Sears liquidation: 3 things to know

The store closures will have major implications for the more than 300 local employees who are still working in the stores, but customers may also be hit. Here are three things you should know if you have ever shopped at Sears.

The fate of your long-term warranty and rewards points may be in limbo

Sears currently employs more than 12,000 people in Canada. But all of the stores will be closing. (Andy Clark/Reuters)

With the three remaining Sears locations in Ottawa set to begin liquidating next week, you can say it's the end of an era.

The retailer has been a mainstay since 1952. While shoppers may be able to cash in on the liquidation sales about to start, the closures could also prove costly to some customers.

Here are three things you should know if you've ever shopped at Sears:

Long-term warranties may be dissolved

So far, the company intends to keep responding to consumer complaints and requests for service, according to the Better Business Bureau.

But a spokesperson for the consumer avocate said that doesn't mean you shouldn't assume you're covered moving forward.

"The general rule of thumb with warranties is only as good as long as the business is operating," said Emma Borski, with the Central Ontario BBB.  

Contacting Sears now could help protect (consumers) in the future,- Emma Borski, spokesperson for the central Ontario Better Business Bureau

In the event of a bankruptcy, warranties are often dissolved, said Borski. 

If a company goes into a bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed and warranty holders can go through that body to resolve any issues, Borski said. But that can be a long and difficult road.

Instead, Borski urged customers to act now.

She said contact the retailer immediately if you're worried about whether you will be covered by your Sears warranty.

"Contacting Sears now could help protect (consumers) in the future," she said. She also encouraged people to contact the manufacturer of the product preemptively to see what, if anything, they can do.

Sears did not respond to CBC's request for an interview.

Spend your Sears Club points pronto

Sears has been offering loyalty rewards points since the late 1980s. Sears advertised shoppers earn one point for every dollar spent, which means some people might have quite a few points tucked away.

Those people are going to want to check their balance now and get spending. Sears put a halt to the rewards points in June, no longer allowing members to accumulate them.

According to the retailer's website, the points can still be redeemed in store. Sears encouraged members to hold on to their cards and stay tuned for more information, but it's not clear what will happen to the program after the stores are liquidated.

Local malls could be in trouble

Malls and shopping centres have been suffering from the demise of several retailers for years, and it could be about to get worse. Losing Sears as an anchor tenant will be another blow to the commercial retail market, according to retail analyst Barry Nabatian.

"In the last eight to ten years we have had Eatons, Zellers, Target, Pascal's, K-Mart," Nabatian said. "They have all gone."

Many former Target locations are still vacant, and it will be difficult for some malls to fill the space Sears is leaving behind, he said.

Nabatian said the greatest force behind the demise of Sears is the shrinking middle class, and that's not going to change any time soon.

He said most people are now shopping at discount stores like Walmart, Costco and Giant Tiger.

"It's the middle that has been under assault for the last five to ten years, and there will be more of them unfortunately," he said.

Though he wouldn't name names, Nabatian said shopping centres may start to lose other major tenants as consumers move away from mid-price department stores.