customer experience into a world-class integrated retail experience.”



Ron Boire has recently joined the company as executive vice president, chief merchandising officer and president after previously serving as president and CEO of Brookstone, Inc.

“We are in the midst of a transformation of our business, from top to bottom, as we seek to become the leading integrated retailer in the country,” D’Ambrosio says. “By attracting someone with Ron’s significant experience in retail, merchandising and product development as well as in leading companies through turnarounds, we’re adding a key talent in accelerating our transformation.”

“As a company with over $40 billion in sales, millions of customers, irreplaceable brands, thousands of stores and committed associates, we have a lot to work with to improve our business and delight our customers,” says Boire.

“We have made some difficult decisions recently and will make the hard choices necessary to turn our business around going forward,” D’Ambrosio adds.

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