RI’s only Sears deemed ‘unprofitable,’ closing Sept. 17
Sears, the anchor store that made Midland Mall the success that it was and hung in there after it became Rhode Island Mall and eventually fell victim to Warwick Mall and the big box stores of Route 2, is closing September 17, store associates were told in a meeting Thursday.
Soon thereafter, corporate offices confirmed the store would close in mid-September as “We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced.”
Word of the closing traveled quickly and, by first thing Friday morning, associates were handling a deluge of calls and a good many customers looking for bargains. There were bargains, but according to a news release, a liquidation sale won’t start until June 30.
According to a statement issued by Sears spokesman Howard Reifs, “We understand that members may be disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform, websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes its doors. As a result, we hope to retain a portion of the sales previously associated with this store by maintaining our relationships with the members who shopped this location.”
A feeling of disbelief and shock hung over both associates and customers Friday.
“I’m really stressed out right now,” said an associate who had no idea where he would be working once the only Rhode Island Sears closes. The nearest Sears is in Attleboro and some associates interviewed were hopeful of finding positions there.
Asked about the prospect for associates, Reifs replied in an email, “The number of associates is not publicly available. Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores.”
Associates spoken with also questioned how the Warwick store could be losing money when compared to other stores they had visited, and ones that are staying open, seem to be less active than Warwick.
Joyce Mazzatto of Exeter was one of several “loyal” Sears customers who were at the store shortly after it opened. Mazzattto had been given Sears gift certificates by her kids and she wanted to make sure to use them before it was too late.
“Their stuff is so good, all guaranteed,” she said.
Mazzatto said she knows the store and just where to go for what she wants. Yet for someone anticipating the closure of one of her favorite stores, she only held a small plastic bag. What had she rushed in to buy?
“This is where I get my underwear, bras and all that,” she said.
Inside the store, Paula Burns of Johnston was looking for parts for a Kenmore appliance. She was told the store might have it, but more likely she would need to go online. That didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for Sears.
“I love Sears; ask anyone and they know how to get you an answer,” she said. “There’s always someone there to help you.”
Reifs answered suggestions that the property owner had something to do with the decision to close. Sears owned the store until 2015 when it was sold. Sears, in turn, leased back the space. According to city land records the property is owned by Seritage SRC Finance LLC from Hoffman, Illinois.
Reifs said the sale of the Warwick property was one of 235 Sears and Kmart locations sold to Seritage in 2015. He said Sears Holdings has the option to exit its lease with Seritage if the store is unprofitable.
“We informed Seritage that we will soon be exiting 18 Sears stores and two Kmart stores,” he said.