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Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 12:00 am

Syed Naqvi would like to make something clear. He would like everyone to know that even as Sears, the iconic appliance retailer, shutters stores from Florida to Hawaii his business is still strong. His business is separate, more agile and more in line with the future of retail than the spiraling Sears.

His business is Sears Hometown Stores. The two may share a name, but he owns his place.

Five years ago, Sears Hometown Stores, or SHOS as Naqvi calls it, split off from Sears Holding Corp to form a new company. While they still carry the most of the same products, SHOS is independently owned.

SHOS, for example, trades separately on the stock exchange.

Although Sears has lost its agreement with Whirlpool to sell its refrigerators and washing machines, SHOS still carries the brand.

Naqvi owns his store, having franchised it from SHOS and has very little to do with Sears. 

And as Sears has struggled, SHOS has survived, and even thrived.

Naqvi took over the Monroe branch of SHOS in 2016 after spending most of his career at Delta. He said since then he has been pleased with the success of his business, despite the constant questions about Sears’ struggles.

Naqvi takes a long view for his store’s success. “Fifty years ago, retail was all about these massive stores like Walmart and Home Depot,” Naqvi says, “And they crowded out all the smaller shops.

But history is a cycle, he said. “Now these big stores are struggling to keep up with online retail and smaller operations are doing better.”

He points to the massive costs required to run something like Walmart.

There are a 100 employees and huge electric, rent and insurance bills, plus all the costs for inventory.

As more and more things are sold online, it’s just not profitable to pay so much overhead.

But, at least as of now, not every product makes sense to be sold online.

Walk into a Sears and there are all kinds of products, from jeans to Bluetooth speakers to lawn mowers. The problem is the two biggest markets for online retail are clothes and electronics. Betting profit margins on those kind of items is foolish today, Naqvi said.

Walk into his store, on the other hand, and there are mostly bigger items, like refrigerators, sink sets and ovens.

That’s because, Naqvi says, people want to look at these sorts of things before they buy them. They want to run their hands over the granite countertops. They want to sit in the riding lawn mower. That’s not possible to do online.

Plus, Naqvi’s overhead costs are much lower. His store is tucked into a shopping center, not sprawling across dozens of acres.

He has one full-time employee and four part-time workers.

And although he gets his inventory from SHOS, he still carries many of the iconic Sears brands, like Kenmore and Craftsman, as well as offering Sears’ warranty system.

All this means that Naqvi is doing just fine.

 “No matter what you hear in the news about Sears,” he said.

 “Nothing is going to change for us. I’m positive that we will be here for a while.”

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