BARBOURSVILLE — The Sears store at the Huntington Mall, in Barboursville, will be closing, according to a list of stores to be closed in a release on SearsHoldings.com.
The store is the last Sears department store in the state.
“We have made the difficult but necessary decision to close 26 large-format Sears and Kmart stores in late October,” the release reads.
The release is from Transform Co., which was dubbed “the new Sears” after it entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Transform acquired the outstanding shares of Sears Hometown not owned by ESL Investments Inc. The transaction reunited Sears and Kmart with Sears Hometown, which was spun off from Sears Holdings Corp., the former parent company of Sears and Kmart, in 2012.
Edward S. Lampert, chairman of Transform, said at the time of the agreement, “We are excited to bring Sears Hometown, its associates and network of independent dealers and franchisees back into the Sears and Kmart family. Our investment demonstrates our commitment to growing Transform for the benefit of our members and customers, associates, vendors and communities across the country. While initially the companies will operate independently, we see many opportunities where we can partner to serve our customers better and enjoy efficiencies of scale once these businesses are under one roof.”
According to the Transform Co. release, over the past several months, the company has worked to strengthen its vendor relationships, return its inventory levels to normal and improve customer satisfaction and operations.
“However, we have faced a number of challenges returning our stores to sustainable levels of productivity, including differences with Sears Holdings over our purchase agreement and a generally weak retail environment,” the release said. “These challenges have unfortunately affected our performance and limited our strategic choices.”
The company said after a “careful review” it believes the right course is to accelerate the expansion of smaller store formats, which includes opening additional Home & Life stores and adding several hundred Sears Hometown stores after the Sears Hometown and Outlet transaction closes.
The Sears Auto Centers at any of these stores will close in late August, according to the release.
The release also said the company will offer eligible associates “the same number of weeks of severance as offered to employees of Sears Holdings Corp. prior to that company’s Chapter 11 filing in October 2018.”
The release added that closing liquidation sales are expected to begin around Aug. 15.
Going forward, the company says it cannot rule out additional store closures across the country in the near term.
“Our goal remains to return the company to profitability and preserve as many jobs as possible in the communities we serve,” the release stated.
Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for Cafaro Co., which owns the Huntington Mall, says the Sears closing was not anything unexpected.
“This is a nationwide problem for Sears,” Bell said. “We have been aware of this and have been quietly going about the process of talking to different businesses about the space that will be left vacant by Sears.”
Bell says the company is looking at non-traditional retail businesses, like entertainment, hospitality and restaurants, as possible tenants for the mall.
“It may take some time for us to get all of that space filled,” Bell said. “We might have to divide the space, but I am confident we will be able to find the right tenant or tenants for the Huntington Mall.”
To view the release and full store closings list, go online at https://searsholdings.com/docs/080619_store_closing_list.pdf.