Sears and Kmart will live on at least for the near future.
Both Sears and Kmart have struggled to turn a profit and entered bankruptcy in October resulting in hundreds of store closings. The end looked near for the retailer, but Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert put in a last second $5.2 billion bid to save the company through his hedge fund, ESL Investments.
The bid came under heavy criticism from creditors, but U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Robert Drain approved the sale Feb. 7.
Approval of the sale means construction can continue on the remodel of the Belden Village Sears, which began last fall. The store is being downsized to one floor as Dave & Busters is set to take over the upstairs. Currently, a wall has been constructed inside the Sears’ store to separate the construction area from the store.
The inside of the reduced Sears’ store is expected to receive a total remodel with walls being knocked down to create an open floorplan. Requests for comment from Sears Holdings were not returned, so it remains unclear when this renovation inside will take place. Dave & Busters also did not return requests for comments on the progress at its new location.
Jackson Township Fiscal Officer/Economic Development Director Randy Gonzalez said the project is progressing and the fire suppression is going in for Dave & Busters. Construction has also began on the south side of the mall to create the new entrance for Dave & Busters. The entire outside of the Sears store is expected to receive a facelift as a part of the project on both the north and south side of the mall.
Access to Sears is expected to be limited to the north side of the mall and inside the mall.
The Belden Village Sears remodel aligns with Lampert’s vision for Sears and Kmart moving forward. Through the sale of the company to Lampert, he obtains 425 stores and will keep control of the Kenmore appliance and DieHard brand. The sale also retains about 45,000 jobs across the United States.
Of those 425 stores, 223 are Sears and 202 are Kmart.
Lampert said his goal is to shrink the stores and put more focus on appliances and tools rather than apparel.
“Our goal is to continue to shrink the size of our stores,” Lampert told the Wall Street Journal in his first interview since the sale. “If I had my druthers, I’d rather be bigger than smaller. We still have enough of a critical mass.”
Lampert is also floating the idea of opening smaller-format stores, but there have also been rumors of closing as many as three per month unprofitable Kmart stores through the end of this year.
Locally, the only Sears store is Belden Village with the next closest location at Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted. Kmart has locations locally in Barberton, Tallmadge and North Canton.
This story was also published in The Suburbanite. www.thesuburbanite.com