Sears closing 11 area stores, not including Pasadena location

November 8, 2019

By Jack Katzanek | jkatzanek@scng.com | Pasadena Star News

All but three of Sears and a Kmart store in the Inland Empire will close by February, effectively wiping out two iconic brands that once anchored local shopping centers across the region.

Transformco, the company that earlier this year bought the remaining assets of Sears Holdings Inc., said Thursday it will close eight stores in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Nationwide, 51 Sears locations and 45 Kmarts will shutter by the end of February.

Six other Sears stores in Southern California will close as well: three in Los Angeles County, one in Buena Park in Orange County, Chula Vista and Ventura. Going-out-of-business sales begin Dec. 2.

The only Kmart that will close in Southern California is at 7840 Limonite Ave. in Jurupa Valley.

Sears closures in San Bernardino County:

  • 5080 Montclair Plaza Lane in Montclair;
  • 100 Inland Center in San Bernardino;
  • 14420 Bear Valley Road in Victorville.

Closures in Riverside County:

Los Angeles County closures:

  • 3755 Santa Rosalia Dr. in Los Angeles;
  • 12121 Victory Blvd. in North Hollywood;
  • 1209 Plaza Dr. in West Covina.

In a statement, Transformco said it “has faced a challenging retail environment” since the transition and will focus more on what it considers more competitive branches of the operation.

That includes Sears Home Services stores and automotive supply locations, branded labels such as Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard, and Sears Hometown, a network of independently owned small-format stores.

“We will continue to evaluate our Sears and Kmart footprint, consistent with our overall retail and service strategy,” the statement said.

Inland stores that survived the cut include Sears in Hemet and Rancho Cucamonga and a Kmart in Big Bear Lake.

Other Sears locations remaining open in Southern California include stores in Glendale, Downey, Long Beach, Northridge, Orange and Pasadena.

Kmart stores remain in Costa Mesa, Pasadena, Temple City, Hollywood and West Covina.

Shoppers lament the news

About 20 cars were on the Arlington Avenue side of the Sears parking lot in Riverside Friday afternoon, and shoppers were disappointed to hear the store was closing.

“I think it’s sad,” said Maria Benavides, 47, of Riverside. “It’s peaceful here and quiet.”

Benavides said she visits the store about once a month and has bought clothing and appliances there. “There’s not a lot of people,” she said.

Sally Hunt, 80, of Riverside, remembers when the Arlington Sears was the go-to place for appliances and back-to-school clothing.

“It’s just that they have so much competition now,” Hunt said. “They just had a wide variety of things. But they didn’t have the competition (in the past).”

Sears had been a major draw in Montclair for years, and shoppers there say it will be missed. When Irene Benavidez learned the store was closing, she said she grabbed her boyfriend’s credit card and headed over to grab a few pairs of leather shoes for work.

“I’m sad because they’ve been around for years,” Benavidez said. “Right now, though, they have killer deals.”

The Montclair resident said she has been shopping at the store for 30 years. “We’ve gotten all our patio furniture from here, excellent prices,” she said. “Their clothing lasts forever.”

Ruben Tafolla of Montclair said he has been shopping at the store since he was a kid.

“We’ve been coming here since we were kids, me and my little brother just running around the store,” he said. Tafolla said his family recently purchased a washing machine at the store.

“From our experience, it’s a really good retail store, really affordable, a lot of good prices,” he said. “I’m pretty sad to see they’re going to close.”

Billy Proulx said Sears was the first company to give his mother a credit card in her own name. Now the 68-year-old Claremont resident visits the store in Montclair at most once a year. He was there Friday, Nov. 8 to purchase athletic gear.

“Sears goes way back,” he said. “It’s kind of sad to see such an institution go.”

A fading name among retailers

Thursday’s announcement represents about one-third of the chains’ remaining stores, with only 182 locations to remain open after February.

Transformco is getting $250 million in financing from its owners, led by Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments. Lambert bought Kmart out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2003 and merged it with Sears two years later.

However, that union came during a period when Amazon started its move toward becoming a retail powerhouse. Home Depot and Lowe’s also pushed hard on appliance sales, hurting Sears’ niche market.

Burt Flickinger, a retail analyst and managing partner of consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said that unlike chains such as Walmart and Target, Sears made little effort to keep up with a changing retail landscape.

“Lampert is a typical Wall Street guy who can’t communicate with the Main Street consumer,” Flickinger said.” I think Sears is still savable if someone told Eddie Lampert to stay home.”

Flickinger, who disclosed he worked for Sears several decades ago, said the company has talented people working in its stores, but its corporate parent refuses to listen to them or properly market the items on sale. Advertising circulars that could entice customers are never posted in stores, he said.

After acquiring Kmart, Lampert formed Sears Holdings, which filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago. His hedge fund purchased Sears’ remaining assets out of bankruptcy.

This is the third round of store closings announced since then; most of the first two rounds in Southern California involved Kmart stores.

Filling these vacant Sears locations will be a challenge for mall owners and other landlords, many of whom are already dealing with existing vacancies at the former sites of Payless ShoeSource, Bed Bath & Beyond and Toys R Us.

Rick John, senior vice president at the Inland Empire office of Daum Commercial Real Estate, said it will be a difficult task but not impossible.

“I think Sears always had good, solid real estate locations, so there should be the ability to backfill them,” John said.

John said developers would be wise to consider dividing the space and look for more than one tenant for former Sears and Kmart stores. A former Kmart site in Banning now houses four major retailers, including Hobby Lobby and Marshall’s.

Users in the retail food business might be the best option for that strategy, he said.

Another possibility is turning a former store into a hub the online retail industry can use as a last-mile depot, a distribution point that will route packages straight to consumers’ homes. Many Sears locations are close to residential areas, which would cut down the delivery time, John said.

The news did not come as a surprise to Brad Umansky, president of Progressive Real Estate Partners, which specializes in retail properties. The upside, he said, is that a strong economy could make the vacancy issue easier to solve.

“Every landlord who owns these properties has been thinking that this could happen for a few years now,” Umansky said. “Now we get to address the problem during a good market, instead of during a downturn.”

SCNG reporters Jeff Horseman and Sandra Emerson and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.