Sears will close its Joliet store, making it the second anchor store at the Louis Joliet Mall to close this year.
Sears Holdings, which owns both Sears and Kmart stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. The company, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses, will close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of the year.
The iconic retailer not only was one of the original anchors when the mall opened in 1978, but the company’s former real estate division, Homart, built Louis Joliet Mall at a time when Sears was one of America’s dominant retailers.
Sears will leave another huge vacancy at the mall after the closing of Carson Pirie Scott in August. The mall has two other anchors – JCPenney and Macy’s.
Sears liquidation sales are expected to begin shortly.
The store closings listed in the bankruptcy filing come in addition to the closure of 46 unprofitable stores that already had been announced.
The Joliet store was not busy Monday, and there were no signs at midday alerting customers that it will close. An advertisement for new employees still was running.
One customer’s complaints about the store reflected the state of the retailer’s decline.
The woman from Plainfield, having trouble finding a cashier, said she wouldn’t shop at the store again even if it were staying open.
“It’s because of the prices,” said the woman, who did not give her name. “And there’s no help.”
Eric Loula, manager at Louis Joliet Mall, did not immediately return calls to comment on plans for the two anchor vacancies.
The Sears’ and Carson’s closings hardly were surprising developments. Both department store chains have faced troubles for years amid speculation of their eventual demise.
Their closings come in a retail climate that has driven out other stores, including former mall tenant
MC Sports. Outside the mall, Toys R Us and Gander Mountain also have shut down.
A vacated HH Gregg store is being replaced by a soon-to-open Binny’s Beverage Depot.
Loula previously told the Herald-News that mall owner Starwood Capital Group had been making preparations for vacancies in light of store closings and retail bankruptcies across the country.
He said Starwood has not always replaced department stores with new anchors, noting the possibility of splitting up large spaces for multiple tenants. He said the mall also would look at redeveloping the Carson’s space for nonretail uses, including residential, restaurant and office space.
The Toys R Us location outside of the mall closed its doors in June. The building is temporarily occupied by Spirit of Halloween, a seasonal store that sells costumes and decorations.
By filing for Chapter 11, Sears indicates it will continue trying to survive as a smaller version of the company.
Edward S. Lampert has stepped down as CEO but will remain chairman of the board. Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction.
“This is a company that in the 1950s stood like a colossus over the American retail landscape,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consultancy.
• AP retail writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed to this report.