By Kevin Kelley
First it was a Kmart store. In 2006, it became Sears Grand. Eleven months ago, it reverted back to Kmart. In late April, the large retail store at West Bay Plaza will be closed.
The Detroit Road location was among several Kmart store closures announced Jan. 22 by Sears Holdings, which owns both Kmart and Sears. Included was a store in downtown Chicago’s Loop district, considered Kmart’s flagship store.
According to Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs, clearance sales will begin Feb. 9. The Westlake store’s 57 employees, most of whom were part-time or hourly, will be eligible for severance pay, Riefs said.
“This store is being closed because the lease was not renewed,” Riefs said in an e-mail. “Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model.”
When the store was switched from a Sears Grand to a Kmart in February 2012, a company spokeswoman explained the change by saying customers preferred the Kmart assortment of products to those at Sears Grand.
Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert noted that Kmart and Sears have not been unique among retailers in closing store locations.
“We don’t make decisions to close stores lightly, and we know just how hard these decisions are on our loyal associates who have provided years of excellent service,” Lampert wrote Jan. 21 on a blog entry the company’s website. “But we’ve also carefully studied where other retailers went wrong and how they failed to adapt to changes.”
Several national retail chains reported seeing fewer shoppers during the holiday season. According to ShopperTrak, U.S. retailers’ store traffic in November and December fell 14.6 percent when compared to the same two months in 2012; however, sales rose by 2.7 percent.
“The consensus about decreased store traffic also highlights another decision that has steered our work: we very often need less space to serve our members better and we may need fewer locations as well,” Lampert wrote. “This is true of our competitors, too.”
As the popularity of online purchasing grows, Kmart and Sears intend to focus more on their Internet services, the company’s top executive said last month.
“We are transitioning from a business that has historically focused on running a store network into a business that provides and delivers value by serving its members in the manner most convenient for them, whether in store, at home or through digital devices,” Lampert wrote.
Also in January, Sear holdings announced that comparable Kmart store sales had dropped 5.7 percent from the same quarter the previous year and 3.7 percent from 2012. The company also said it is considering the sale of its Sears Auto Center and Lands End businesses.