In what is being called "the biggest change in Sears, Roebuck & Co. history," the 103-year-old department store chain will close for 42 hours beginning at 6 p.m. Monday.

When the four Sears stores in Utah reopen at noon Wednesday the prices of some 50,000 items will have been permanently reduced.It's part of a new corporate plan to make the retailing giant more competitive, said Denny Morse, general manager of the 40-year-old Sears store at 754 S. State.

Morse said the rollback on prices will also apply to Sears catalog items.

Announcement of the nationwide marketing move came from Michael Bozic, chairman and chief executive officer of Sears Merchandise Group who said the move to "everyday low pricing" will be supported by a multimillion dollar advertising effort in more than 900 newspapers, national television and radio.

Sears' plan to introduce everyday low pricing is part of a new corporate strategy to strengthen the company's retailing and financial services divisions.

The strategies for growth outlined by Bozic represent "a new beginning" for Sears Merchandise Group, he said. They are: everyday low pricing, superstores, focused business accountability and tailored distribution facilities and systems

Speaking for the Utah stores, Morse said more than 700 local employees will be involved in the "massive changes" to introduce the new pricing structure, including inventorying merchandise, repricing and setting up new signs and displays in the Sears stores in Salt Lake, Fashion Place Mall, Ogden and Provo.

"We are excited about this move," said Morse, "because it's so good for our customers. For many years, we and most of the retail industry have offered our best values during special promotions, which have become increasingly frequent. Now, customers can be assured of great low prices every single day . . . "

Morse said Sears stores will still hold sales but the decrease in prices will be less than in the past because of the permanent reductions. The price cuts are not based on a flat percentage and are not entirely across-the-board, he said.

As examples, a DieHard auto battery that was $69.99 will now be $59.97. Timex watches that were $29.95 will now be $23.96, and a 10-speed bicycle that was $89.99 will now be $68.93.

Morse said the price cuts are based on research of competitors' prices nationally and regionally.

Sears stores, said Morse, will also introduce a pricing guarantee in which they promise to meet or beat any competitor's advertised price on identical items.

Morse emphasized that the price cuts are not a move by Sears to become a discount store. "We aren't attempting to be a discounter nor a department store. We are somewhere in between - almost our own entity."

He said increased competition is the reason Sears, once a dominant retailer, has lost customers over the years. "If you look at Salt Lake 20 years ago, and all the retail footage that has been built, that's where they (Sears customers) have gone. It's more convenient to drive 10 minutes than 30, but the value and guarantee you trusted 20 years ago are still there today."

Morse speculated that Sears might one day build a third store in the Salt Lake area, possibly in the South Valley, where the bulk of population expansion has taken place.

Under the new plan to bolster its retailing arm, Morse said Sears will retain its in-house labels - Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, are examples - but will further increase the brand names it carries. "We've added Osh-Kosh B'Gosh, (children's wear), Magnavox, RCA, Sony, Sharp, Pirelli, B.F. Goodrich, Adidas, Puma and we're still adding," said Morse.