Sears and Kmart to close 120 stores

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Sears Holdings Corp. announced plans just hours after Christmas Day that the corporation will close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores following what officials characterized as a “disastrous” season for the two retail stores.

A lack of shopping activity and the announcement early last Tuesday resulted in stocks tumbling 27 percent and concerns mounting for both employees and consumers that had grown accustomed to Sears and Kmart being one-time retail mainstays.

Local store managers referred telephone calls to the Sears Roebuck & Co. public relations office. Media calls were answered with a recorded instruction to not leave a message and a comment that no decisions had been made as to which stores would close or how many jobs might be lost. No projected timeline for that decision was offered.

The Tri-parish region has Sears stores located in Houma, Morgan City and Franklin, and one Kmart in Houma.

“We haven’t heard anything,” Houma Kmart manager Ed Perot said last Wednesday. “I just work out here in the field. I don’t know that it will affect us.”

Southland Mall Director Dawn Becker was out of her office until Monday and unable to respond by deadline as to what the loss of an anchor store like Sears would mean to any shopping mall.

The store closings announcement cast doubt on Chairman Edward Lambert being able to turn the company around as promised when he spearheaded a merger of Sears and Kmart in 2005, which saved Kmart from bankruptcy. Lambert also worked toward licensing the Craftsman, Diehard and Kenmore brands and pushed the idea of having smaller stores. Existing, larger stores claimed they were the ones to suffer as a result, according to Bloomberg report.

Sears spokesman Chris Brathwate told The Associated Press that the 125-year-old retailer has a $2.9 billion credit line available and said he expects the company to survive.

“While our operating performance has not met our expectations, we have significant assets,” Brathwate said. Those assets include real estate, inventory and well-known product brand names.

Sears was founded in 1886 and started with watch sales in Minnesota. The company expanded in product offerings and became known nationally at the end of the 19th century and through most of the 20th century for its catalogue sales – a precursor to online shopping.

Kmart started as a Detroit five-and-dime in 1899 and once owned retail businesses under the names Borders, OfficeMax, Sports Authority and Waldenbooks. A 2003 price war with Walmart led to Kmart seeking bankruptcy protection.

Retail analysts have said that the quality once offered by Sears and Kmart has been in decline for more than a decade, leaving the stores unable to compete with newer retailers.

Sears Holdings Corp. released a register of 79 stores Thursday that will be targeted in a first round of closures. No Louisiana stores appeared on that list.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.


Managers at the Houma Sears and Kmart remain confident about the
future of their stores even after their corporate officials
announced they would be closing as many as 120 locations