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At the store operations level, there have been significant changes, involving shifting responsibilities, shifting to self-service in footwear and apparel, centralized cash wraps, new signage and consultative sales staff being retained in appliances, electronics and home improvement.
While there has been speculation that the private Covington brand hasn’t gone over as well as hoped among consumers, the Sears spokeswoman said, "My understanding is it has been well received by customers. We deemed it a successful rollout."
"Mindy is talented, bright, product-oriented and a strategic merchant," observed Kirk Palmer, who runs an executive search firm bearing his name. "She understands both branded and private label product, and presided over nice growth at Lands’ End." Before Lands’ End, Meads worked at Limited, Gymboree and Macy’s. She is said to be very focused, buttoned-up and without being flamboyant or emotional on the job.
Others described Bufano as a hard-driving apparel executive, which Sears isn’t used to, who didn’t bring in much talent and ruffled some feathers in her quest to put some verve back into the assortments. "There were not a lot of people rallying around her," said one source.
"This was an unceremonious divorce," said another source. "I’d say the company is flailing a little bit right now."
The worst of the flailing has concerned its credit operations, which were the proving ground for Sears ceo Alan Lacy and also presented him with the biggest crisis of his tenure in that post. Last fall, Lacy informed Wall Street that the head of the credit unit had been dismissed and that it would need to increase its provision for delinquent accounts. Still, it generated more than $1.5 billion in comparable operating income for Sears last year and sported $30.8 billion in receivables.