UPDATE: This last set of closures is still fluid. The Valley Stream, New York Sears location appeared on the list on Saturday afternoon, January 30, 2021. The Dulles Town Center location in Virginia was added on February 2.
Sears stopped issuing official store closing announcements two years ago. After the October 2018 filing for bankruptcy by its parent company, Sears continued on its way to retail oblivion. Over the weekend, Sears quietly posted “temporary store closure” positions in 10 of its remaining locations on the company’s website.
Sears Management started 2019 with 489 full line Sears department stores in operation. Today, that figure drops to just 36 locations after this latest round of closures.
The retailer’s current parent company, Transformco, also operates the once-mighty Kmart discount store operation. There were 360 Kmart stores in 2019. That number has dropped to around 30.
The Boyle Heights store, located just east of downtown Los Angeles, sadly but eventually made it onto the list. This store is an architectural landmark, with its 226-foot tower still proudly displaying the retailer’s name.
Boyle Heights Sears is a shadow of its former self. When it opened in July 1927, the Sears retail store was a small part of a massive 1.8 million square foot complex which included a huge distribution center for its thriving catalog operation. When Sears ended its catalog business in 1992, the Boyle Heights facility largely emptied, but the retail store remained.
There have been attempts to redevelop the site, but these efforts have continually stalled. All of these plans have included the continuation of the Sears retail store in the rehabilitated property. The developers almost assumed that Sears would always stay in Boyle Heights. It should close in April.
Another classic Sears store to be on the closure list is in Silver Spring, Maryland. Located just north of the Washington Beltway, the Silver Spring Sears opened in early 1966 and is a symbol of the company’s suburban initiatives. This is a standalone store, not located in a mall. There was a time when Sears carried just about everything. He didn’t need to attach himself to a closed mall.
Over the past five and a half decades, the Silver Spring Sears has attracted more of an international clientele, reflecting the changing demographics of its immediate area. It generally remained well stocked and well maintained. The Sears store, along with its neighboring Giant Food store, serves as the centerpiece of the community.
However, the Silver Spring store has declined in recent years. Just before COVID-19, Sears closed its lower tier. Its prominent escalator benches are dead and silent. Customers on the ground floor can now easily admire the newly vacated lower sales floor. It’s a view that is never a sign of good business health.
For the past few years, closed floors and stopped escalators have served as the perfect “barometer of impending closure” at Sears. It’s one thing to draw attention to dwindling merchandise levels and store shelves. It’s another thing to see a highly visible closed escalator to know the end is near.
It’s unclear how long Sears can continue in its current state. Online reviews of the remaining 36 Sears stores include comments such as “a bit empty”, “this place looks empty”, and “looks like they could fill the store with some inventory”.
Today’s Sears operation is so far removed from when it was the largest retailer in the world. In 1963, Sears operated 761 stores, 1055 catalog sales offices and 11 catalog order factories.
Store closing sales in all 10 locations will likely begin next week. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left to buy on the shelves these days.
ADDITIONAL SEARS FULL-LINE STORE CLOSURES (as of January 30, 2021)
• Clovis, California
• Los Angeles, California (Boyle Heights)
• Orange, California
• Sacramento, California
• Brandon, Florida
• Aiea, Hawaii
• Hilo, Hawaii
• Silver Spring, Maryland
• North Attleboro, Massachusetts
• Valley Creek, New York
• Mesquite, TX
• Dulles, Virginia