Opening Sears, #8216;running on faith#8217;

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2007

FRANKLIN—Area fans of Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances can once again shop locally for those items with the opening of a new Sears store in Franklin.

Mickey Rosenfeld and his wife Ann, owners of a Sears store in Suffolk, have opened another location at the Armory Plaza shopping center locally.

Judging by the community interest expressed prior to the store’s opening, Mickey Rosenfeld said, there is a sizeable local fan base for Sears products. His establishment can save those folks from having to travel to Suffolk or Chesapeake to find the products they desire.

Combined with the renowned quality of Sears’ products and a home delivery service, Rosenfeld expects the location to be a major benefit for area consumers.

“People come to Sears because they want Kenmore products, which is the No. 1 seller in the country, and because they want service,” he said during a recent interview as workmen put finishing touches on the renovated space his store now occupies.

Rosenfeld said he and his landlord had shared in the cost of about $100,000 worth of renovations, fixtures and equipment. The space is next to the Playtoe Bowl and was last occupied by a pet store.

The store is also within sight of the new Lowe’s, a fact that does not seem to worry Rosenfeld too much.

With a five-year lease on the building and a three-year contract with Sears, he says he is ready to contend in the increasingly competitive local retail market.

“We’re running on faith here,” said Rosenfeld, a Zuni resident and member of Ivor United Methodist Church. “The Lord has provided this for us, and we’re just going to take it on faith that this is going to work.”

In fact, Rosenfeld already expects the new location to take business away from his Suffolk store, which gets about 20 percent of its business from Franklin. But he expects the benefits of a local “satellite store” to generate enough business to help overcome that hit.

The Franklin location will be one of more than 800 Sears authorized dealer stores across the nation. Though their inventories vary, all offer the same prices as their mall counterparts, Rosenfeld said.

At the satellite stores, owner-operators keep a commission from Sears on the items they sell. In the mall stores, that percentage, which varies depending on the items sold, goes back to Sears.

As Rosenfeld puts it, Sears gets paid no matter which location a customer chooses. But local operators only benefit when people buy locally.

“If you come here and buy,” he said, “Sears wins. If you go to the mall and buy, Sears wins. But if you go to the mall and buy, I lose.”

He contends that the customer also wins by visiting a local Sears store. “You build a different relationship than you do in a corporate mall setting,” he said. “It’s a closer relationship.”

Rosenfeld’s Franklin store has 3,500 square feet of sales space and about 1,200 square feet for stock. That space is supplemented by the inventory kept in Suffolk, which easily can be delivered to locations in Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight.

Delivery will be available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he said. Service for small appliances can be handled through the local store, which serves as the customers’ drop-off and pick-up point. Repairs for major appliances are handled through a toll-free number, he said.

The satellite store will offer appliances, lawn and garden equipment and some tools for sale. Rosenfeld said he also hopes to get a selection of televisions to sell. He will offer a parts-ordering service and contract sales for contractors, he said.

Rosenfeld had a “soft opening” for his new location Tuesday. He expects Sears to announce a grand opening with a big sale sometime next year.