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Local

Sterling Sears store going out of business

Closing is another blow for city's legacy retailers

STERLING – Bad things really do come in threes.

The Sears Hometown Store at 3606 E. Lincolnway is liquidating its stock and going out of business. Its last day is July 24.

It’s the third so-called legacy retailer to leave or be leaving Sterling in the past year. Bergner’s will be gone from Northland Mall likely by the end of August, and J.C. Penney closed its mall doors for good in July.

Or four, if you count another traditional and historic department store: Kmart, which opened across the street from the then-new mall in July 1973, closed 3 ½ years ago, on Jan. 11, 2015.

Sear’s closure was announced Thursday on the store’s Facebook page, and on its website, searshometownstores.com/home/il/sterling/3371.

Sears Holding Corp. recently announced another batch of closures for its beleaguered Sears and Kmart stores, but this is not one of theirs: Sears Hometown Stores are franchises of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc., and so are affiliated with but independent from Sears.

The Sterling franchise and one in Plano that also is closing are owned by Sean Austin of Pittsfield, who turned 54 on Thursday.

Austin bought the local store from Darrick Bickford, of Camanche, Iowa, in July, manager Lucinda Kessel of Amboy said Sunday. Bickford bought it on Aug. 26, 2012, from Sears Holding Corp.

Sears Hometown Stores also has seen considerable losses from fewer sales. It lost $21.4 million in the first quarter of 2017, and Friday, after sustaining a $9.4 million loss in the first quarter this year, announced it would be closing up to 100 of its 882 stores this quarter to reduce costs.

Neither of Austin’s stores are among the 100, though. He made the decision on his own to close the stores, Kessel said.

The news of the Sterling Sears closure comes about 2 months after Bergner’s announced its impending departure.

Bergner’s parent company, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., filed for bankruptcy in early February, and when an investor did not step up to save the 160-year-old company and its 260 stores, it was sold to bondholders and two liquidation firms.

The company also operates Carson’s, Younker’s, Boston Store, Herberger’s and Elder-Beerman.

In March 2017, the Sterling J.C. Penney was put on a list of 138 of the retailer’s sites to be closed as part of the company’s nationwide downsizing plan. It was gone 4 months later. Eight more Penney stores were closed nationwide this year.

The two stores anchored either end of the mall at 2900 E. Lincolnway – Bergner’s on the west end, J.C. Penney on the east.

The biggest retailer now is Dunham’s Sports, which opened Oct. 31, 2014, but closed in late June 2015 for 13 months while damage caused by a storm with winds that ripped off the roof, causing the store’s back wall to collapse, was repaired.

In November, another mall retailer, Book World, said it, too, was going out of business. Like the bigger retailers, the company blamed online sales and a sagging economy for its struggles to stay afloat.

“The national shift in the retail marketplace towards e-commerce has triggered the loss of vital mall anchor stores and a downward spiral in customer counts at Book World stores, reducing sales to a level that will no longer sustain business operations,” Mark Dupont, senior vice president of the Appleton, Wisconsin, company, said at the time.

The book store, which opened in Northland in August 2010, was gone 2 months later.

On Dec. 21, Namdar Realty Group, a privately owned commercial real estate investment and management firm based in Great Neck, New York, became the mall’s new owner, buying the beleaguered site from Denver-based J. Herzog & Sons.

Herzog, with the city’s approval, put plans in place to subdivide Penney’s space into three smaller sites, and add 20,000 square feet, in the hopes of attracting more tenants – and not necessarily retailers. That work has yet to begin.

In addition to J.C. Penney, there are nine empty storefronts at Northland, where 16 spots remain filled: 13 retailers (including a nail salon and a Kunes Country Auto sales office), plus Planet Fitness, the Kopper Kitchen restaurant, and the mall management office.

GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE

Sears Hometown Store at 3606 E. Lincolnway in Sterling will close for good July 24; a liquidation sale began Thursday.

The store is open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Call 815-625-5500 or find the Sterling store on Facebook for more information.

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