SEARS ROLLS OUT GIFT REGISTRY TO 800 MALL STORES: RETAILER ALSO PLANS BRANDED HOME REPAIR AND REMODELING PROGRAM FOR FALL

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Sears, Roebuck & Co. is taking the concept of the bridal registry beyond the bride.

The retailer is rolling out nationally a program covering all its product lines that's intended to be marketed throughout the year for special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day and birthdays.

The Sears Gift Registry, which will include all Sears products ranging from Craftsman tools to TVs and refrigerators, will roll out to 800 mall-based stores starting this spring.

Customers participating in the registry use a hand-held device to scan items into a computer, which creates a list for each.

Touch-screen ki-osks located in stores nationwide will allow gift-givers access to individual lists.

`CONNECT WITH THE CUSTOMER'

"Our goal is to continue to look for ways to connect with the customer," said John Costello, senior exec VP-marketing.

Sears initially will promote the registry with special events, such as in-store seminars with local wedding planners or local sweepstakes for honeymoon trips.

"We will evaluate the potential for more broad-scale marketing once we reach a critical mass later in 1997," Mr. Costello said.

The Sears registry concept was tested last spring in Milwaukee and later expanded to Delaware, Maryland, Washington and West Virginia.

TREND TOWARD REGISTRIES

Sears isn't the only retailer to push registries. Target Stores has been promoting its Club Wedd bridal registry and Lullaby Club for baby gifts over the past two years through a seasonal TV campaign from Bates Southwest, Houston.

Last month, Federated Department Stores moved to become one of the nation's largest bridal registries by linking registries in all of its stores in 230 cities nationwide. This will enable brides registered at Macy's in New York, for example, to have relatives purchase gifts for them at Bon Marche in Seattle.

The registry is only one of Sears' initiatives this year. This fall, the retailer is preparing to launch a program themed "The service side of Sears." The program expands the retailer's home services to include repair of appliances-whether or not purchased at Sears-home remodeling and construction, as well as plumbing and electrical work, all branded as Sears'.

This month, Sears follows up a TV and newspaper test for "Service side"-in Florida, Mississippi, New York and Texas-with a magazine campaign in Time and People.

"Home services represents a major growth opportunity for Sears, and we are planning to test a number of ideas to generate maximum leverage," Mr. Costello said.

National and local broadcast and direct mail are among the media being considered for the campaign. Y&R Advertising and Wunderman Cato Johnson, both New York, handle the account.

LOOKING TO TV

Mr. Costello also noted that Sears is increasingly looking at national TV advertising to bolster the company's brand.

"Print will continue to be a prime driver of business," he said, "but we are placing increasing emphasis on television to greater support the brand."

Sears began shifting its estimated $1.3 billion budget toward TV in 1993 when it launched its "Softer side of Sears" campaign, via Y&R, New York, and Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, which features its apparel line.

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