Sears Holdings said Wednesday the Sears department store at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd. in Columbus, as well as the Kmart store at 3200 Macon Road will be closed by this spring. Liquidation sales could begin as soon as Friday at the stores, the company said.
The two ill-fated local outlets are among 42 Sears locations and 108 Kmart outlets that are being shuttered by the iconic retailer, which has fallen on hard times over the past couple of decades. Employees were told of the closures on Wednesday, the company said. The Kmart at 2500 Airport Thruway in Columbus was not on the list.
“Sears Holdings will continue to strategically and aggressively evaluate our store space and productivity and accelerate the closing of some unprofitable stores,” the firm said Wednesday in a statement.
The Columbus stores are among 26 Sears and 78 Kmart stores on a closure list released Wednesday by Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings. That follows announcements to employees on Dec. 27 at 16 other Sears stores and 30 Kmarts that their locations were being eliminated. The Big Kmart at 2003 U.S. Highway 280 in Phenix City was on that Dec. 27 list.
“I will miss the store. I’ll miss being able to run in there and get a few things, the convenience of not having to stop on the way home,” Tomika Morgan, a Smiths Station, Ala., resident and stylist at the Hair Masters salon a couple of doors down from the Kmart in Phenix City, said of its demise. “I’ll really miss the staff, too. You get to know the people that work there.”
Sears Holdings and Seritage Growth Properties, in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said a right to terminate leases at 19 unprofitable stores was being exercised by the retailer, with the properties combined measuring 1.9 million square feet of space. It said the stores will be empty by April of this year, with Sears paying rent to Seritage until they are vacated.
With the liquidation of inventory getting under way at stores as quickly as Friday, the company said plans are to have the space inside them dark by spring, which would be in late March or early April.
“The decision to close stores is a difficult but necessary step as we take actions to strengthen the company's operations and fund its transformation,” Sears Holdings said in its statement. “Many of these stores have struggled with their financial performance for years and we have kept them open to maintain local jobs and in the hopes that they would turn around. But in order to meet our objective of returning to profitability, we have to make tough decisions and will continue to do so, which will give our better performing stores a chance at success. Eligible associates impacted by these store closures will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores.”
The Sears at Columbus Park Crossing is one of several anchors for the sprawling shopping center and restaurant hub, opened shortly after the property was constructed in 2002. Sears had relocated from Columbus Square Mall on Macon Road following the mall’s sale and eventual transformation into a Muscogee County School District administrative headquarters, the city’s Main Public Library and a City Services Center. Prior to that, the retailer had a presence for decades on Broadway in downtown Columbus.
Kmart has been on Macon Road for decades as well, with its structure built in 1968, according to city tax records. It is an anchor for Midtown Shopping Center.
Kmart Holdings Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. merged in 2005 and is now managed under Sears Holdings, led by billionaire investor Edward Lampert. The company still owns the Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard brands but has been shopping them around in recent years to raise more cash to keep the iconic retailer afloat.
In early December, Sears Holdings reported a net loss of $748 million in its third quarter, which was worse than its $454 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. Revenues for the quarter were $5 billion, down $721 million from $5.8 billion in the same period a year earlier.
“We remain fully committed to restoring profitability to our company and are taking actions such as reducing unprofitable stores, reducing space in stores we continue to operate, reducing investments in underperforming categories and improving gross margin performance and managing expenses relative to sales in key categories,” Lampert said in a statement with the earnings report.
After the Columbus Sears store shuts its doors, the nearest full-line Sears locations remaining will be in the Atlanta area. There also will be a handful of Sears locations in Alabama, most in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area.