WATERVILLE — The Kmart store at Elm Plaza is scheduled to close in February, along with 39 other Kmart and Sears locations across the country.
The move was announced Thursday, as part of Sears Holdings’ efforts to survive its ongoing financial troubles. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 15.
Over the past four months, Sears Holding Corp. announced the shuttering of 188 stores nationwide in addition to the 40 closures it publicized this week.
When the Waterville store shuts down, there will be two Kmart stores left in Maine — in Auburn and Augusta.
Some customers already commute to Waterville from long distances to shop at Kmart. Sandra Patterson and Mary Morse of Bangor have been traveling to the Waterville store since the Bangor location closed in April 2017.
“It’s the only place you can get Chic jeans,” Patterson said.
Patterson and Morse said that, come February, they would consider making an occasional trip to the Augusta Kmart, but no farther.
Local residents expressed concern about the effect on the community.
“The job loss is the worst part,” Winslow resident Babette Linton said. She said she has shopped at the Waterville Kmart for close to 20 years. She strongly prefers Kmart over competing retail stores such as Walmart, in part because of the customer service.
Howard Riefs, the director of corporate communications for Sears Holdings, did not respond to a request to provide the number of employees who work at the Waterville Kmart. Riefs also declined to comment on the corporation’s process of choosing which locations it would shut down, instead referring to a document that implied that the selected stores were “unprofitable” and said that the move is intended to “accelerate (Sears Holdings’) strategic transformation and facilitate its financial restructuring.”
Employees at the Waterville store would not talk about the decision.
Debbie DeChaime, who lives in Waterville and occasionally shops at the city’s Kmart, noted that a lack of retail options can be bad for customers’ wallets.
“Things are tight,” DeChaime said. “We need choice so things don’t have to be so expensive.”
DeChaime added that many people in the area, including herself, do not see online shopping as a viable alternative to physical stores and “don’t want to open up to all those other possibilities” involved with purchasing products on the internet.
“It’s sad to see just because there’s so little here,” DeChaime said. “For people who don’t have options to go elsewhere, it’s taking away an option when there are already few.”