With stores closing, ‘Sears will cease to exist’

As the end nears for what was once the largest department store chain in America, Sears Holdings is closing of 80 more Sears and KMart stores by the end of March of next year, along with 40 others planned for shutdown by February.

The only Virginia store on the list is the Sears in Charlottesville.  Most other locations of both Sears and KMart have already closed in the Old Dominion, although the Sears in Valley View Mall in Roanoke remains open — for the moment

The company closed 142 stores this year and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October.

Sears chairman Eddie Lampert of ESL Investments, the hedge fund that owns Sears Holdings, submitted his latest “last-minute” bid to stave off liquidation, but it depends on $3.3. billion in loans to allow him to buy out the company’s stock to keep 400 stores open.

The deadline to find a way to keep the company open expired Friday as Lampert submitted his plan, which still needs approval by the judge overseeing the bankruptcy.

““We expect that the company that emerges from bankruptcy would offer employment to up to 50,000 associates,” said ESL in a statement after submitting the latest plan to keep Sears afloat.  Much of the money loaned in the salvation efforts has come from Lampert himself.

As part of the efforts to save Sears, Lampert sold the Craftsman tool operation to Stanley Tools.

One of the stores set for closing early next year is what was once a large Sears store in Fairview Heights, Illinois, in the St. Clair Square shopping mall just outside of Belleville, Amy Thompson’s home.  We shopped there while living in nearby Alton, where I worked as a reporter for the local paper, and she worked for a smaller Sears store in Alton while attending college.

As a teenager in Floyd County in the 1960s, my family shopped at the “Sears Town” store on Williamson Road in Roanoke for back to school needs and at Christmas.  It, too, is long gone.

Sears is a store passed by time.

“I used to buy my washing and dryer from Sears, but they don’t have the brands anymore and it’s not a good place to shop,” says Ted Gavin, managing director of bankruptcy consultancy Gavin/Solmonese.

Financial lawyer Jordi Guso says Sears is “so irrelevant at this point that the underlying real estate Sears owns is worth more than the boxes selling housewares and food.”

“With Sears on death’s doorstep for good this time, this may be my final written piece on the former iconic retailer. And I am OK with that, really. It’s time to move on, for both me and Sears,” wrote Yahoo Financial editor-at-large Brian Sozzi Friday.  “Sears will cease to exist.”

Another American icon falls.

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