Sears chooses North Shore for stand alone fitness store
Sears Flagship fitness store, which opened Jan. 5, will carry large cardio equipment, including treadmills, elliptical, incline trainers, and exercise bikes. | Jackie Pilossoph~For Sun-Times Media
Sears Fitness Flagship Store
840 Willow Road, Suite. A
Updated: January 11, 2013 9:44AM
NORTHBROOK — It was no random decision that Northbrook was chosen to be the location for the first and only stand-alone Sears Fitness Flagship Store in the country.
The spot was hand-picked by Hugo Malan, president of sports, fitness and toys for Sears Holdings, and a relatively new resident to the area.
“We moved to Northfield about four months ago and we love this area,” said Malan, who with his wife and three children had been living in Chicago. “I thought there was a real opportunity here to bring the brands and the value and the services of our fitness division to the North Shore.”
Malan, who has a Ph.D. in electronic engineering, and who has been in his position for almost four years, said he chose Willow Festival Shopping Center as the location when he happened to be shopping at Whole Foods and saw an empty space that seemed like a perfect fit.
Sears is the largest fitness retailer in the country, according to Malan, and has in-store fitness boutiques in 55 of its 800 stores across the country, including Woodfield and Oakbrook malls.
Sears Flagship Fitness Store, which will open Saturday will carry large cardio equipment, including treadmills, elliptical, incline trainers and exercise bikes. The store will also sell strength stations, and workout accessories, which include apparel, hand weights, jump ropes, medicine balls and yoga gear.
“I belong to a gym,” said Malan, “but there are many times when you can’t get away, and it’s nice if you have a piece of equipment in your home. It gives you more options.”
Malan also said having fitness equipment in the home sets a good example for children, showing them that fitness is important.
The store will carry the largest and best selling fitness brands in the industry, such as Nordic Track, Sole Fitness, and Life Fitness. There are about 37 pieces of equipment on display in the store, but Sears has about 300 different machines available for purchase, and will offer virtual displays and demonstrations on a large screen TV in the store.
“These are the best brands in the marketplace,” said Store Manager Jim Green. “If you’re walking on a Life Fitness treadmill, it’s so quiet. Sole treadmills are known for how robust they are. The machines we sell are in 90 percent of commercial facilities.”
When asked what sets this store apart from its competitors, Green said it’s the extensive service and support he and his staff will offer, both during the purchase and beyond.
“It’s all about meeting people’s needs,” said Green, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, and who has been a personal trainer for 25 years. “I look at tangible aspects – flexibility, strength, aerobic capacity – and that’s how I can give customers the right equipment. It’s a custom exercise prescription.”
To help find the right equipment for customers, the store has complimentary machines that measure body mass index and flexibility.
Sears Fitness Flagship Store will deliver, install and assemble all equipment in homes, and will take away old equipment. Sears Fitness also offers customers ongoing maintenance and servicing of the machines, as well as an online community called FitStudio.com, where customers can interact with others regarding fitness goals, get tips from diet and fitness experts, and read blogs about health and wellness.
“FitStudio is another way we serve our customers,” said Malan. “There are articles on the site about fitness and health and nutrition, and programs our customers can subscribe to, that will send you an exercise every day. It’s all complimentary.”
“If you make the right selection for the person, and you give them support, they’re more likely to use the equipment often and obtain their goals,” said Green.
“I think of every Sears fitness customer as my personal customer, so if something isn’t quite perfect, or if you love your experience, call me,” said Malan, “I’m here. I’m in the area.”