By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – The closing of a major retail outlet is never good news in a recovering economy, but City Administrator Brad Fournier said that the latest announcement by Kmart is more a reflection on the company than the state of the local business environment.
“Obviously they have some corporate problems,” Fourner said. “They’re going head-to-head with Meijer, Wal-mart and other large retail chains. It’s a fierce marketplace.”
On Tuesday Kmart announced the mid-October closing of its Southgate store, 16705 Fort Street. Company spokesman Chris Brathwaite said a liquidation sale will begin Sunday, July 27, and that the store’s 155 employees — mostly part time or hourly — will have the opportunity to apply at regional Sears or Kmart stores.
“Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model” Brathwaite said. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers through integrated retail — at the store, online and in the home.”
Fournier wasn’t surprised to learn of the closing. Kmart’s parent company, Sears Holdings, has reportedly closed more than 100 of the merged chain’s stores in the past 12 months, with up to 500 expected closures in the next few years.
Both Sears – once the nation’s largest retail employer – and Kmart have declined against competition both online and brick-and-mortar. The company’s liquidation sale will help prep them for an October closing.
The closing was, Fournier said, an exception among recent developments in the city of new stores and business expansions such as AJM Packaging. Finding a new tenant for the Kmart acreage shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
“Most of our abandoned or vacant properties have been reoccupied,” Fournier said. “The marketplace is continuing to improve. We’re hopeful the location won’t be empty for a long period of time.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)