News Room

Local Kmart to close this year

Liquidation to start at Northport store later this month

As appeared in The Tuscaloosa News I Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Patrick Rupinski
Business Editor 

The Kmart at 1700 McFarland Blvd. in Northport will close in early September, according to company officials.

It is one of dozens of stores that have been or are expected to be closed nationally this year by Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart and Sears.

Officials at Sears Holdings headquarters in suburban Chicago said the Northport store will begin its liquidation sale on June 22.

The store has 68 employees, most of whom are part-time hourly workers, said Howard Riefs, Sears Holdings director of corporate communications.

“Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores,” he said in an email response to questions from The Tuscaloosa News.

“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,” he said.

The closing of the Northport store will leave the Kmart at 635 Skyland Blvd. as the only Kmart in the 10-county area of central West Alabama. The Sears store at University Mall is the only Sears serving that area.

“We hate to see Kmart close,” said Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon. The closing, however, will open a desirable location for other retailers, he said.

“The developers are working hard to get somebody in there. …There is a lot of interest in Northport,” Herndon said. He declined to say how the store’s closing would affect the city’s sales tax revenues, saying the city does not disclose the revenues it receives from specific businesses.

Robert Buchalter, president of Capital Growth Buchalter, the Birmingham-based development company that owns the Kmart shopping center, said he had no announcements about new tenants, but said his company “is working on bringing the right mix of tenants for Tuscaloosa County and Northport.

“We will work hard to bring that to fruition,” he said Tuesday, adding that the company is looking at a mix of retail and restaurants for the shopping center.

The Kmart store anchors a shopping center at one of the county’s busiest intersections — U.S. Highway 82 (McFarland Boulevard) and Alabama Highway 69 (Lurleen Wallace Boulevard).

“We are looking at several redevelopment opportunities at this site,” Buchalter said.

Whether that will result in a major renovation at the center will depend on the future tenant’s requirements, he said. “As with most older centers, we may or may not be remodeling the existing property.“

Capital Growth Buchalter redeveloped part of the Northwood Shopping Center, also located at the U.S. 82 and Alabama 69 intersection, when a Publix filled the space that once housed a Kroger supermarket.

Meanwhile, the closing of Kmart and Sears stores nationally is part of an ongoing story by a company that once was the nation’s premiere retailer.

Last month, an analyst at the Cowan Group in New York told CNN Money that he expects Sears Holdings to close about 500 of its 1,980 U.S. stores within the next few years. That comment followed the release of Sears Holdings’ first quarter results, in which the company reported a 2.2 percent decrease in sales at its Kmart stores, compared with a year earlier.

“The decline at Kmart primarily was driven by declines in consumer electronics and grocery and household categories. Excluding these two categories, comparable store sales would have declined 0.4 percent,” Sears Holdings said in quarterly report released on May 22.

The first quarter report also said the company had already announced the closing of 80 stores in 2014 “and may close additional stores during the remainder of the year.”

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