New Brunswick

Sears closures in Saint John, Bathurst mark end of retailing landmarks, cities say

Sears Canada will close two of its four New Brunswick stores, the troubled retailer announced Thursday.

2 out of 4 Sears stores in New Brunswick will go as company cuts 2,900 jobs across country

Sears has been a longtime anchor of the McAllister Place mall in east Saint John, where it moved after a long stay in the north end of the city. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Sears Canada will close two of its four New Brunswick department stores, the retailer announced Thursday.

Stores in Saint John and Bathurst will be shut down, although the timing has not been decided, Sears said. 

Sears has about 100 employees at the Saint John store and another 46 in Bathurst, said Vincent Power, a spokesperson for Sears Canada. Most of the employees are part-time, he said.

The other New Brunswick stores, in Fredericton and Moncton, are not among the 20 full-time Sears locations across the country that will be shut down as Sears Canada reduces its workforce by about 2,900. 

Nor does the announcement affect plans for two new New Brunswick call centres, according to a Sears spokesperson.

An additional 15 Sears Home Stores, all 10 outlet stores and 14 Sears Hometown stores will close, but the Sears e-commerce website will continue.

Across New Brunswick, 418 people work in the four Sears retail stores and 22 merchandise pickup locations.

"The decision to close these two stores is part of the actions we need to take at this time," Power said of Saint John and Bathurst.

"But it has nothing to do with the quality of our staff there, who have provided excellent service to Sears customers in the both cities for several years, and we will miss them within the Sears family."

Months ago, Sears promised to create 540 jobs at new call centres in Edmundston and Saint John, both of which are to get millions of dollars in financial support from the province.

In an email to CBC News, Sears spokesperson Joel Shaffer said, "nothing is happening to those call centres" and "hiring targets remain intact."

Power said Sears encourages "those who wish to seek out the call centres" for employment.

No dates for closures yet

Sears has not announced any exit dates for the stores.

The announcement came as Sears Canada went to the Ontario Superior Court for protection from creditors while it restructures.

Sears Canada asked the Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday for protection from its creditors. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

At McAllister Place in Saint John, mall manager David Greene was asked if he knew when the Sears store at the mall would close.

He said in an email that he was aware of the filing for creditor protection, but that Sears has not been in touch with the mall about its local plans.

Saint John loses landmark store

'It's going to be devastating for McAllister Place.'- Shirley McAlary, Saint John deputy mayor

The closure of Sears marks the end of a landmark for Saint John, said Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary.

"I think everyone can relate to going to Sears at one time or another and when Sears was in the north end, and that was a few years ago, but you know ... that was a big store in Saint John," she said.

The closure will not only affect Sears employees, McAlary said, but also the rest of McAllister Place, which has already lost a large Sobeys store.

"It's going to be devastating for McAllister Place," she said. "I think they're going to have to rethink to who they can lease to and it's going to take some work on somebody's part to bring back something for retail for that space."

Shirley McAlary, the deputy mayor of Saint John, says the closure of the Sears store will hurt more than Sears employees and customers. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

McAlary said the city's new growth committee is trying to attract businesses to Saint John, but the retail business is changing.

Many people like to shop in big box stores or online because of convenience or lower prices, she said.

"Everybody is looking for the best price," she said. "When [people] have time off, they want to do other things. They don't want to go shopping."

No indication of Bathurst economy

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie said he was saddened for the employees who will lose their jobs.

Word of the closure came as a surprise to Place Bathurst Mall, which invested millions in renovations this year and had lost Zellers a few years ago, he said.

"And now to have a major tenant leave, it's not good news for them," he said.

News of the closure came as a surprise to the Place Bathurst Mall, which invested millions in renovations this year. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

But Fongemie stressed the Sears departure is not a sign of a worsening Bathurst economy.

"On the contrary, we are climbing the hill," he said, adding there have been investments in majors hotels, new restaurants and renovations at both malls.

It is a shock but it is also an opportunity for a new store to come in.- Paolo Fongemie, mayor of Bathurst

While Sears was a popular store, Fongemie said something positive may yet come from its closure.

"It is a shock but it is also an opportunity for a new store to come in," he said. "I know the mall management will be working hard to find solutions. We have confidence in the management that they will be able to overcome the challenge."

As for the 46 people who work at Sears, he said the city is working with the Chamber of Commerce to find out which companies may be looking for employees.

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie says he was saddened 46 people in his city will lose their jobs, but he's hopeful another business will take the store's place at the mall. (Radio-Canada)

Fongemie also noticed several postings on provincial job boards for retail and customer service positions.

"I feel bad for the employees," he said. "There are probably some employees there who have been there for a long period of time and it's probably disheartening for them today." 

Bernard Cormier, the manager of the Place Bathurst Mall, said he could not comment on behalf of Sears but he was "sad to lose a tenant like Sears who has been in the community for 28 years."

Sears Canada announced in March that its future was in doubt after the company lost more than $2 billion last year and saw its shares hit an all-time low in February.

Earlier this month, the company acknowledged concerns about its ability to continue operating and said it might have to restructure or be sold.

With files from Rachel Cave, Nathalie Sturgeon


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