More Kmart, Sears stores to close

retail dive

Dive Brief:

  • More Sears and Kmart stores are disappearing from the landscape. A spokesperson for Transform Holdco (also known as Transformco), which owns the remaining Sears and Kmart stores, declined to comment.

  • In recent weeks, local media have reported on numerous closures, including Kmart stores in California, Pennsylvania (Walnutport and West Hempfield Township), New Hampshire, North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as Sears stores in Ohio and Texas, and a Sears Hometown in South Dakota. (Sears Hometown was acquired last year by Transformco.)

  • Earlier in June, Seritage Growth Properties announced it was terminating 12 leases for Sears and Kmart stores for a $5.3 million fee once going-out-of-business sales have completed or by Sept 30. (Seritage was spun off from Sears Holdings in 2015 as a real estate investment trust with properties formerly owned by Sears. The REIT is chaired by current Transformco chairman Eddie Lampert, who also owns Transformco's parent company, ESL Investments.)

Dive Insight:

How many times can you divide a once-giant department store chain before eventually reaching zero?

In Sears' case, the answer is: a lot. The store closures have gone on for years, in constant lapping waves. A decade ago, Sears Holdings had more than 3,900 stores to its name. In the years leading up to the company's bankruptcy in 2018, it was closing hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores a year.

In November, Transformco said it planned to close 96 stores, including Sears and Kmart locations, leaving the company with a footprint of 182 once liquidation sales, which were set to start in December, completed.

The Sears spokesperson declined to say how many stores were currently set to close or provide a tally of how many stores it has open. "Likely" between 30 and 40 Kmart stores remain, according to a report in Forbes, which first reported on the Kmart closures, though that number is also uncertain.

While Kmart remained, as an essential retailer, open during the COVID-19 closures (Sears stores were temporarily closed), the discounter's shelves are sparse in places.

At least one supplier has sued Transformco over unpaid invoices. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, a Chinese supplier to Transformco's stores alleges the retailer was months late paying for shipments from September. In February, they came to a settlement requiring Transformco to pay more than $380,000 in installments through March, of which more than $200,000 remains unpaid, on shipments that arrived nearly a year ago on 30-day payment terms.

The difficulties facing what is left of Sears are stacked high. The department store industry has been in decline for decades, while Walmart, Target and dollar stores have continually gobbled up Kmart's market share. The pandemic crisis has only exacerbated trends already hurting Sears. Despite numerous pronouncements of coming transformation over the years, few observers expect to see Sears ever reach its long-promised revival as a modernized retailer, or for it to even survive.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified one of the states where a Kmart is closing.

Follow Ben Unglesbee on Twitter