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Shoppers Line Up to Check Out New Low-Pricing Policy at Sears

Times Staff Writer

The line at the entrance of the Sears store in Santa Monica stretched into the parking lot Wednesday as shoppers swept in to take advantage of the retailer’s new low-price policy.

At least one shopper, Peter Vos, 82, waited nearly two hours for the store to reopen at noon with prices on some items marked down 50% or more from previous levels.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in all the years I’ve been shopping at Sears,” marveled Vos, who said he has been a loyal Sears customer for more than half a century. “You don’t normally see this many people on a Wednesday afternoon.”

Shoppers across the United States on Wednesday flocked to Sears, the nation’s largest retailer, after the chain reduced prices on more than 50,000 items in its 824 stores. The stores were closed from 6 p.m. Monday to noon Wednesday to give employees a chance to change price tags and signs and prepare for the introduction of the “everyday low prices” approach.

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The move came in response to competition from discounters as well as complaints from consumers that frequent price changes have made it difficult for shoppers to recognize a fair deal. As part of the new strategy, Sears says it will offer fewer special sales and instead will provide dependable prices.

While most shoppers interviewed Wednesday said Sears’ new discount prices were generally lower than before, many shoppers weren’t convinced that they were the best deals in town.

“Prices don’t look that low to me,” said Phil Bernard, a computer programmer from Topanga, as he looked over some blue jeans. “These are $19.95. I’ve seen them for $14 or $15 at other places.”

But the prices on blue jeans seemed more reasonable to James J. Pittman, a bartender from Beverly Hills who grabbed two pair. And Teresa Lee, after spotting a video camera at the Sears Santa Monica store whose price, she said, was more than $100 less than what she paid at another store, was even more impressed.

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“I was skeptical about these discount prices,” said Lee, a 22-year-old legal secretary. “I usually wait for a sale. But I’m amazed at the low prices today. And it’s good knowing I can come back again some other day and get the item for the same price.”

The new emphasis on discount pricing was accomplished at Sears stores without the “warehouse look” some retailers favor. Although Sears employees were dressed in festive hats and aprons, the stores were little changed.

Some shoppers remarked that the Sears stores had more personnel on hand Wednesday and seemed to be neater than normal, but the merchandise displays appeared much the same as before.

Sears officials generally said it was too early to tell whether the new strategy was getting off to a successful start.


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