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Sears store, Charlottetown
A national retailer is conducting an experiment and using P.E.I. as the guinea pig.
Sears has announced it is temporarily closing six of its eight agency locations, where consumers have traditionally picked up their parcels, across the province.
Agent stores affected include Richmond, Kensington, Morell, Stratford, Crapaud and Parkdale. The Sears retail locations in Summerside and Montague will remain open, as will the department store in Charlottetown.
Vince Power, a spokesman with Sears Canada, said the company is making the move after surveys showed customers prefer home delivery.
“They said they’d like to see improved home delivery so we sort of thought ‘What can we do?’,’’ Power said.
The charge for home delivery is $9.95 as opposed to the $3.95 customers are charged to pick up a parcel at an agent location.
“We wanted to do a test and we needed a market that we can test that will be a little bit isolated and yet representative of our catalogue customer so we chose Prince Edward Island . . . which has been a long-time catalogue market for Sears and done a good business there.’’
Sears also used to operate a parcel-pickup location in Bloomfield but that was closed earlier this year due to a lack of business.
Sears operates two dealer stores, where major appliances are available, in Summerside and Montague. Parcels can be delivered to either of those stores for a $3.95 fee.
Power said Sears will use Canada Post to deliver packages under 65 pounds. If no one is home, the parcel will be held at the nearest post office.
“To test it properly we asked six of the eight agencies to suspend their business temporarily.’’
He acknowledged the move will reduce some of the traffic these agency stores get.
“To help them out during this pilot we basically offered them some income, based on the business before, so they wouldn’t be left high and dry without any notice.’’
Power said the decision to keep the outlets in Souris and Tignish operating during the pilot project was because they felt it was a “bit extreme’’ to force customers to drive from the far reaches of the province into Summerside or Montague. The pilot runs until February when Sears will make a further announcement.
“It’s too early to say what the results will say. There’s going to be varied results. Our folks will look at that and make a decision on certain things and try to move our business forward.’’
At one time, Sears used to be the only direct-order business in the country. Its Christmas Wishbook is still considered a tradition in many households across the country.
“We get calls from people who, if they don’t have it by Labour Day, are furious because they wonder if we’re still printing it.’’