Sears property liquidation begins, future uncertain for remaining northern Ontario stores
Once-dominant retail chain announces it’s closing last 130 stores across country
The future of Sudbury's remaining Sears store is in question after the company announced yesterday it was seeking court approval to begin liquidation of all of its remaining stores and assets. That move would see about 130 outlets close and put about 12,000 employees out of work.
Sears Canada has been in court-approved creditor protection since June 22. It has already closed 58 stores and laid off more than 3,000 staff without severance, including the Sears Home location in New Sudbury.
But despite the wonderful memories many have of the Sears Christmas Wish Book, Cambrian College business professor Brian Vendramin says it's the end of a dynasty.
"Sears is a big GPS unit that keeps saying 'recalculate.'" Vendramin told CBC's Morning North. "They had four or five new chairs [of the board of directors] each with a new vision, but the merchandising mix wasn't resonating with the target market."
"It's been a long, protracted process and I think we need to wind it up."
But Vendramin cautions anxious bargain hunters against expecting too much, too soon. Target's closure in 2015 was not an immediate fire sale.
"We need to recover as much money as we can," Vendramin said. "Think Target. They started with 10, 20, 30 per cent off. As we get closer to Christmas, they'll juice it up, then after Christmas they'll take what they can get, including shelving."
As for what started the chain's fall, Vendramin points to the demise of the chain's customer service.
"[It began] when they started cutting down on service," he said. "Sears went to service counters. No matter where you were, customers went to the desk. And eliminated people on the floor that could help you."
Retail giants on the way out
Vendramin also predicts that there won't be any quick buyers for Sears' properties, some which stretch across two levels. Demand for large retail properties is on the decline in Canada.
Canadian retail property owners Rio-Can announced last week it will sell 100 properties, mainly malls and power centres in secondary cities in Ontario and Quebec, by late 2018 or 2019.
But Vendramin says there's also a lesson for local small businesses in Sears' closure.
"Each day when you turn the key, ask yourself what business am I in, and am I relevant?"