Prince Edward Island is going to serve as the guinea pig for a national retailer just a little bit longer.
Vincent Power, a spokesman with Sears Canada, says six of its eight agency locations across the province, where consumers have traditionally picked up their parcels, will remain closed until at least the end of the month.
The company made the announcement in September that it was closing the agency stores as part of a national pilot project to test home delivery business.
Stores affected include Richmond, Kensington, Morell, Stratford, Crapaud and Parkdale. Retail locations in Summerside and Montague remain open, as does the department store in Charlottetown.
Power said the move was made after surveys indicated customers preferred 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 agency location.
Sears Canada chose to carry out the experiment on P.E.I.
"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 good business there.''
Sears also used to operate a parcel-pickup agency store in Bloomfield but that was closed early last 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 charge.
Sears is using Canada Post to deliver packages under 65 pounds. If no one is home, the parcel will be held at the nearest post office.
"To (do this) test properly we asked six of the eight agencies to suspend their business temporarily.''
Since the move will obviously reduce traffic at those agency locations, Sears offered the stores "some income, based on the business before, so they wouldn't be left high and dry without any notice''.
Sears has left agency stores in Souris and Tignish open because it was felt it was a bit extreme to force customers to drive from the corners of the province to get to Summerside or Montague.
This pilot project was supposed to wrap up by the time February rolled around but the company has decided to extend the experiment.
"The test is ongoing until the end of February,'' Power told The Guardian on Thursday. "It will take them a couple of weeks to gather the info.''
A further announcement is expected by the middle of March.
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 Canada.