Season’s greetings at Sears: Dingy shops, sparse shelves

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 10 months out of bankruptcy, Sears is limping into the holiday shopping season.

Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund billionaire who promised to save 425 Sears and Kmart stores and roughly 45,000 jobs when he bought the company out of bankruptcy, has seen his $5.2 billion lifeline wither.

While there were plans for new small stores centered on appliances, only three have opened. The chain is still shrinking. By February, the store count will be down to 182.

Many of the stores that remain have the same old problems. They’re grungy and understaffed, poorly stocked and losing vendors. At the end of the year — a crucial time for retailers — Sears’ threadbare Black Friday catalog signals it’s going to have problems getting shoppers to its doors. And online, it can’t compete with Amazon and its traditional rivals.

“They used to be top of mind, particularly during this time of year,” said Coye Nokes, a partner at OC & C Strategy Consultants. “Now, they’ve faded into the landscape. They’ve become irrelevant.”

The ever-shrinking Sears means more job losses. Thousands of jobs are gone, although Sears’ owner through a spokesman declined to say how many since Lampert bought the company out of bankruptcy in February. There are fewer choices for shoppers and suppliers. It also puts more pressure on malls, which must figure out how to fill the gaping holes left by Sears.

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Locations of Sears and Kmart store closures
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Locations of Sears and Kmart store closures

Sears closings

Arkansas

  • North Little Rock Sears: 3930 McCain Blvd.

Arizona

  • Prescott Sears: 3400 Gateway Blvd.

California

  • Buena Park Sears: 8150 La Palma Ave.
  • Chula Vista Sears: 565 Broadway
  • Fresno Sears: 3636 N Blackstone Ave.
  • Los Angeles Sears: 3755 Santa Rosalia Drive
  • Montclair Sears: 5080 Montclair Plz Lane
  • Moreno Valley Sears: 22550 Town Circle
  • N Hollywood Sears: 12121 Victory Blvd.
  • Palm Desert Sears: 72-880 Hwy 111
  • Riverside Sears: 5261 Arlington Ave.
  • San Bernadino Sears: 100 Inland Ctr
  • San Bruno Sears: 1178 El Camino Real
  • San Jose Sears: 2180 Tully Road
  • Santa Maria Sears: 200 Town Ctr E
  • Temecula Sears: 40710 Winchester Road
  • Tracy Sears: 3350 Naglee Road
  • Ventura Sears: 3295 E Main St.
  • Victorville Sears: 14420 Bear Valley Road
  • Visalia Sears: 3501 S Mooney Blvd.
  • West Covina Sears: 1209 Plaza Drive

Florida

  • Fort Myers Sears: 4125 Cleveland Ave.
  • Hialeah Sears: 1625 W 49th St.
  • Miami Sears: 20701 SW 112th Ave.

Georgia

  • Douglasville Sears: 6580 Douglas Blvd.

Illinois

  • Peoria Sears: 2200 W War Memorial Drive
  • West Dundee Sears: 5000 Spring Hill Mall

Maryland

  • Cumberland Sears: 1262 Vocke Road

Massachusetts

  • Auburn Sears: 385 Southbridge St.
  • Leominster Sears: 100 Commercial Road

Michigan

  • Lansing Sears: 3131 E Michigan Ave.

Missouri

  • Joplin Sears: 101 N Rangeline Road

Nevada

  • Las Vegas Sears: 4000 Meadow Lane

New Hampshire

  • Nashua Sears: 310 Daniel Webster Highway
  • Concord Sears: 270 Loudon Road

New Mexico

  • Farmington Sears: 4601 E Main St.

New York

  • Buffalo Sears: S 3701 McKinley Parkway

North Carolina

  • Greenville Sears: 3600 South Memorial Drive

Pennsylvania

  • Whitehall Sears: 1259 Whitehall Mall
  • North Wales Sears: 600 Montgomery Mall

Puerto Rico

  • FajaRoado Sears: State Road 3
  • Guayama Sears: Gpo Box 1050
  • Ponce Sears: Pob 7426 Sears Plaza Del Caribe 2050 Road 2 Ponce By Pass Ste 135

Texas

  • San Antonio Sears: 2310 SW Military Drive

Vermont

  • South Burlington Sears: 155 Dorset St.

Virginia

  • Richmond Sears: 11500 Midlothian Turnpike
  • Manassas Sears: 8200 Sudley Road
  • Fredericksburg Sears: 100 Spotsylvania Mall
  • Winchester Sears: 1850 Apple Blossom Drive

Washington

  • Spokane Sears: 14720 E Indiana Ave.
  • Lacey Sears: 651 Sleater Kinney Road SE

Kmart closings

Arizona

  • Lake Havasu City Kmart: 1870 McCulloch Blvd.

California

  • Atascadero Kmart: 3980 El Camino Real
  • Bishop Kmart: 1200 N Main St.
  • Chico Kmart: 2155 Pillsbury Road
  • Concord Kmart: 5100 Clayton Road
  • Hollister Kmart: 491 Tres Pinos Road
  • Petaluma Kmart: 261 N Mc Dowell Blvd.
  • Riverside Kmart: 7840 Limonite Ave.
  • Santa Paula Kmart: 895 Faulkner Road
  • Scotts Valley Kmart: 270 Mt Hermon Road

Delaware

  • Rehoboth Beach Kmart: 19563 Coastal Highway

Florida

  • Bradenton Kmart: 7350 Manatee Ave. West
  • Hollywood Kmart: 3800 Oakwood Blvd.
  • Lantana Kmart: 1201 S Dixie Highway

Iowa

  • Algona Kmart: 1501 Hwy 169 N
  • Charles City Kmart: 1405 S Grand

Maryland

  • Frederick Kmart: 1003 W Patrick St.
  • Hagerstown Kmart: 1713 Massey Blvd.
  • Hyattsville Kmart: 6411 Riggs Road

Massachusetts

  • Acton Kmart: 252 Main St.
  • Billerica Kmart: 484 Boston Road

Michigan

  • Waterford Kmart: 5100 Dixie Highway

New Hampshire

  • Hooksett Kmart: 1267 Hooksett Road
  • Salem Kmart: 161 S Broadway

New Jersey

  • West Orange Kmart: 235 Prospect Ave

New York

  • Bohemia Kmart: 5151 Sunrise Highway
  • Sidney Kmart: 171 Delaware Ave.

North Dakota

  • Bismarck Kmart: 2625 State St.

Ohio

  • Marietta Kmart: 502 Pike St.
  • North Canton Kmart: 1447 N Main St.
  • Tallmadge Kmart: 555 South Ave.

Oregon

  • The Dalles Kmart: 2640 West 6th St.

Pennsylvania

  • Berwick Kmart: 1520 W Front St.
  • Ephrata Kmart: 1127 S State St.
  • Lebanon Kmart: 1745 Quentin
  • Wilkes Barre Kmart: 910 Wilkes Barre Twp Blvd.
  • Williamsport Kmart: 1915 E Third St.

Puerto Rico

  • Arecibo Kmart: 1400 Ave. Miramar
  • Bayamon Kmart: Plaza Rio Hondo
  • FajaRoado Kmart: Eastern Shopping Ctr S.R. 3
  • Juana Diaz Kmart: Road #149 And #584 Plaza Juana Diaz
  • Vega Alta Kmart: Centro Gran Caribe Road #2 Plaza Caribe Mall

Wisconsin

  • Kenosha Kmart: 4100 52nd St.

Wyoming

  • Charleston Kmart: 6531 McCorkle Ave. SE
  • Jackson Kmart: 510 US Highway 89
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Lampert’s failure comes as no surprise to industry experts. He was the only buyer who offered Sears a lifeline at all — other bidders just wanted to liquidate the chain — but he had already presided over a long decline of Sears going back more than a decade.

The signs at Sears are ominous heading into the holidays, when retailers acquire new customers.

Black Friday was bleak at its store in Jersey City, New Jersey, where an unplugged Christmas tree sat on top of a round table by the entrance. Few shoppers were in the store and the toy section had no Legos or Hatchimals, even though signs indicated they would be there.

A store needs to have stuff on its shelves to attract customers, and Sears is having issues with some suppliers cutting it off. One vendor, Stolaas, has stopped selling refurbished Apple gadgets on Sears’ website because it wasn’t getting paid, said David Wander, a bankruptcy attorney at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron who represents Stolaas.

The supplier issue is showing up in Sears’ advertising. Its revised circular for Black Friday had eight pages of deals, less than a quarter of the size last year, according to Edgar Dworsky, founder and editor of Boston-based consumer advocacy website Consumer World. None were for major electronics — one of the reasons people used to go to Sears.

Lands’ End, a clothing brand that was once a big draw when Sears purchased it in 2002 but was spun off in 2014, is nearing the end of its remaining leases, due to expire next month. Now, Lands’ End clothing is on clearance, and Sears was even selling its mannequins at the Jersey City store for $75, with an additional 60% Black Friday discount. Empty paint cans were marked down to $2 each with the discount.

Peter Doliente bought himself a Seiko watch at the store for $200, down from $500.

“There’s not much customers around,” the teacher from Jersey City said. “I was surprised when I went to the parking lot. Normally it would be packed at this time.”

Sears once towered over the retail landscape but has been on a slow decline for years. Lampert combined Sears and Kmart in 2005, pledging to return Sears to greatness. That didn’t happen. Sears was hit hard during the recession a decade ago and never recovered.

Selling well-known brands, like its Craftsman tools, and spinning off stores were cash infusions that helped Sears survive. Lampert lent some money of his own, but critics say he never invested in the stores, which grew increasingly dingy.

Even after all of Sears’ pain, Lampert argued during its bankruptcy that he was its best chance. Industry experts remain skeptical of his ability to revive Sears, saying he is still neglecting stores.

“I don’t think this was a surprise to anyone,” said Scott Stuart, CEO of Turnaround Management Association, whose members include corporate turnaround experts and store liquidators. “It was more a surprise that (Lampert) publicly determined that this was something salvageable.”

In a statement, Transform Holdco, the owner of Sears managed by Lampert, said that it “faced a difficult retail environment and other challenges” and it’s working to “prune its operations.” The company said in November that it got another $250 million in financing.

That’s no solace to employees like Victor Urquidez, the assistant manager at a Sears Auto Center in Chula Vista, California, who said he will be losing his job when the store closes in late December.

“We were expecting it,” said Urquidez, who has watched deliveries shrink from 100 tires at a time two years ago to nine today. “We knew it was going to happen.”

What comes next for Sears? There’s little optimism. While there are plenty of vendors still sending in goods, the rescue plan has barely begun and shoppers simply have far better options elsewhere.

“It’s dead man walking,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy. “It’s entirely possible that next Christmas, Sears won’t be around as currently structured.”

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AP Retail Writer Joseph Pisani in New Jersey contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show the watch buyer is Peter Doliente, not Dolente, and the CEO of Turnaround Management Association is Scott Stuart, not Stewart, and the store count by February will be 182, not 128.

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