Sears Holdings announced Thursday (Nov. 2) plans to close another 63 Sears and Kmart stores by late January. On the chopping block are flagship stores in Central Mall of Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville.
They are the only Sears stores in Arkansas on the recent closure list.
“Sears Holdings continues its strategic assessment of the productivity of our Kmart and Sears store base and will continue to right size our store footprint in number and size,” noted the corporate statement. “We will continue to close some unprofitable stores as we transform our business model so that our physical store footprint and our digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members.”
The retailer said eligible employees in the affected stores will receive severance and also be given the opportunity to apply for open positions at nearby Kmart or Sears stores.
Sears automotive centers will close in early December and store closures will take place in late January. Liquidation sales will begin Nov. 9 at the affected stores.
The pattern of store closings is nothing new for Sears Holdings, which in 2010 operated 3,500 locations. The closures announced Thursday will bring the Sears store count to around 680.
Declining mall traffic has been a problem for retailers for the past several years as more sales continue to gravitate online. Sears has not been on the forefront of expanding its online presence and over the past year has sold off some of its core brands such as Craftsman Tools and Diehard batteries. Last month the retailer said it was severing ties with Whirlpool after 100 years of doing business together. Whirlpool also makes Kenmore appliances for Sears exclusively, which the retailer said it plans to sell on Amazon.
Sears also said recently it was reviving its annual holiday Wish Book catalog, which was reduced to 120 pages. An interactive version will be available online, and a glossy print version will be sent only to Sears’ preferred customers, the retailer said.
The empty space in malls is a concern to property management. Management at Central Mall in Fort Smith released the following statement: “We can confirm Sears will be leaving Central Mall Fort Smith. They’ve been a great tenant for many years, but unfortunately they have decided to close this store. While we are disappointed in this decision, we view this as an opportunity to enhance the retail offerings at our center to better meet the needs of our customers.”
Charles O’Shea, a retail analyst with Moody’s, said Wednesday he believed this holiday season would be an acid test for some retailers. He said Sears has been in a death spiral for the past few years and it’s really just winding down its massive real estate holdings. He warned that retailers anchoring malls would likely continue to have a rough time as more apparel and footwear sales move online. He said without steady foot-traffic it will be hard for some retailers to remain open beyond the holiday season.
Suppliers to Sears and Kmart have been cautious about selling to the retailer. LG Electronics and Samsung recently began demanding cash upfront for delivery of certain goods. Clorox also imposed tougher payment terms for is products.
The Kmart store in Springdale closed in December 2016.