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Duluth Sears, Kmart to close

West Duluth Kmart will close by early September, according to a statement by Sears Holdings Thursday. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com1 / 2
(News Tribune file photo)2 / 2

Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close 15 Kmart stores and 48 Sears stores, with both Duluth stores on the list.

According to a company statement, liquidation sales will begin as early as June 14 at the closing stores. Sears, an anchor store at Miller Hill Mall, and the West Duluth Kmart will close by early September, the statement said. The Sears Auto Center is set to close by late June.

Eligible associates affected by the closures will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at other Kmart or Sears stores, according to Sears Holdings.

Kmart customers told the News Tribune on Thursday the closure will be an inconvenience for those who live in the neighborhood or rely on public transportation.

“It’s the only department store in West Duluth,” said Maura Otis, of West Duluth. “I’m going to have to go up the hill to Walmart.”

Karen Zeisler of Cloquet holds a basket of flowers she bought Thursday at Kmart. Tyler Schank / DNTKaren Zeisler lives in Cloquet but said she comes to Kmart “every year to get flowers because they have a nice selection.”

“This will impact the community greatly and the tax base. There’s not many (department) stores left in this area,” she said. “It’s really going to affect this local community, especially the people that take buses.”

Sears will be the second anchor store to close at the Miller Hill Mall this year. Younkers was slated to close in April after its parent company Bon-Ton was unable to find a buyer that would keep the company afloat following bankruptcy proceedings. Layoffs are expected to begin June 5. Miller Hill Mall declined to comment on the closing of Sears.

Sears Holdings owns the 109,021-square-foot Sears building attached to the Miller Hill Mall. It was built in 1986 and has a current estimated market value of $3.6 million. Sears Holdings does not own the Kmart building.

The company said sales dropped 30 percent in the most recent quarter, leading to a loss of $424 million. Sales have fallen for more than six straight years despite efforts to revamp stores, stock more mattresses and appliances, and partner with sites like Amazon.

After the latest closings, there will be about 820 Sears and Kmart stores, down from about 2,000 locations five years ago.

On Thursday, executives said they were looking into selling the retailer's Kenmore brand of appliances, which has been one of the bright spots in the company's performance. Last year, Sears sold its Craftsman brand to Stanley Black and Decker for $900 million. Earlier this month, the retailer said it would begin selling tires on Amazon.com, where it already sells its Kenmore line of appliances, giving consumers another way to avoid its stores.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.