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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Dec. 9, 2023

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Vancouver Mall Sears slated to close in November

By , Columbian staff writer

Vancouver Mall is losing one of its original anchor stores in Sears, as the major department retailer announced this week that it’s closing 46 locations in November.

Sears Holdings Corp., which owns both Sears and Kmart stores, continues to clean house, with 13 Kmart and 33 Sears stores slated to shutter.

The Vancouver Mall Sears is among those. The Sears at Clackamas Town Center in Happy Valley, Ore., and a Kmart in Gresham, Ore., will also close later this year.

The announcement continues a period of dire financial straits for the 124-year-old American department store. The company hasn’t turned a profit since 2010; it has lost $11.2 billion since then.

In the last fiscal quarter alone, Sears saw its net income plummet by $424 million.

Business Insider reported in January 2017 that the company was shedding assets to stay afloat, including its less profitable branches and iconic branding properties, like Craftsman and Kenmore.

Since merging with Kmart in 2005, the company’s U.S. locations are a quarter of what they were — from 3,500 stores to about 1,000 in 2017 to less than 900 as of May.

The struggling chain this week informed workers at the affected stores, and liquidation sales will begin as early as Aug. 30. The move is “part of our ongoing efforts to streamline Sears Holdings’ operations, strengthen our capital position and focus on our best stores,” the company said on its website.

The Sears store has been an anchor at Vancouver Mall since the shopping center opened in August 1977. Other mall anchor stores have closed in recent years including Nordstrom in January 2015 and Mervyn’s in 2007. Cinetopia moved into the Mervyn’s location in 2012. Gold’s Gym took over the upper level of the former Nordstrom store; the lower level of the space is now an H&M clothing store.

J.C. Penney and Macy’s — which has changed in name but not in owner — remain the last anchor stores of the original 41-year-old mall.

J.B. Schutte, the mall’s general manager, said Thursday morning that he’s as surprised as anybody about the store’s closure. He had found out through a Google Alert notification.

“This caught us off guard,” Schutte said. “We were surprised by the announcement yesterday.”

Sears Holdings Corp., which did not return a request for comment Thursday, owns the store property at the south end of the mall as well as a portion of the parking lot, Schutte said.

The rest of the mall has been owned by Centennial Real Estate Co. since 2015. Centennial has been in discussions with Sears for the last 2½ years attempting to purchase the property, Schutte added.

It’s too soon to say how the Sears branch closure might affect those discussions, he said.

“There’s been a lot of interest in that location because it’s front and center in our property,” Schutte said.

Employees at the Vancouver Sears found out about their branch’s closure on Wednesday. A handful declined to weigh in on the news the next day, saying they had been instructed by their employer not to comment.

Aside from a few sparse sections with empty shelves, there was no indication of the store’s imminent shuttering, with sale signs bearing “Summer clearout — making room for fall!” scattered around the store and a cheerful voice announcement encouraging shoppers to join the Rewards Members program.

The new shutdowns, which also include several affiliated Sears Auto Center locations, affect states across the country. Among the closures is the last Sears store in Chicago, where the company was founded in 1892. The company is now headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

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Columbian staff writer