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After 52 years, local Sears closing

August 23rd, 2018

By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Sears, the storied retailer that has occupied an anchor position in Glenbrook Square since the Fort Wayne mall's 1966 opening, is closing.

A liquidation sale could begin as early as one week from today. The local store is scheduled to shutter its doors in November, according to an announcement posted on the company's website. The adjoining Sears Auto Center will close late next month.

The Glenbrook location is one of 46 affected Sears and Kmart stores, which were identified as unprofitable. Officials in June announced plans to close 63 Sears and Kmart stores. That round of closures included Sears stores in Muncie, Lafayette and Indianapolis' Castleton Square mall.

“We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which is a critical component to our integrated retail transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed,” Sears said in a statement.

The 125-year-old retailer once known for its Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands and Christmas wish books has struggled in recent years, announcing wave after wave of store closings in an attempt to shore up its balance sheet.

Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, described this latest move as necessary to improve its capital position as it concentrates on its “best stores.”

This is the second of Glenbrook's four anchor stores to announce plans to close in less than six months. Carson's announced in April its plan to close that 120,000-square-foot store, which opened just four years earlier.

Carson's replaced Marshall Field's, a high-end retailer that closed in June 2005. The space sat empty more than eight years.

The mall's other two anchors are Macy's and J.C. Penney. The 182,000-square-foot Penney store is the last of Glenbrook's original anchors. It's unclear how large the Sears store is.

Macy's replaced L.S. Ayres in 2006 after Macy's parent company, Federated Department Stores Inc., acquired Ayres' parent company, May Department Stores Inc.

No mall or shopping center wants a large, empty store – much less two.

The abandoned spaces can be a stark reminder to shoppers that even once-thriving employers can fall on hard times, putting dozens out of work. That dose of reality could prompt some consumers to spend more modestly.

Experts closely watch consumer confidence. Consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

It's unclear how many workers will lose their jobs when Sears closes. The company would be expected to disclose that number to the state in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, notice. One had not been posted on the Indiana Department of Workforce Development's website as of Wednesday evening.

As a point of reference, Marshall Field's employed 110 full- and part-time workers when it closed in 2005.

Brick-and-mortar stores have struggled in recent years as online sales have enjoyed robust growth. J.C. Penney, Macy's and Gordmans are among those that have closed stores elsewhere but continue to do business locally.

Jeremy Carnahan, a local certified public accountant, said it's sad to see another relic from his childhood close.

“I have fond memories of going to Sears with my grandma and my mom to get school clothes when I was in elementary and middle school,” he said.

The Fort Wayne man's most recent Sears purchase was a treadmill. As an adult, he shifted to shopping for clothes at Carson's, Macy's and Penney. He's down to the latter two options.

According to a Zacher Co. report, Fort Wayne's overall retail vacancy rate was 12.9 percent as of June 1. Although the Carson's closure had been announced, it wasn't counted because the store was still open. Six additional retailers had announced plans to close local stores that were in their final weeks of operation.

The northeast quadrant, where Glenbrook is located, had 16.1 percent vacancy of 6.24 million square feet.

The mall's ownership doesn't control the soon-to-be-vacant Sears real estate.

GGP, formerly known as General Growth Properties, operates Glenbrook Square, the 1.2 million-square-foot local mall. GGP owns about 450,000 square feet of Glenbrook. The anchor retailers own their locations – about 775,000 square feet total.

Among those that could be most affected by the local Sears store's closing are smaller retail stores near the mall anchor, especially ones located in the corridor that connects Sears to Carson's.

Those stores include Charlotte Russe, Kids Foot Locker, PacSun, Verizon, Hot Topic, Torrid, Aeropostale and GameStop, according to a map on Glenbrook's website.

Sears' closure will mark the end of an era, more than 50 years of mothers taking their children back-to-school shopping and couples choosing appliances for their first homes.

Donald Buchs remembers shopping there when Glenbrook first opened.

The Edgerton, Ohio, man, who is in his 80s, bought Sears drill bits, which he has used in his home woodworking shop to make toys for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Carnahan, 38, prefers in-person to online shopping, especially when it comes to clothes. He likes to look at items, feel them and try them on before buying. But he realizes his old-school approach might not be viable for much longer.

“It makes me wonder,” he said, “if at some point I'll have to adapt to the way retail has changed.”

Categories Layoffs / Closures