At least 140 people in Nova Scotia are in danger of losing their jobs as Sears Canada prepares to ask for court approval to liquidate its remaining stores and assets across Canada.
Sears Canada announced on Tuesday it is applying to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for liquidation approval at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 13. If a judge approves, 130 stores will close.
The only Sears department store in Nova Scotia is at the Halifax Shopping Centre.
A spokesperson for Sears Canada, Peter Block, said the Halifax store employs 134 people, the "overwhelming majority" of whom work part time. He said staff were notified on Tuesday morning of the upcoming court date.
"The intent was to let everybody know as soon as possible and to let everybody know before they read about it," Block said.
A spokesperson for the Halifax Shopping Centre said on Tuesday it would not be commenting on the closure.
Liquidation sales could start Oct. 19
If the court approves the liquidation, the process would begin on Oct. 19 and continue for 10 to 14 weeks.
Since June 22, Sears Canada has been in court-approved creditor protection and was in search of a buyer.
Sears also announced the closure of 59 stores this summer, including stores in Dartmouth and Truro, which shut their doors at the beginning of this month. The Penhorn Mall location employed 15 people, while the Truro Mall had 29 employees.
Independents also hit
According to Sears Canada's website, there are also Sears Hometown stores in Bridgewater, Port Hawkesbury and Kingston, although the Bridgewater store's Facebook page said it is permanently closed and the telephone number is no longer in service.
Block said Sears Hometown stores are independently operated and mainly sell major appliances, furniture and outdoor power equipment.
If the liquidation is approved, Block said, "They can revive themselves as something else but they certainly cannot be Sears Hometown anymore. They'd lose the Sears connection."
Block said while he didn't have the exact number of staff for these stores, they generally employ fewer than 10 people and most are family-run businesses.
'This is like starting all over again'
This is the case in Port Hawkesbury, where Kim and Philip Ryan have owned the Sears Hometown store for 20 years. Philip Ryan said he and his wife had no idea full liquidation might be coming, and found out through a conference call on Tuesday afternoon.
"We're not classed as a Sears employee, and there is no severance for us. When we're done, we don't even get unemployment because owners can't draw unemployment.… So when you're done, you're done," Ryan said.
"I have 25 years with Sears, and this is like starting all over again."
Waiting on liquidation plans
Ryan said the store employed around six people, including him and his wife, and sometimes more during the holiday season.
"Small business is the backbone of every community. There's a lot of people who worked at Sears here in the area," he said. "Our business has actually shown growth the last, I believe, at least three or four years. Every single month we've actually shown growth."
Ryan said while they're considering opening as another business, all of their current inventory is Sears-owned. He said now they're waiting to find out whether a liquidation centre will be involved and what that process will look like.
"The cost of doing business today is so high, we're kind of on the fence," he said, adding that if that didn't work out, both he and his wife would be looking for work elsewhere.