A crowd estimated at 1,200-1,500 shoppers was waiting outside the doors of Sears Roebuck & Co.'s store at 754 S. State Wednesday as the store joined three other Sears stores along the Wasatch Front and hundreds more across the country in reopening after a 42-hour closure to prepare for the debut of its "everyday low prices" campaign.
"It was beyond anything we ever expected," said Denny Morse, general manager of the downtown store. Prices of some 50,000 items were lowered during the closure which began at 6 p.m. Monday."Sales are going extremely well. That's the key. We monitor how many people are tire kickers and how many are actually putting their money down and carrying out merchandise and there was a lot of people carrying merchandise. It was spectacular, absolutely crazy right from the opening bell."
Morse said the store's hardware and children's clothing departments were particularly busy.
Similar scenes were being enacted nationwide as the 103-year-old retailing giant orchestrated its permanent lower prices campaign for maximum effect. Store managers everywhere reported record crowds as stores reopened with virtually all merchandise permanently marked down.
Sears Chairman Michael Bozic announced the "everyday low prices" last week, promising "to come out of the box in a way that would be dramatic."
The 824 Sears stores across the country closed Tuesday for the first time in more than 100 years as employees hurried to apply some 250 million new price labels to merchandise.
Sears Merchandising Group spokeswoman Mary Jean Houde said the "excitement is really interesting.
"We had high expectations, but the store managers are saying it's much better than anything anybody had expected," she said.
A random sampling of shoppers at Sears' two Salt Lake area stores Wednesday and Thursday brought mixed reviews.
"I love it," Tana Sutton said at the downtown store Thursday morning. "We just bought a refrigerator. It was reduced about $100."
Will you shop at Sears more often now?
"Yes, I like to shop at Sears."
"I'm pleased. Their stuff is cheaper. I don't usually shop here, but today I thought I would try it." said Jackie Little.
But others were less enthusiastic.
"I don't know if the prices are lower or not," Lorraine Meyers said Wednesday afternoon while shopping at Fashion Place Mall. "Some things seem to be."
"It looks like a few thing were marked down, but not a lot," Shirlee Atkinson said.
"It says the old price was this and the new price was that, but how do you really know," asked Rex Peet. "The prices aren't a lot lower, but they have come down," Linda Peet said.
The Meyers and Peet families said they are not frequent Sears shoppers, but the intensive advertising campaign brought them out Wednesday.
Linda Peet bought some items from the clearance racks. The Meyerses didn't buy anything Wednesday, but Gary Meyers said the family saw something it planned to return and buy another day.
An astute 11-year-old, however, wasn't too impressed: "The Micromachines (tiny toy cars and planes) only went down 3 cents," said Jeff Peet. "They are $3.96. They were $3.99."
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.
Morse said more than 700 local employees were 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 City, Fashion Place Mall, Ogden and Provo.
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 is now $59.97. Timex watches that were $29.95 will now be $23.96, and a 10-speed bicycle that was $89.99 is now $68.93.
Morse said the price cuts are based on research of competitors' prices nationally and regionally.
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."