International News - Sears to challenge rivals with Grand store concept

US retail giant Sears, Roebuck & Co is pushing beyond its mall heartland with an all-encompassing superstore format designed to take on the might of rival discounters Target and Wal-Mart.

The first Sears Grand store opened in Utah last week. At 210,000 sq ft (19,510 sq m), the one-level outlet is twice the size of an average shop.

The store, pitched as a 'one-stop home and family centre,' targets homeowners and busy 'moms'. In addition to Sears' mainstay of clothes, tools and appliances, the store offers food alongside an eclectic batch of services, ranging from car repairs to eye tests.

A spokeswoman said: 'The store is designed to enable customers to come in and get what they want as quickly as possible.

'Its assortment of services and products differentiates it from other mass merchandisers. For example, Sears Grand will carry refrigerators and milk, microwaves and soup, lawn mowers and fertiliser, clothes and laundry detergent.'

The second of five pilot shops will open in suburban Chicago next spring, followed by a third in Las Vegas in the autumn. The stores will vary in design, building towards a prototype model tipped for possible roll out.

The standalone experiment has fuelled speculation that the 1,300-strong chain intends to quit malls, but the spokeswoman played down talk. 'To suggest this demonstrates the next wave for Sears would be very premature,' she insisted.