Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sears Releases Partial List Of Stores To Be Closed; Alaska's Anchorage, Fairbanks, And Wasilla Full-Line Stores Spared The Axe So Far

Update January 1st 2012: The Juneau Empire reported on the Juneau store, which is part of the subcategory of smaller Sears Hometown stores. Further research also revealed Sears Hometown Dealers in Kenai and Ketchikan. This post has been updated to reflect this information.

On December 29th, 2011, Sears Roebucks released a partial list of Sears and K-Mart stores to be closed during the first quarter of 2012, and Alaska's three full-line Sears stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Wasilla have been spared -- so far. There are also three Sears Hometown Dealer stores in Juneau, Kenai, and Ketchikan which are unaffected. Three sources provide a list of the closing stores; the primary source is the Sears website:

-- http://www.searsmedia.com/tools/122711_close.pdf

However, the Sears link has been occasionally down, perhaps due to oversaturation; NJ.com is a substitute source:

-- http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2011/12/sears_holding_identifies_79_se.html

And here's the best-organized substitute source at the Wall Street Journal, organized by state:

-- http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/12/29/here-are-the-sears-stores-that-are-closing/tab/interactive/

Same-store sales at Kmart were down 4.4 percent in the eight weeks that ended Christmas Day, and down 6 percent at Sears' U.S. stores. Overall, they were down 5.2 percent compared with the same period a year ago. As a matter of fact, sales have declined every year since the $11 billion merger of Sears and K-Mart into Sears Holding Corp. in 2005.

According to Reuters, some analysts are pessimistic about Sears' future and foresee further closings down the line. Independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi said the company has let stores deteriorate, sells ho-hum merchandise, and also faults poor locations. Although the Anchorage store co-anchors The Mall At Sears, it's located directly across the street from Fred Meyer, which offers something Sears does not -- groceries. Likewise the Wasilla store is located directly across the Parks Hwy. from Walmart; same problem. The Fairbanks store has attracted a number of complaints in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for slow service and insufficient stock.

I would suggest that the Anchorage store is least likely of the three to close because it's in the best position to serve the entire state of Alaska, although the Juneau Empire suggests the Juneau store is in good shape.

It appears to me that Sears' business model is antiquated. The business models for department stores nowadays are either upscale (Nordstrom's and JC Penney), or discount (Walmart). Sears tries to be both, and is succeeding at neither, although their Kenmore line of appliances and their Craftsman brand of tools are still highly-regarded. A comment by Isanova to the News-Miner story hints that some of the stores may be understaffed, which can mean long waits for customer assistance. Customers won't put up with that problem very long.

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