Sears announced Thursday that its Macon Mall store is one of 79 that will close in 2012, but owners of the mall say the loss of one of its original anchor stores is not all bad news.
“We’re sorry to see Sears leave the market,” said John Gibson of Hull Storey Gibson, which bought the mall last year. “They’re not moving to another location. They’re actually leaving the market. That’s an important distinction in that unfortunately they did not succeed in Macon. They didn’t connect to our customer, therefore they think that (closing) is in their best interest.
“On the other hand, as the owners of the mall, frankly we see this as a positive development. An enclosed mall is a retail venue, and in order to succeed we need to have successful retailers. When Sears wasn’t succeeding here, the truth is that actually hurt the mall.”
After a poor showing in the holiday shopping season, Sears said earlier this week that it was targeting 100 to 120 of its Sears and Kmart stores for closure next year. The Macon store is one of six in Georgia on the closings list released Thursday, and the only location in Middle Georgia.
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The list of Kmart store closings did not include any in Middle Georgia.
“It’s a big loss,” shopper Willie Brezial of Macon said outside of Sears on Thursday. “It’s the major store for tools, TVs, appliances.”
Brezial’s girlfriend, Laria Taylor of Macon, an occasional Sears shopper, feared the closing will be a big blow for the mall.
“The new mall (The Shoppes at River Crossing) already took a lot of customers.”
Gibson, however, views Sears’ leaving as an opportunity.
“We see in the long term this being a positive development for Macon Mall, an opportunity to have another retailer to take that space,” he said. “A retail real estate professional will tell you they have the best spot in the mall.”
Sears was one of the mall’s original anchor stores when it opened in 1975, when the company was on top of the retail world.
“When the early malls were built, Sears had a commanding position,” said Gibson. “They almost universally took the best position. You look at mall after mall, and certainly more than 50 percent of the time, Sears ended up with the best position. ... We regret to see them leave; however, we think it’s an opportunity to bring a successful retailer to Macon.”
Sears Holdings Corp., a pillar of American retailing that famously began with a mail-order catalog in the 1880s, declared Tuesday that it would no longer prop up “marginally performing” locations. The company pledged to refocus its efforts on stores that make money.
Sears’ stock quickly plunged, dropping 27 percent.
The closings are the latest and most visible move by Eddie Lampert, the hands-on chairman who has struggled to reverse the company’s fortunes.
Sears and Kmart were both retail pioneers. Sears’ catalog and department stores were fixtures of American life stretching back to the 19th century before being hurt in recent years by competition from steep discounters and by missteps that included forays into financial services and the decision to sell off a lucrative credit card business.
Kmart helped create the discount-store format that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. came to dominate.
Florida will be the hardest hit by the closings as it has 11 Sears and Kmart stores scheduled to close.
As for Macon, Gibson said mall shoppers will see no immediate impact.
“Sears will stay open as they liquidate their inventory, and they will take a few months, and that will allow everyone the opportunity to start thinking about what the next step is.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.