2 Mich. Kmart, Sears to close in spring

Associated Press and Los Angeles Times

Sears Holdings Corp. is confirming it’s closing a handful of stores across the country, including a Sears and Kmart in Michigan, by mid-March and April as it continues to trim its ailing fleet.

Howard Riefs, a spokesman for the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based parent, which also operates Sears stores, declined to give a number or offer how many people would be affected, but he said the number of store closures is consistent with a year ago.

In a statement Wednesday, Riefs described the closures as a “very small percentage” of its overall store base. He noted that liquidation sales will begin later this week.

The Kmart store with 47 employees in Ironwood will close in mid-April; a liquidation sale will be held Jan. 24, said Riefs. Employees will be able to apply for positions at area Sears or Kmart stores, he said. The Sears store and Sears Auto Center in Fort Gratiot will close in mid-March, he said, with a liquidation sale Friday. Combined, the Fort Gratiot sites have 48 employees.

Four other stores will close in California in March and April, a company spokesman said Wednesday.

News outlets across the country have reported that a number of Kmart stores will be shut in the spring, including in Hawaii, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

The company operated 952 Kmart stores and 735 Sears stores as of Oct. 31.

The move comes a month after Sears reported that its third-quarter loss narrowed as it reduced expenses, but sales continue to decline at the two ailing chains.

For the third quarter ended Oct. 31, the retailer lost $454 million, or $4.26 per share. That compares with a loss of $548 million, or $5.15 per share, a year earlier. Stripping out certain items, Sears lost $2.86 per share. Revenue totaled $5.75 billion, down from $7.21 billion a year earlier. The chain had said that the drop in revenue was due to the sale of most of its Sears Canada stake and because it operated fewer locations.

Sales at stores opened at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer’s health, declined 8.6 percent overall. By brand, sales at Kmart locations opened at least a year fell 7.5 percent. The figure dropped 9.6 percent at Sears locations.

Shares have lost nearly 50 percent of their value over the past year and closed down 6 cents to $18.70 on Wednesday. The stock is trading at the low end of its 52-week trading range of $17.30 to $46.23.

The moves at Kmart are just the latest to reflect trouble for retailers.

Last week, Macy’s said it was slashing 4,800 jobs and closing 40 of its department stores, citing disappointing holiday-season sales.