Black Friday Could Be Last For Sears, Kmart – WISH-TV | Indianapolis News | Indiana weather
(CNN) – This Black Friday could quite possibly be the start of the final holiday shopping season for Sears and Kmart, two brands that once proudly dominated the U.S. retail landscape.
The two chains are just a shell of what they were when the holding company that owns them came out of bankruptcy less than three years ago.
At the time, the holding company – given the overly optimistic name of Transformco – still had 223 Sears and 202 Kmart stores across the country. This was already down 87% from the 3,500 stores between the two brands when they merged in 2005 to form Sears Holdings. But the percentage drop in stores since the company exited bankruptcy in February 2019 has been even larger.
Today, there are just 21 full-line Sears stores in the Americas and two more in Puerto Rico, according to the store locator on the Sears website, after recent closures are eliminated. Seven other stores listed on the site are limited to selling home appliances and, in some cases, mattresses, rather than the full line of offerings that were once the hallmark of both chains.
And by the end of the year, there will only be six Kmarts left in the Americas, along with six more in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
“To me it always felt like a liquidation. This has been going on for years, ”said Reshmi Basu, personal bankruptcy expert at Debtwire.
Many retail experts blame Eddie Lampert, the main owner of Transformco and Sears Holdings, for the disappearance of two chains.
“He lets the leases expire, he abandons the stores. He keeps them open if it’s appropriate to stay open, ”said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University. “Obviously, they’re all going to disappear shortly. You can count on that. “
Sears and Kmart aren’t the only retailers battling the shift in shopping habits to big box retailers like Walmart and Target, and to online retailers like Amazon. JCPenney and Neiman Marcus both filed for bankruptcy when the pandemic hit in 2020, and Lord & Taylor went bankrupt.
But Lampert’s critics say he’s to blame for the two companies’ sharp declines, as he invested little in the stores themselves and sold much of the more attractive real estate and brands that Sears once had. , such as Craftsman tools, Diehard auto parts. and Lands End.
“It’s been in terminal decline for quite some time,” said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst at research firm GlobalData.
There is little chance of saving either chain in today’s retail environment. Suppliers are struggling to provide much stronger retailers with the inventory they need, given current supply chain issues. This makes it harder for Sears or Kmart to get the products that buyers want.
“We know that suppliers prioritize their deliveries. They deliver to outlets that add more value to the brand, ”said Greg Portell, senior partner in global consumer practice consultant Kearney.
And the job market – with near record numbers of job vacancies – only makes it harder for struggling chains to attract the workers they need.
“The retail talent war is real right now. They’re not just raising the hourly wage, but looking for other things to attract workers, tuition, benefits, things that Sears and other struggling retailers will struggle to match, ”said Portell.
If this is the end, it would be a sad demise for two chains which both date back to the end of the 19th century.
Kmart began in 1899 when founder Sebastian Spering Kresge opened a dime store in downtown Detroit bearing his name. The Kmart brand did not appear until 1962. The chain grew rapidly over several decades, claiming the discount segment of the market that big box stores such as Walmart and Target now dominate.
Kmart became known for their 15-minute “blue light specials”: a store would flash a blue light and advertise “watch out for Kmart buyers” on the sound system, and customers were rushing to buy the products. at discounted price. Promotions began in 1965 but were halted in 1991, although Kmart tried to bring them back on several occasions.
The history of Sears is even richer in history. The company was once the country’s largest retailer – both Walmart and Amazon in its heyday. At a time when the majority of Americans lived in rural areas, its catalog allowed many consumers to purchase goods they would not otherwise have had access to.
And Sears stores dominated the retail landscape, forcing many local Main Street stores to close in the same way big box retailers would one day shut down department stores. Many Sears were the anchor of shopping malls that contributed to the growth of American suburbs. It was literally a business that changed America.