Marking the end of an era, the last Chicago Sears store is shuttering. Seritage Growth Properties, the real estate investment trust chaired and partly owned by Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert, is "recapturing the Sears store and Sears Auto Center at Six Corners in northwest Chicago as part of an agreement reached in 2015 between Seritage and Sears Holdings," a company spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
The first-ever Sears store opened in Chicago in 1925. The company under Lampert in 2014 shuttered its landmark flagship in that city, still home to its headquarters. The Six Corners store, that shopping district's anchor business since it first opened to large crowds in 1938, will remain open for customers for now and will begin liquidation sales by April 27, the spokesperson said.
The store will close in mid-July and the Sears Auto Center will close in mid-May, the spokesperson said, declining to say how many associates are affected. Those associates who are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores, he said.
Chicago was rattled in 2009 when insurance broker Willis Group Holdings leased the naming rights to its famed Sears Tower, an iconic skyscraper that helps define its skyline. And when Sears closed its downtown Chicago flagship store in 2014, it felt a little like admitting defeat. The retailer continues to close stores, lay off employees and shed assets in hopes of garnering cash as it struggles to survive. Sears did post a rare profit for the fourth quarter 2017, but that was accompanied by a terrible retail performance, marked by a same-store sales tumble of more than 15%.
The closure of the last-ever Chicago store is further evidence of the retailer's decline, as the piecemeal sell-off of Sears Holdings' various assets continues. The department store retailer is working with Cushman & Wakefield and online auction platform Real Insight Marketplace to auction off some 16 store properties around the country.
Sears Holdings has sold 265 Sears and Kmart store locations to Seritage as part of an agreement in which Sears Holdings leases the stores back from the REIT. Under their agreement, Seritage has the right to recapture the space occupied by the Sears Auto Center location and the space occupied by the Sears store itself, according to the company.
As Fitch analysts pointed out last month, Sears' top-line sales fell by a quarter in 2017 as the company liquidated a huge chunk of its store base, and the retailer is poised for another 10% drop in same-store sales this year, following an estimated negative drop in the mid-teens last year, according to Fitch.
But Sears does still own property that it could sell to free up liquidity, according to that note. And that's exactly what the company continues to do. Sears shocked the retail world last year with the sale of the popular Craftsman brand, and the retailer also has other business assets to sell, including its Kenmore and DieHard brands, Sears Home Services and Sears Auto Centers.