Retail

Sears will close its store at Towne East Square next year

According to reports circulating online Friday, Sears will close its department store at Towne East Mall in the latest round of closures for the troubled retailer. The retailer announced plans to shutter 80 more of its Kmart and Sears locations by March.(December 28, 2018)
According to reports circulating online Friday, Sears will close its department store at Towne East Mall in the latest round of closures for the troubled retailer. The retailer announced plans to shutter 80 more of its Kmart and Sears locations by March.(December 28, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita’s last Sears department store will soon be closed.

The troubled retailer announced plans Friday to shutter 80 of its Kmart and Sears locations by March — on top of an additional 182 it had originally planned on closing in the first quarter of 2019 as part of looming bankruptcy proceedings.

On Friday, the bell tolled for the Sears in Towne East Square, 7700 E. Kellogg — the last traditional Sears department store in Kansas.

The Sears Auto Center at the mall is also expected to close in late January.

Liquidation sales are expected to begin in two weeks, according to a news release from Sears.

Click here for a full list of stores closing.

According to a news release from Sears, the retailer informed employees of the closure on Thursday.

Wichita’s other Sears department store, in Towne West Square, closed in 2014.

A Topeka Sears location closed in September.

In 2012, Sears spun off a separate company, Sears Hometown and Outlet, Inc. — whose stores are mostly independently owned. The Hometown and Outlet stores sell dinged-up, scratched or otherwise slightly damaged appliances and tools for discount prices.

Wichita currently has one of each — a Hometown store in Towne West Square, 4600 W. Kellogg, and an Outlet store at 3535 N. Rock.

However, the Sears Hometown store in Towne West posted on Facebook recently it would be “closing soon,” and liquidation sales are currently underway there.

A manager at Wichita’s Sears Outlet store said Friday there are no plans to close it, emphasizing that Sears Outlet “is a separate company and ... we’re profitable as a company.”

Reaction to the news of Sears’ imminent closure online Friday came with decidedly little shock from Wichitans.

“Store has looked like it was closing for months,” one Facebook commenter wrote.

“Sad, but I don’t remember the last time I set foot in Sears,” another one wrote.

Sears Holdings Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, saying at the time it would close more than 20 percent of all stores, keeping open only its 500 most profitable locations.

The 130-year old retailer had set a deadline of Friday for bids for its remaining stores to avert closing down completely.

The retailer that began as a mail order catalog in the 1880s has been in a slow death spiral, hobbled by the Great Recession and then overwhelmed by rivals both down the street and across the internet.

Sears Holdings Corp., which also runs Kmart, joins the list of retail brands taken over by hedge funds that collapsed under the weight of debt forced upon them.

Under hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, Sears has bought time by spinning off stores and putting on the block the brands that had grown synonymous with the company, such as Craftsman. The company’s chairman and biggest shareholder, Lampert loaned out his own money and put together deals to keep the company afloat and to turn whatever profit he could for ESL hedge fund. Lampert and ESL have been trying to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock.

But no official bid appeared to have emerged as of 3 p.m. Friday.

Sears declined to comment.

Contributing: Associated Press

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.


  Comments