REINVENTING SEARS

THE BIG STORE, ONCE CLOSE TO CLOSEOUT, HAS BECOME THE MERRIEST RETAILER UNDER CEO ARTHUR MARTINEZ. HOW LONG CAN HE KEEP IT GOING?

What do women want? For years, the top brass at Sears, Roebuck and Co. had nary a clue. Store managers saw nothing amiss in displaying intimate apparel from the same rack fixtures that were used to sell paints. "Sears frustrated and disappointed our customers over a long period of time," says chairman and CEO Arthur Martinez, who arrived in 1992 from Saks Fifth Avenue, where he had been vice chairman, with prayerful instructions to save the Big Store. "If we didn't act quickly, the end game was a slow death for the company."

Sears isn't dying, and its female customers aren't...

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