NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Taped to the doors of Sears Hometown Store in North Kingstown is a notice, highlighted in yellow, reminding customers that the business is not associated with the Sears Holding Corporation bankruptcy filing.
Owner Tom Iacobucci, who has been in his space at 6655 Post Road for five years now, told The Independent on Tuesday that he has been fighting to remind residents and regulars that his store stands on its own.
The notice on the front door highlights three key points in bold type. Firstly, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores has been a publicly owned company, on its own since 2012. Secondly, that the chain is a national retailer that specializes in household appliances, lawn and garden equipment, tools, hardware and other home goods.
Finally, the most vital note, “It remains in business as usual at Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores.”
“We still get calls out of the blue. ‘We thought you were dead.’ ‘We think you’re going out of business.’ People that are down the street have never heard of us,” Iacobucci said. “We’ve been here for five years and it’s still hard to get the word out. We’ve been on the radio.”
Iacobucci said business was tough in October when Sears Holding Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He said “a lot of things dried up” after that, but emphasized that November has been stronger and the company is here to stay.
“To say we haven’t had any blips in business, we have, because of perception,” Iacobucci said. “And also when that first happened, we had some problems getting product, which we switched people over, we lost some business. October was a rocky month. So far, out of the gate, November’s looking good. We had a very good Black Friday, and it’s continuing. We expect a good month.”
Now, Iacobucci is continuing to focus on getting the word out that Sears Hometown is still very much in operation and stands independent. He said he constantly receives questions about warranties on Kenmore products, which is a Sears brand, and whether the store can match Sears’ going-out-of-business prices.
“All the locals, they’re concerned,” Iacobucci said. “They come in, because they like coming here. All my repeats are all concerned about this. So we can’t get the word out enough right now. We battle it every day.”
That battle has led to Iacobucci installing a sign directly about the front counter that declares the store his. He said that people associate the store with anything Sears, so breaking that perceived bond will continue to be a work in progress.
Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores has its own website separate from Sears, and each company competes with the other in terms of pricing.
Iacobucci called his location a “true hometown store.” He said most customers are either familiar with him from a recommendation or know him personally. He said his business also offers product leasing, like Rent-A-Center, and offers protection agreements and service.
He is the point man, and it was made clear toward the end of his interview with The Independent. In the background of the conversation, a horn in the back of the store began to blare. He said it’s an online order for store pickup that same day, a message he has to answer.
He also noted that he has his own delivery service for products – a service that should be humming along through December with the holiday shopping season heating up.
“I own the store and I signed my life away for this store,” Iacobucci said. “I’m personally liable for the lease here for the next five years. I signed 10, we already did the first five. So we intend to stay unless Hometown doesn’t support us anymore, which they intend to. So I don’t foresee anything there.”