November 17, 2014, 11:13 AM

Sears shoppers can reserve apparel online then try on in-store

The new Reserve It service lets shoppers reserve apparel and shoes online, then try them on at a nearby store.

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Sears Holdings Corp. wants to take the mystery out of apparel and shoe shopping online. Beginning today, the mass merchant is enabling online shoppers to select apparel or shoes for women, men and children, and reserve their choices at a local store.Consumers then have 48 hours to visit the store and try items on, make a purchase or simply walk away.

The new service, dubbed Reserve It, is available to members of the Sears free Shop Your Way loyalty program. Shoppers can now sign into their accounts, select their local stores and then start shopping. Local store inventory is updated so shoppers can click a “Reserve In Store” button and place up to six items on hold. They will receive e-mails or text messages when the items are ready, then they have 48 hours to try on their selections, otherwise they go back on the rack.

Program members can expect to get the notification within a few minutes, says Leena Munjal, senior vice president of integrated retail. The program was designed to help shoppers avoid returning items that don’t fit or were not the style they expected. “Shopping online for clothes and shoes is difficult if you don’t know a brand or size,” she says. “I know my son’s sizes and brands he prefers, but it gets tricky if I’m not sure of the style and size.”

Then there’s the question of how to handle returns when the shopper buys something online and it doesn’t fit. The Reserve It service aims to eliminate the common consumer tactic of buying an item in two or more sizes and returning the ones that don’t fit, Munjal says.

Reserved items will be located in the women’s apparel departments in Sears stores. The locations could change in the future or vary at smaller stores, Munjal says.

Sears, No. 5 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500, has been testing the service for a few weeks, but today marks the first day it’s being promoted.

The concept isn’t new to e-retail. In April 2013 Gap Inc., No. 19 in the Top 500, launched its “reserve-in-store” service in which shoppers can identify up to five garments they wish to try on and their local store will hold them until the end of the following business day.

Reserve It is one of several services Sears implemented this year in an effort to more closely tie web and store shopping. In September it added returns and exchange capabilities to its curbside offerings, enabling consumers who are members of Sears’ loyalty program to drive to a Sears store, park in a designated parking spot, and return or exchange a product in five minutes or less. The returns/exchange service was an extension of Sears’ in-vehicle pick-up service launched in February.

In July Sears extended its buy online, pick up in store options to enable Sears and Kmart online shoppers to pick up online purchases at any of the respective stores, regardless of which e-commerce site they used to make the purchase.

And in April Sears began a Get Advice service that lets shoppers seek and gain answers from store sales staff about potential purchases and product details, via their personal computers or mobile devices.

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