Sears at Eastland Center slated to close

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published January 17, 2012

 Sears Holdings is closing more than 100 Kmart and Sears stores across the country, including the Sears at Eastland Center in Harper Woods.

Sears Holdings is closing more than 100 Kmart and Sears stores across the country, including the Sears at Eastland Center in Harper Woods.

Photo by April Lehmbeck

HARPER WOODS — Eastland Center is losing one of its big box retailers, but the mall is viewing the change with a dose of optimism, looking to future possibilities for the site.

The Harper Woods store was on a list released late last month of 80 Sears and Kmart stores slated to close. Sears Holdings stated that it plans to close up to 120 stores nationally, but had yet to release the complete list by press time. The company is trying to tackle a problem with declining sales and increasing costs, according to information from Sears Holdings.

Although there are some in the community with concerns about the closure of one of the mall’s major retailers, mall officials are looking to the future. Eastland Marketing Manager Pam Lightbody said they are waiting for Sears Holdings to send the official details about the timeline for the closure.

“Retail is ever-changing and we will, of course, take this opportunity to talk to other retailers that will help to enhance our retail services and fill merchandise voids within the marketplace,” she said. “The owners of Eastland see the Sears closing as a wonderful opportunity to round out the mix to our super-regional center, which includes Macy’s, Target, Lowe’s, Burlington, Shoppers World, K&G and neighboring Home Depot.

“Similar to the recently completed renovation to the outparcel, that includes Family Dollar, this gives us an opportunity to break the Sears location into a multi-unit parcel for smaller box tenants whom have wanted to be part of our retail mix at Eastland Center,” Lightbody said.

City officials, however, are not happy to see the mall lose such a large tenant.

“We’re very concerned,” acting City Manager Randolph Skotarczyk said.

The city administration is looking to present a resolution at an upcoming meeting about the closure and Skotarczyk said he has spoken to Sears corporate officials.

“I’ve just expressed at how disappointed we were at the closing and how we hate to lose one of the anchor (stores),” Skotarczyk said. “We want them all staying.”

Skotarczyk said he has been told by corporate officials that it’s “out of everyone’s hands,” and he doesn’t expect anything to change on the issue.

As far as the impact on the city’s coffers, Harper Woods will not see an immediate or major impact from Sears leaving the mall at this time, as Sears didn’t own the property.

“Hopefully, the center can come up with an alternative there,” Skotarczyk said.

Other city officials are concerned about the loss of the store, as well.

“Sears closing will impact the community negatively,” City Council member Charles Flanagan said. “When they only close 120 stores out of 4,000 nationwide, it sends a message. Hopefully, another tenant will occupy the vacancy.

“The council, in particular Councilman (Daniel) Palmer, requested a resolution asking Sears to reconsider,” Flanagan added. “The city manager drafted a resolution, but (neither) I nor others expect it to halt the closing. The mayor is planning some goal-setting workshops, and I anticipate economic development will be a significant part of those workshops.”

Other stores set to close in Michigan so far include Kmart stores in Chesterfield Township and Washington Township, and Sears stores in Monroe and Adrian. According to information from Sears, each store employs between 40 and 80 people.

“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” stated Sears Holdings Chief Executive Officer Lou D’Ambrosio in a press release late last month. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail — at the store, online and in the home.”

The Advertiser Times will continue to follow this story as further details emerge.