SEARS Officially Closing Its Last Department Store in Company’s Home State

by Matthew Memrick

SEARS is officially closing its last store where it all began, the company’s home state of Illinois.

The Woodfield Mall location, in Chicago’s Schaumburg suburb, will lock its doors for the last time on Nov. 14. The company launched its first retail store in the state in 1925.

According to Sears Archives, the first department store opened in March 1932 on State Street in Chicago. The Windy City’s last Sears boarded the doors in 2018.

The Sears name, however, still lives on through Sears Hometown locations in the state. The question is, however, for how long?

SEARS On The Decline

According to CNN, Transformco bought the company’s holdings after a 2018 bankruptcy. The Schaumburg location was part o0f the acquisition. 

The new company prided itself on “enhancing the consumer experience” while “maximizing the real estate value” at that particular location.

Since the purchase, Transformco has moved toward its website business and other home services. Brick-and-mortar stores have closed during that time.

In Illinois, eleven Sears Hometown Stores still have the lights on and the doors open. According to CNN, these much smaller stores sell hard goods and appliances while operating through independent deals or Transformco franchising agreements. 

At its peak operation, more than 3,000 nation stores existed. Many called it the nation’s top retail store and the country’s largest employer. According to The Wall Street Journal, Sears surpassed Walmart sales in 1990. 

Currently, 300 Sears and KMart stores still operate in the United States.

Over the years, it branched off into real estate (Coldwell Banker), credit card (Discover), internet provider (Prodigy) and reference books (Encyclopædia Britannica) among many products. The company’s famous and dependable brands like Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard, however, stay popular. Sears has sold some of those brands when faced with money issues.

Once the nation’s predominant retailer and its largest employer, the company opened its first retail store in 1925 in Chicago and closed its last location there in 2018.

Pandemic Sped Things Up

Department store sales have moved to the internet with last year’s pandemic taking root in American society. Stores like Neiman Marcu and JCPenney were some of those to face the brunt of COVID-19.

Sears Holdings came out of bankruptcy in 2019 but another bankruptcy could be the death knell for the chain. 

Analyst Reshmi Basu, a retail bankruptcy specialist, said that retail stories that go through a second bankruptcy end up liquidated.

While retailers and other companies are looking to sell their locations for the real estate revenue, Sears has not been much different.

Former Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert seemed to be leaning in that direction when he took the company’s reigns. Under his control, many locations ended up as redeveloped properties.

Sears sued Lampert after he left the company in 2019.