Sears Building Mug

The Sears at Georgia Square Mall, shown here on Aug. 8, 2019, is set to close (Photo/Ryan Cameron rac86114@uga.edu)

Another department store is set to bite the dust at Georgia Square Mall on Atlanta Highway.

An Aug. 6 press release from Sears’ parent company announced that it will close 21 Sears stores and five Kmart stores across the U.S., including its Athens location.

The 26 stores will close sometime in late October, according to the press release. Liquidation sales for the stores begin Aug. 15, and the Sears Auto Centers at these stores will close sometime in late August.

“Over the past several months, we have worked hard to strengthen our vendor relationships, return our inventory levels to normal, and improve customer satisfaction and operations; however, we have faced a number of challenges returning our stores to sustainable levels of productivity, including differences with Sears Holdings over our purchase agreement and a generally weak retail environment,” the press release stated.

The press release also said the company will focus on expanding its smaller scale Home & Life and Sears Hometown outlet stores. These stores focus on home goods and appliances.

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Oct. 2018 — Transform Holdco LLC, an affiliate of Connecticut-based hedge fund ESL Investments, acquired Sears Holding Corporation’s assets in Feb. 2019 for approximately $5.2 billion. Edward Lampert, former CEO of Sears Holdings, is the founder and CEO of ESL Investments.

The company said in the press release it “cannot rule out additional store closures in the near term.”

“All eligible associates will be offered the same number of weeks of severance as offered to employees of Sears Holdings Corporation prior to that company’s Chapter 11 filing in October 2018,” according to the press release.

The Macy’s department store located in Georgia Square Mall closed its doors in March 2017. With Sears closing, the mall’s only remaining department stores will be Belk and JCPenney.

Department stores in malls and shopping centers act as “anchor stores,” which are typically large, well-known stores that attract customers. After establishing a popular department store such as Sears or Macy’s in a shopping center, smaller stores pop up around it, aiding both the anchor store and smaller businesses.

With the popularity of online sellers, such as Amazon and eBay, traditional department stores have taken a hit.

Amazon’s net sales hit $232.9 billion in 2018, compared to its net sales in 2004 of $6.9 billion. The online retail company's net revenue increased 31% between 2017-2018.

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