Once the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, a private hedge fund formed earlier this year to save the venerable Sears and Roebuck Co. brand on Friday (Nov. 8) announced its intention to close the last remaining Arkansas location ahead of the Christmas holiday season.
Since purchasing substantially all of the assets of Sears Holdings Corp. in February 2019, the Transfrom Holdco LLC (Transformco) owned by Chicago billionaire hedge fund manager and former Sears Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert said it has faced “a difficult retail environment and other challenges.”
“We have been working hard to position Transformco for success by focusing on our competitive strengths and pruning operations that have struggled due to increased competition and other factors,” Transformo said in a statement. “To support these initiatives, our owners (along with a third-party investor) have recently provided the company approximately $250 million in new capital.”
According to company press release, Arkansas’ lone Sears location at 3930 McCain Boulevard at McCain Mall in North Little Rock will be closed by February 2020. The company did not immediately respond to inquiries from Talk Business & Politics concerning the number of employees at the location and other details. Going out of business sales at these stores are expected to begin on Dec. 2, officials said, shortly after Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales.
“As part of this process, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to streamline our operations and close 96 Sears and Kmart stores. Going out of business sales at these stores are expected to begin on Dec. 2,” said the Chicago-based hedge fund, which purchased Sears Holding for $5.2 billion following the former retail giant’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Oct. 15, 2018.
Over the last decade, mall-anchored Sears has been in a downward spiral as it has struggled to complete with both traditional retailers like Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Kohls, as well as online rivals such as Amazon and Overstock.com. In 2012, Sears Holding Corp. sold off its outlet stores in October 2012 for $446 million for much-needed cash, which included locations in Cabot, Conway, Heber Springs, Mountain View and West Memphis.
At the time, Sears still owned more than 5,000 namesake department stores and Kmart locations across the U.S. Since then, however, Sears has slowly been closing locations, including two of the last remaining Kmart stores in Arkansas in Springdale and Jonesboro in late 2016 and early 2017.
Following the latest round of closures, Transformco said it will now operate 182 Sears and Kmart stores, which were once among the top three retailers in the nation with Bentonville-based Walmart Stores Inc.
“We will continue to evaluate our Sears and Kmart footprint, consistent with our overall retail and service strategy,” said Sears officials in a statement not attributed to anyone. “We will endeavor to create and deliver value through a strategic combination of our better performing retail stores and our service businesses, brands and other assets, and expect to realize a significant return on our extensive portfolio of owned and leased real estate.”
Lampert-held vehicles still own other Sears-related assets, such as Innovel, that supports Sears Home Services and the company’s Kenmore and DieHard brands, as well as logistics solutions and limited financial services to businesses and consumers. A Transformco affiliate also provides support services to Sears Hometown – a network of more than 400 independently-owned and operated, dealer-managed smaller-format stores that offer a range of home products, including appliances, lawn & garden, tools and sporting goods.