Sears employees mark sad farewell as Charlottetown store closes

​It was an emotional day for staff at P.E.I.'s only Sears retail outlet, which has officially closed its doors.

About 85 people worked at the store, which opened in 2005

Leonard Gibbins and co-worker Melanie Batsford in the appliances department at Sears in happier days. (Submitted by Leonard Gibbins)

​It was an emotional day for staff at P.E.I.'s only Sears retail outlet, which has officially closed its doors.

"Today was my very last day so everybody was pretty much able to go in if they felt like going in," said Leonard Gibbins, who worked selling appliances for the last five years. 

"No one was really on the schedule but everybody was welcomed in for their last shift."

The Charlottetown store was open from March 2005 to Jan. 8, 2018.

It's one of about 60 stores across the country that closed Monday. All the other remaining Sears locations will close next week.

Gibbins said it weas difficult to see the store so empty and bleak on Monday as he and his co-workers said good-bye. (Submitted by Leonard Gibbins)

Gibbins transferred to the P.E.I. store after two years working for Sears in Ontario. About 85 people worked at the Charlottetown store, mostly part time.

Everybody cared for one another so it was kind of sad to see the store so empty and bleak.— Leonard Gibbins

"It was like a family there and a lot of the people that worked there have worked there for an awful long time," he said.

Gibbins said it was hard to see the store the way it looked on the final day.

"It was completely barren, there was nothing standing but some fixtures, some shoes and some children's wear," he said.

"There were a few of us did a final walk around, just some reminiscing, everybody cared for one another so it was kind of sad to see the store so empty and bleak."

There were still cars and shoppers on the final day of Sears in Charlottetown. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Gibbins and his co-workers had been hoping the Charlottetown location would remain open even as Sears struggled financially.

"We felt pretty optimistic when our store kept missing the lists of the unfortunate ones that were closing," he said. 

"Right up until they announced it, we had complete faith because it was so busy and one of the profitable locations, that we would have stayed open."

Employment opportunities 'limited'

The announcement in October hit hard.

"It was quite sad, a lot of people were concerned just about where they were going to work, how the process was going to happen," Gibbins said.

"I mean with Prince Edward Island being so small the employment opportunities are unfortunately limited."

Liquidation sales began back in October, which Gibbins said made for some challenges.

'It got rough'

"It was rather difficult, it got rough on a few days," he said.

"Everybody is looking for a bargain, I guess that's human nature but it was quite an experience to live through, I don't think I'd want to do it again."

Some of his co-workers have now vowed they will never work in retail again what they have gone through at Sears.

"Quite a few customers were coming in just to say goodbye," he said. 

"But there was an awful lot of customers coming into the store who we believe never even frequented the doors and just out there looking for something for nothing."

What went wrong

Gibbins has his own theory on where Sears went wrong.

"Personally I think when they started to get rid of the catalogue, everybody's moving into online shopping now," Gibbins said. 

"So when that catalogue started to go away and they started to close some of the remote locations, I think that was a big part of the demise of Sears, but that was just in my humble opinion, of course."

Gibbins considers himself one of the fortunate ones, landing a job in real estate, but he expects he will stay in touch with his co-workers from Sears.

"There's some very strong friendships made that I know will continue."