Local Sears, Kmart stores escape wave of closures

Andrew Cullen/Sun Journal

Auburn Kmart Store Manager Joyce Beane, center, gives a receipt to two "layaway angels" who came to the store the Wednesday before Christmas to pay off strangers' layaway accounts. 

LEWISTON — Local Sears and Kmart stores will be spared from a new round of nationwide closings announced Tuesday afternoon by parent company Sears Holdings, employees said.

The retail giants, which merged in 2004, announced Tuesday that they planned to close as many as 120 Kmart and Sears locations across the country after disappointing holiday sales. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, they had not announced which stores they will close.

But employees at the otherwise quiet Sears in Lewiston said they had been assured that the store is not slated to shut down.

No Kmart stores in the Northeast are closing, said Ryan Colgan, operations manager of the discount retailer's Auburn location.

Colgan heard about the closures on the radio before arriving at work, he said. “I was like, 'Oh, happy new year,'” he said.

But an afternoon Kmart conference call informed store managers that their location was not among the doomed outlets, and they shared the news with their staff, Colgan said.

“I'm sure their friends and family will ask them,” he said. It was important to reassure them that their jobs are safe, he said.

Auburn's Kmart has done well recently, according to management. “We had a good Christmas and we've had a good year,” Colgan said. “I felt pretty secure.”

Some local shoppers were relieved to hear that the Lewiston and Auburn locations wouldn't be closing. “If Kmart closes, we won't have anything,” said Linda Jellison of Auburn while shoe shopping with a friend at Sears in Lewiston on Tuesday. A longtime customer of both stores, Jellison said Walmart's prices have gone up and Kohl's is good only when they have sales, leaving few other affordable options in the area.

But across the country, Kmart and Sears, which have been in business for more than a century, have struggled to keep up as the retail market changed around them and the sagging economy kept consumers from out of stores.

Both chains have struggled to compete for consumer electronics sales over the last quarter, according to a news release posted to Sears Holding's website Tuesday. Home appliance sales are also down at Sears nationwide, layaway sales are down at Kmart, and both stores have seen flat or declining apparel sales over the last quarter, according to the release. Combined total sales from the two were down 2.6 percent from last year.

The company expects to net as much as $170 million by selling off inventory after the closures, the release said.

They last announced closures in August, shutting down more than a dozen Kmart and Sears stores and a number of Sears service and hardware departments in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and other states. The company currently has about 4,000 stores in the United States and Canada.

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Sears & Kmart

If Sears & Kmart sold computers in their stores instead of online only, that would certainly increase their sales

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