There are very few falls in the retail world that can match Sears’ ongoing decline. Chances are the longstanding location at your local mall has closed in recent years, leaving an empty space as the business continues to downsize. Unfortunately, things aren’t looking good, even though the retailer is trying to recover from decades of dwindling business. And now Sears has announced that one of its last remaining locations will close in the coming weeks. Read on to see if you’ll be saying goodbye to the fallen retail icon anytime soon – and which stores are still standing.
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Given how bad things have been for the company recently, it’s hard to imagine how Sears went from being a mail order company at the turn of the century to becoming the leading retailer in the US in the 1980s. But things have tragically taken a turn for the worse in the decades since: In 2004, Kmart bought the company as a last-ditch effort to bail out the two ailing stores. Despite best efforts, store numbers continued to decline until Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018. forbes reported.
Typically, such a strategy can help a company raise funds and reposition itself to hopefully stay afloat. Instead, Sears found itself in a quagmire for four years as a lawsuit brought by the store’s creditors and suppliers waiting to be paid for goods and funds languished in court, Retail Dive reported in August. After a $175 million settlement broke the deadlock over the summer, the company was finally able to emerge from bankruptcy on Oct. 29. But despite the change in course, a retail expert said the store’s days were probably numbered.
“They don’t offer customers an attractive value proposition, and competition in the retail market offering similar goods means the end is coming.” Ray WimerPhD, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University, told Fox Business earlier this month.
Sears has seen its retail footprint continue to shrink rapidly since it first filed for bankruptcy. Now the list of remaining locations is getting a little shorter.
The Sears store at Valley Mall in Union Gap, Washington, will close its doors forever, reports local CBS affiliate KIMA. Locals still have some time to pay the site one last visit: the original closing date of November 20 has been pushed back a month to December 18. However, the outlet reports that “even with less than a month until the store actually closes, there is still little stock as the store is nearly empty.”
When asked for comment, a store executive said the site could still be converted into a Sears outlet store, reports KIMA. However, a representative of the mall’s management company says no decisions have been made yet.
“We spoke to the grocery store [stores]entertainment purposes and soft goods”, Traci RusselVice President of Leasing for Mall Owners, CenterCal Properties, related Yakima Herald Republic in September.
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The loss of the Union Gap site is just the latest in a long list of Sears closures that have shrunk the company to a fraction of its former size. After the most recent closure, only 21 locations will remain in the U.S. — there were 700 when the retailer filed for bankruptcy in 2018, according to NJ.com.
Aside from the location that is soon to close, the last remaining full-size Sears stores are in Burbank, Concord, Stockton and Whittier, California; Miami, Orlando and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Frederick, Maryland; Braintree, Mass.; Jersey City, New Jersey; Greensboro, NC; Camp Hill, Pennsylvania; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Tukwila, Washington.
The remaining locations are the company’s smaller focus businesses. Sears Home & Life is still open in Anchorage, Alaska; Overland Park, Kansas; and Lafayette, Louisiana. And the company still has a handful of device and mattress locations in Fort Collins, Colorado; Honolulu, Hawaii; and El Paso and Pharr, Texas. Sears Hometown locations that operate as smaller franchises are not included in the count.
After the lengthy and protracted legal battle during its bankruptcy, Sears is just a shell of its former self. Along with its reduced retail locations, the company also sold many of its few remaining valuable assets, such as handyman tools, Kenmore equipment, and DieHard car batteries. Bloomberg reports. Now experts say there may not be enough left to save the struggling store.
“The failure to invest in itself is why Sears melted into what it is today,” Steve Azarbadan executive director of retail seller credit protection firm TradeGuard, said Bloomberg. “At this point investors would have been better off if they had been liquidated 10 years ago.”
The rest of the locations also look bleak. At his Newport Center store in New Jersey, shopping floors remain largely deserted except for staff while entire areas are locked down — all while surrounding stores remained busy. Bloomberg reports.