GULF WAR'S LOGISTICS HEAD TO DIRECT SEARS NETWORK

GULF WAR'S LOGISTICS HEAD TO DIRECT SEARS NETWORK

Sears, Roebuck and Co. has picked a Desert Storm leader to shape up its enormous merchandise distribution system.

Army Lt. Gen. William G. Pagonis, who directed the transportation of troops and supplies for the Persian Gulf war, was named senior vice president of logistics for Sears. He will be responsible for shipping, distribution and delivery of all Sears merchandise."Superior logistical services are central to the effective execution of our merchandise group strategy, focusing equally on improved customer services and lower costs," Arthur C. Martinez, chairman of the Sears Merchandise Group, said in a statement.

Mr. Pagonis' responsibilities will include home delivery of furniture and appliances in addition to distribution of goods to Sears' 798 stores. The unit under his command, Sears Logistics Services Inc., employs 6,000 people.

Mr. Pagonis, 52, is retiring from a 29-year military career. He will succeed Charles R. Reaves, 55, who accepted an early retirement offer, Sears said.

Mr. Pagonis currently is commanding general of the 21st Theater Army Area Command of the U.S. Army in Europe.

Logistics is the art of moving goods efficiently. At Sears, Mr. Pagonis will oversee the movement of everything from frocks to refrigerators, from manufacturer to customer.

He also will be charged with cutting costs by increasing the efficiency of Sears' distribution system. Sears has closed some urban warehouses and built larger regional distribution centers but trails No. 1 retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in mastering the logistics of modern merchandising, analysts said.

"I think most people will agree that one of the major advantages Wal-Mart has over most of its competitors is the most efficient distribution system around," said Joseph Ronning of Brown Brothers Harriman Inc. in New York.

Mr. Ronning said Wal-Mart's high-tech system for tracking and directing merchandise saves money.

''Sears has some catching up to do," he said.

Mr. Pagonis is not the first Army logistics expert to land at Sears. From 1939 to 1954 the company was headed by Gen. Robert E. Wood, the Army's quartermaster general during World War I.

Mr. Wood directed Sears' transformation after World War II from primarily a mail-order company into a national chain of retail stores.