April 17, 2012 / 2:25 PM / 6 years ago

Sears Canada says to focus on strongest categories

* CEO McDonald says will use strength in hard goods

* Corbeil appliance banner pilot planned for Toronto

* Sears Canada retrained 20,000 staff in April

TORONTO, April 17 (Reuters) - Hard-pressed Sears Canada Inc will focus on strengths such as appliance and tool sales under its three-year turnaround plan, Chief Executive Calvin McDonald told the company’s annual meeting in Toronto on Tuesday.

McDonald said that four stores are now being renovated and will emerge with a concentration on Sears’ strong categories. The Toronto-listed department store chain is majority-owned by U.S. retailer Sears Holdings Corp.

Parts of McDonald’s strategy have been trickling out since he was appointed in June, but at Tuesday’s meeting he laid out his plans in more detail.

McDonald said Sears would bring its Quebec-based Corbeil appliance banner to Ontario, with four pilot stores in the Toronto area. He did not say when the test stores would open.

“We view this as an effective way to maintain our strength in major appliances,” he said.

McDonald also linked recently announced store closures to the renewed focus on hard goods. Three major downtown locations in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa will close this fall, the company said in March. Sales at those outlets have skewed heavily to sales of clothing and other soft goods.

McDonald did not say when the turnaround plan would yield improvements in financial performance. In February, Sears Canada reported more than a 50 percent drop in quarterly earnings as sales tumbled, but McDonald said then that the business had begun to stabilize.

Also in February, the chain said it had cut regular prices on more than 5,000 items in a bid to stay competitive.

Other initiatives underway are meant to improve service. McDonald said 20,000 staff were trained on “new expectations” this month. The company said that it will launch a new “customer promise”, which will include changes to its returns policy, in May.

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