May 24 (UPI) -- Retailer Sears took its first steps Friday in relaunching as a smaller, boutique-type chain by opening its first scaled-down store locations in the United States.
Sears Home & Life stores -- which sells appliances, mattresses and other household items -- opened in Lafayette, La., Overland Park, Kan., and Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday.
At 15,000 square feet, the Lafayette location is a prototype for Sears' fresh start. The company, a fixture in U.S. retailing for more than 125 years, is attempting a return to its historic strength in home goods, although it faces competition from online retailers and the prospect of paying tariffs on some products.
Sears Holdings, owner of 700 Sears and Kmart stores, filed for bankruptcy last October after nine years without reporting a profit. A $5.2 billion sale that included Sears' iconic Kenmore and DieHard brands put the company's remaining assets into a holding company that still has about 425 Sears and Kmart locations in the United States.
While the company has not indicated how many Home & Life locations will operate, its strategy favors standalone stores instead of shared retail space.
"We are looking for emerging communities where young families are building homes," said Sears brand manager Peter Boutros.
The new stores offer familiar brands -- mattresses by Tempur-Pedic, Serta and Sealy, for example -- and small household appliances and replacement parts.
The Home & Life stores enter a crowded field. Competitor Mattress Firm has scheduled the closure of 200 of its stores, and many suppliers sell directly to consumers. Big-box stores like Best Buy and Walmart offer similar products.
Sears' strategy is an attempt to "lean into what we are known for," said Boutros. "We're not trying to create new categories. We're not trying to create something we're not."