Kmart to close in September

Kmart to close  in SeptemberThe soon-to-be-empty Kmart building. — Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review?Staff Writer

Our local Kmart is one of more than 70 Kmart and Sears stores closing in early September, according to a May 31 announcement from Sears Holdings Corporation. The latest round of closures comes after the company announced a net loss of $424 million nationwide in first quarter 2018. The affected stores are expected to close in early September.

“Eligible associates impacted by these store closures will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores,” said the press release. It is unclear who “eligible associates” are, and the nearest stores under corporate management are in Tehachapi and Apple Valley.

Local Kmart representatives declined to comment further on the announcement and are directing all inquiries to Sears Holdings’ media relations department. At press time, no media personnel were available to comment, and the department’s voicemail system was full.

Employees of the local Sears Hometown Store explained that the Sears store operates independently of Sears Holdings’ corporate structure and is not at risk of closing.

“We’ve been anticipating our Kmart closing for a while now,” said Phen Panpradith, Ridgecrest’s community and economic development manager. The local store’s lease would have expired next year and Sears Holdings has been shuttering stores at an alarming rate – more than 500 stores in the last 18 months.

Panpradith said the city is working with economic development consultant Barry Foster from ECONSolutions to find occupants for our empty department-store buildings – Staples and Walmart on the south end of town, and Kmart in the fall.

She said that Foster has experience with “carving up” large retail spaces for new businesses, but she believes it’s a matter of concentrating development in a specific part of town.

“One focal shopping area would really do the city a lot of good,” she said.

After returning from the 2017 International Council of Shopping Centers Conference, Panpradith said she connected with several businesses interested in coming here. “Hotels are coming, restaurants are coming – it’s just a matter of trying to get franchisees on board,” she said.

Story First Published: 2018-06-08