Once again the income statement was showing a net profit. Although it seemed a modest one at $4,400,000, it represented a $95 million turnaround from the previous year. 1993 also saw the opening of the Company's 110th retail store. The Coquitlam location in British Columbia reflected a new emphasis on fashion and it became a flagship store in western Canada. It was Joseph Reddington's last year at the helm of Sears Canada. He took retirement having positioned the Company well for the future.
Donald S. Shaffer became President and Chief Executive Officer on January 1st, 1994. He had begun his career in 1968 as a management trainee with Sears, Roebuck in Washington D.C. Shaffer was also no stranger to Canada. He had served one term with Sears Canada in the eighties and returned again in 1993 as Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer.
In 1994, the first three authorized Dealer Stores were introduced. They were located in Ontario, opening in Pembroke, Collingwood, and Orangeville.
In 1994 the Mature Outlook program was introduced to reward Sears Card customers aged 50 and over. Mature Outlook offered a range of membership rewards, including discounts. Almost 296,000 people signed up in that first year for an annual fee of $9.99.
The Catalogue division was also reaching out. The telephone ordering system was enhanced, new routing technology cut customers' waiting times and operations were consolidated into four regional Call Centres. EXPRESS delivery was introduced. Customers could now receive guaranteed delivery to their home or office within 48 hours in most parts of the country. The relocated Bonnie Doon store in Edmonton opened on October 6th, and 12 other stores across the country were renovated. A new range of national brands began appearing in store displays and on the pages of catalogues including BOCA, Petites Tan Jay, Nygard Collections and the exclusive IMAN collection of cosmetics and skin care products. Sears had total revenues of $4,002,600,000 and net earnings of $44,700,000.
Sears launched its off-mall furniture store concept with the opening of Sears Whole Home Furniture Store. Kitchener, the first of these stores was opened on September 9th, 1995. No new department stores were opened in 1995 but the Thunder Bay Store was relocated and 15 new Dealer Stores were added to the fast-growing roster.
At the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in April, after 45 years of most distinguished service, C. Richard Sharpe retired as a Director and relinquished his role as Chairman of the Board. Replacing Mr. Sharpe as Chairman was Russell S. Davis, already a Director of the Company. He was an Executive Vice President of Sears, Roebuck & Co. and had most recently been Chief Financial Officer of the Sears, Roebuck Merchandise Group. Revenues were down and net earnings dropped to $12,200,000.
A significant move in 1996 was the overhaul of the Sears Card. Among the features was the new 16 digit account numbers that met international standards and allowed the Company to form alliances with corporate partners who could now accept the Sears Card. The first partner to sign on was Shell Canada. The card also had a new look.
The Catalogue Division received some morale-boosting news in 1996. Bell Canada declared that 1-800-26SEARS was the most frequently called number in the country. On the retail side, Brand Central was rolling out to stores across the country after a successful test in the Edmonton market. Brand Central brought the national brand names in home electronics and major appliances that customers wanted into the stores alongside Sears popular Kenmore brand. It would prove to be a stunning success. Three new Sears Whole Home Stores opened in Ontario: Whitby, Brampton and Mississauga. As well, 41 Dealer Stores were opened, bringing this channel's total to 60 by the end of the year.
In November, Shaffer returned to Sears, Roebuck in Chicago to head up its Western Auto Division. Replacing him as Chief Executive Officer would be Paul S. Walters, who had previously been the President and CEO of Simpsons and later Zellers. Walters would also become the Company's Chairman at the end of December upon the retirement of Russ Davis. Also effective at the end of 1996, Jim Clifford was named President and Chief Operating Officer.
The Company issued 9.5 million common shares in November. Sears, Roebuck and Co. did not purchase any of this new issue. After the issue, Sears, Roebuck and Co. beneficially held approximately 55% of the outstanding common shares of Sears Canada Inc.
The Company focused in 1997 on the nine mall-based department stores in the Greater Toronto Area and $60,000,000 was devoted to a massive renovation effort. The priority was to open up more selling space. Furniture was moved off mall into the nearby Sears Whole Home Stores of which four more were opened that year.
"The Softer Side of Sears" advertising theme made its debut on television and other media to coincide with the launch of the GTA makeover. Customer loyalty indeed proved to be a winning formula in 1997. Revenues hit a record high of $4,548,000,000 and net earnings tripled from 1996 to $116,500,000. In fact, net earnings per share were $1.10, more than 12 times the prior year and the share price on the last trading day of the year was $19.80, up from $10.10 a year earlier.