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Sears ending 8-decade run in city

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Sears, a landmark retailer in Columbus for more than 80 years, has taken steps to close its local store and liquidate inventory.

Its retail store, at 222 Commons Mall, near Third and Brown streets, and auto center, 222 N. Oval Mall, south of Hotel Indigo, will close by mid-March or April, said Chris Brathwaite, a spokesman for Sears Holdings, in an email.

The store will remain open for customers until then, but its liquidation sale will begin Friday, Brathwaite said.

Sears first opened a store in Columbus in 1929 and has been an anchor tenant at its present location since The Commons opened in 1973.

Sears Holdings decided not to renew its lease with Columbus Capital Foundation, in part because of the store’s poor financial performance, Brathwaite said.

“Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model. 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,” Brathwaite said.

Sears Holdings announced Nov. 21 that its shareholders had lost $534 million during its third quarter of 2013, which ended Nov. 2.

The Columbus store has 31 employees, mostly part-time and hourly. Employees that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores, Brathwaite said.

Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said she wasn’t surprised by the news of the closure.

“I have witnessed the evolution of cutting back on product lines in the store,” she said.

The limited product lines leave little for shoppers to purchase, Frey said.

Also, the Sears store was not situated near any other downtown retail, such as on Washington Street, making it a specific destination point and unable to attract casual shoppers, Frey said.

The site probably isn’t best suited for retail in the future, she said.

“That can have any number of uses in that spot,” Frey said. “It could be used for offices, education or performance space to support the arts district.”

Sears through the years

Sept. 14, 1929: Sears, Roebuck & Co. opens a store in Columbus in the first floor and basement of the Bassett Building.

July 20, 1970: Sears confirms its decision to locate in a planned downtown shopping center.

March 28, 1973: Sears opens a store in the Courthouse Center, near Brown and Third streets, after previously occupying space at 629 Washington St. The store featured 37 merchandise departments and 37,405 square feet. The Courthouse Center was later renamed The Commons Mall, and then The Commons after a redevelopment of the space.

Friday: Sears Holdings announces it will close its Columbus store, located near Third and Brown streets.

Jan. 10: Liquidation sale begins.

Mid-march/April: Columbus’ Sears store will officially close.

Sources: Republic archives, Sears Holdings

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