HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- The financier who leads Sears Holdings Corp. said Tuesday that the retailer will revamp the merchandise and services in its stores and boost its Internet business.
Sears hopes that two-pronged approach will continue the momentum it gained during the recession, when its profit rose as it cut expenses.
"Five years from now, I believe this company, to some people, will be unrecognizable compared to what the company was 20, 30 or 40 years ago," Sears Chairman Edward Lampert told a crowded room of investors during an annual shareholder meeting.
Based in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, the retailer owns the Sears and Kmart chains, mail-order and online retailer Lands' End and popular brands like Craftsman, Diehard and Kenmore.
But Sears is increasingly focusing its efforts online, with a revamped website that now includes products from outside vendors, a new emphasis on social media and mobile applications that allow customers to shop from their cell phones.
Lampert spent much of his nearly three-hour presentation -- typically the only time each year he speaks publicly to shareholders -- talking about Sears' online efforts.
Standing behind his Apple laptop, he searched Sears' website for sunglasses, turning up more than 67,000 items -- which he declared "probably more than enough" -- and used an iPhone app to order Cheerios, Kleenex tissues and allergy medicine that could be delivered to his home.
"It's not just us broadcasting to customers any more, he said. "It has to be interactive, and it has to be relevant."
But he was careful to say that Sears.com won't grow at the expense of the company's 3,600 stores.
"People are getting their information online, and they're going to get more of their information from mobile devices," he said. "And if we're not there, the stores aren't going to matter. ... The paradigm that it's either online or in stores, I don't see that."
Sears will carefully tend to its long-struggling clothing business in hopes of attracting new and younger shoppers. Executives say clothing has been an "Achilles heel" for Sears.
The company will add a line of trendier clothing to Lands' End to draw younger customers and a line of store-brand products at Kmart. It plans to reinvent much of its Kenmore line of appliances, expand layaway at Sears and Kmart and even add more high-end fitness equipment at Sears.
Also Tuesday, Sears' shareholders elected the company's interim CEO and president, W. Bruce Johnson, to its seven-member board.
Sears Holdings has four Sears-branded stores in the Charleston region, three Kmart locations and several of its namesake automotive service centers.
The Post and Courier contributed to this report.