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Sears Canada named CHFA 2013 Retailer of the Year

Laine Reynolds, leftLaine Reynolds, left, chairman of the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance, presents the 2013 Retail of the Year Award to Rob Thibeault, Sears Canada’s senior director of merchandising for home furnishing.
TORONTO - Sears Canada was lauded as an icon of Canada's retail scene as well as a true success story as a purveyor of furniture, mattresses and major appliances as the recipient of the Canadian Home Furnishings Alliance's 2013 Retailer of the Year.
     The award was presented to the publicly held, multi-channel retailer at a gala held to kick off the Canadian Home Furnishings Market here last month.
     In his introduction, CHFA Chairman Laine Reynolds noted that Sears Canada began operations in this country in 1953 under the name of Simpsons- Sears with two stores - one in Stratford, Ontario and the other in Kamloops, British Columbia - and a spring/summer catalog, which was distributed to 300,000 Canadian homes that year.
     Today, he said, Sears' physical presence includes 118 full line department stores, 48 Sears Home stores, four appliance and mattress stores, 269 independently owned and operated Home Town dealer stores, over 1,500 merchandise pickup locations, and 102 travel offices. And the Sears catalog now goes to more than three million Canadian households annually.
     "This is a considerable retail presence in the Canadian marketplace," Reynolds said.
     Kevin Sisson, vice president and chief operating officer at mattress major Sealy Canada, said he has been working with Sears Canada for more than five years and that the arrival of a new leadership team at the retailer, spearheaded by Calvin McDonald as president and CEO, has introduced an exciting new era to the company.
     "Calvin and his team identified home furnishings as a business they wanted to grow and this has brought new focus and effort into the business from all levels and departments," Sisson said.
     He said the new team made an immediate impact, diving into all facets of the business, starting with the mattress shop where they changed and expanded the assortment while improving and expanding the store display and layout - "offering the customer a new and more inviting experience."
     Sears also has revamped its advertising campaigns to reach more customers while upgrading floor associates' product knowledge and selling abilities.
     "Perhaps the most telling component of change at Sears brought on by this leadership team has been communication to and from their associates," Sisson said. "The HQ and buying office in particular have become much more approachable and responsive to the needs of the associates on the front line and inviting them to share more of their needs and thoughts, with the goal of serving their customer better and better."
     In accepting the award, Rob Thibeault, Sears Canada's senior director of merchandising for home furnishings, said the retailer was honored to be in the company of past winners, which include Leon's, The Brick, Stoney Creek Furniture, Tepperman's Furniture and the Dufresne Group, among others.
     Thibeault, who has only been with Sears for the past 18 months, stood in for McDonald, who was unable to attend.
     "When Calvin joined Sears, right away he saw the potential of our home furnishings business as a significant area for growth, identifying mattresses, furniture and our Sears Home format as key differentiators," Thibeault said.
     "Throughout 2012, we have taken several steps to increase the awareness of Sears among Canadians as the place to shop when it comes to furnishing their homes," he continued, adding, "One such step was identifying our mattress shop as a hero category."
     He said that today the company's largest stores floor over 50 mattress sets "and even in our department stores, where we have traditionally been squeezed for space in home furnishings, we are finding ways to demonstrate to consumers we are an authority in sleep."
     The assortment has also been upgraded, Thibeault said, pointing to the recent introduction of Zedbed to the lineup, and customer satisfaction efforts have improved with programs such as the 365-day sleep comfort guarantee.
     Thibeault also said that since McDonald took the helm, a new emphasis has been placed on the 48 Sears Home stores, which showcase furniture, mattress and major appliances.
     In 2012, the company opened its largest Sears Home store at the Pinecrest Shopping Centre in Ottawa, at 78,000 square feet.
     "The floor is spacious, purposely designed this way so customers have room to shop with their families, and so that they can try out the furniture comfortably in room settings that allow them to experience the furniture as if it was in their home, not just as product crowded together, which can be uninviting and overwhelming," he said.
     "We are also very bullish on our custom furniture program. This is where we believe we have a real advantage in the marketplace because we can offer so many varieties of sizes and fabrics without having to display each one of them on the floor. Customers love it too because they get a wide choice of style, fabrication, color and detail without having to pay a premium for it," Thibeault added.
     He promised his audience of about 300 people from all parts of the industry that there is more to come.
     "2012 was a year of significant advancement in our business and we are currently working on many new home furnishings programs for 2013 which will provide another year filled with exciting initiatives," Thibeault said. "I wish I could tell you more, but I have been sworn to secrecy. But trust me, they are awesome."

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