The decline of what was once one of the country’s largest domestic retailers hit close to home with the announcement that the Sears at 1111 Franklin Ave. in Garden City will close at the end of the year.
This follows on the heels of the Hoffman Estates, IL-based Sears Holdings Corp. recently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Garden City location is the latest of the company’s Long Island holdings to close; the Hicksville Sears was shuttered in April while a Kmart in West Babylon ceased operations last month. The Riverhead Kmart and New Hyde Park Sears are slated to close in November.
Once the dust settles, there will be only three Sears locations and four Kmarts left on Long Island.
As recently as 2012, Sears had 4,000 stores, which has since been whittled down to 500. It’s quite an adjustment for many longtime customers to make, including Kevin from Huntington, who was stopping in at the Garden City Sears to buy something while on a break from work.
“I just spoke to the lady ringing me up inside, who has to find another job now. I remember buying toys for my grandkids in their toy department and from their catalog and now what stores can you go to and buy them?” he asked. “I loved the fact that their Craftsman tools were not only durable, but had a lifetime guarantee. And that Christmas catalog was something else. There was a point a long time ago where you could buy a kit to build a house from it.”
Despite its latest financial woes, a recent visit to the Garden City store, which first opened its doors back in 1996, drove home how the retailer was essentially the Amazon of its time. On the lower level, customers could find home improvement items (Craftsman tools), a Brand Central section (Kenmore appliances) and gym equipment, while the first and second floors had numerous brands featured including Lands End, Dockers, Gloria Vanderbilt, Structure, Levi’s, Wrangler and a longstanding clothing line by former Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith.
In the store vestibule, there was a KeyMe device that allowed shoppers to duplicate keys on the spot, in between offers from Sears Optical (2 for $99), Sears Parts Direct and Sears Maid Service.
Despite offering these kinds of retail amenities, the company’s woes continued in the face of online competition and decisions made by Edward S. Lampert, the former CEO and current chairman of the board who took over from chief executive officer Louis D’Ambrosio back in May 2013. Lampert, who owns 31 percent of the company’s shares, while his ESL hedge fund has an 18.5 percent stake according to FactSet, has leveraged Sears assets to benefit his own hedge fund since taking over from D’Ambrosio. The parent company is further scrambling to determine the fate of its remaining locations.
“We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which is a critical component to our integrated retail transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed,” said a spokesperson for the company in a press release. ”We thank associates affected by these store closures for their many contributions to our company. Eligible associates will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores.”
No announcement has been released yet as to when the official closing date is of the Garden City store or how many employees will be directly affected.