Sears to close Pasadena, Downey stores, leaving just 2 in Southern California
Sears, once the nation’s top retailer and its largest employer, continues its slide into obsolescence with pending store closures in Pasadena and Downey — a move that will leave just two Sears locations in Southern California.
The Pasadena store at 3801 E. Foothill Blvd. and Downey location at 500 Stonewood St. are set to close Nov. 14 along with additional Sears and Kmart stores in Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and North Carolina.
Jake McCann, an assistant service manager at the Pasadena store’s auto center, said workers were informed of that store’s closure just two days ago.
“Rumors of the store closing have been around for a long time,” the 23-year-old Pasadena resident said. “It’s the sad end of an era. This store has been around forever. I came here as a kid, my dad came here as a kid and my grandfather shopped here.”
The Pasadena location has served the city for 63 years.
Additional Sears stores closed earlier this year in Long Beach, Los Angeles and Orange. Long Beach was hit with a double whammy with the additional closure of a Kmart.
Transformco, which owns Sears and Kmart, said it plans to “redevelop and reinvigorate” the Pasadena and Downey properties.
“This is part of the company’s strategy to unlock the value of the real estate and pursue the highest and best use for the benefit of the local community,” Transformco spokesman Larry Costello said via email.
Costello wouldn’t elaborate, but said the company is in active negotiations with “best-of-class retailers” for the Pasadena and Downey stores.
A representative with SB 360 Capital Partners, which is handling liquidation of the stores’ product inventory and fixtures, said sales at the two locations began Thursday, Sept. 16 and will run through Nov. 14 with discounts of up to 70%.
McCann said there will be no employee transfers from Pasadena to other Sears or Kmart stores.
“When the store goes … so do we,” he said.
Moving forward, Transformco said its strategy for Sears and Kmart is to operate a small number of large stores and a larger number of small-format stores while also emphasizing rewards programs, online buying and in-store merchandise pickups.
A downward trajectory
The closures reflect Sears’ long-standing struggle in the face of rising e-commerce buying, changing consumer tastes and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The once-storied retail chain has eroded rapidly in recent years.
In 2005, Sears was acquired by hedge fund operator Eddie Lampert, who had bought Kmart out of bankruptcy court two years earlier.
But the two retailers — which operated under the banner Sears Holdings Corp. — failed to stave off younger, more agile competitors, including Walmart, Target, Amazon and Home Depot.
In 2017, the company sold its storied Craftsman tool brand to Black & Decker in a deal valued at $900 million.
Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the following year and announced it would close 142 stores, including 63 Kmart stores and 79 Sears locations. In 2019, the newly formed holding company Transformco acquired 425 stores (including 223 Sears and 202 Kmart locations) from Sears Holdings for $5.2 billion.
Stores not purchased by Transformco were liquidated, and many that were have since been shuttered.
The Pasadena and Downey closures will leave just four California stores in Burbank, Whittier, Concord and Stockton, according to the Sears website.
At its peak, Sears operated more than 3,000 stores, but there are currently just 300 Sears and Kmart stores still open in the U.S. That’s less than half the nearly 700 that were open in October 2018, according to CNN.
Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based retail consulting firm, said Sears’ future looks dismal at best.
“They’ll just limp along with understocked stores,” he said. “They should have been like Amazon. They had the warehouses, the catalog sales, the customer data, the financial credit cards — all of it. But they’ve had terrible management for decades.”