Sears confirmed Wednesday that it will close its store and auto center at Towne West Square in early December, as the company continues to shrink.
The store will start its liquidation sale on Sept. 26. Employees were told about the move Wednesday.
The store and auto center’s 103 employees who are eligible will receive severance and can apply for open positions at other area Sears and Kmart stores.
The Sears store in Manhattan also is slated for closing, said Howard Riefs, a spokesman for Sears. The company also is in the process of closing a number of other stores across the country.
Riefs said the store closings are part of the company’s efforts to cut ongoing expenses, adjust Sears’ asset base and accelerate the transformation of its business model.
It was a painful revelation to several shoppers Wednesday afternoon at the Sears Towne West store near Kellogg and West St.
Mike Cortez and his family were there to shop for new appliances.
He grew up with Sears Craftsman tools and was unhappy that he wouldn’t be able to drop in at the west-side store in the future.
“Where am I going to go to get the quality?” he said. “I have ratchets that I still bring in to be fixed. I still have Craftsman tools from when I was in my late teens.”
Yahaira Rutiaga was with her dad to shop for glasses.
She was disturbed as much by the people losing their jobs as by losing a place her family regularly shops.
“All those people, where are they going to find new jobs?” she said.
Sears has been troubled for years with losses, declining sales and shuttered stores. Once the nation’s largest retailer and biggest employer, the 115-year-old Chicago-area company reshaped shopping in the country first with its catalogs and then with its stores. It was a synonym of all that was solid and reliable for much of the 20th century.
But it couldn’t keep up with the times in the ’90s and 2000s, as first Wal-Mart and then the Internet hurt sales. It merged with discounter Kmart in 2005 in a combination of two weakened retail giants that didn’t seem to fix either one’s long-term problems. Sears Holdings’ sales have declined every year since 2006, and it’s been losing money since 2011.
On Aug. 21, Sears Holdings Corp. reported a $573 million loss in the second quarter. Sears Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert said at the time the results were “unacceptable” and that the company would cut costs, including closing more of its lower-performing stores.
Riefs couldn’t say whether the Towne West store was chosen because its lease was up, or whether it was simply considered economically prudent.
The 950,000-square-foot Towne West has also run into its share of difficulty in recent years, as west-side retail burgeons farther north and west. Owner Simon Properties last year said it would spin its less profitable smaller malls and strip centers into a stand-alone company to focus on its more profitable larger properties.
But the closing of the Towne West Sears store is more about Sears than about Towne West, said Steve Martens, CEO of the Martens Cos., which handles commercial real estate in Wichita and Kansas.
He said that Simon Property Group, the owner of Towne West Square and Towne East Square malls, is an expert in filling spaces.
“It’s a lot of space,” he said, “but I would assume that Simon will reposition the mall or divide up the space to put the best face on it.”