CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Inside the 25-year-old Big Kmart store here, it's still tile floors and suspended ceilings, soft rock playing overhead — but only for a little while longer.
Sears Holdings Corp., Kmart's parent company, announced this week the store at 200 Paul Huff Parkway is closing, effective mid-March.
Liquidation of the store starts today, as inventory goes on sale.
The Cleveland store is one of many nationwide that learned its fate this week — victims of another year of poor national sales for Kmart. Sears Holdings Corp. reported net losses of $454 million at the end of the third quarter of last year. National Kmart sales were down 7.5 percent.
Apparel and electronic sales were responsible for more than half of the decline, the company said.
This week, Kmart stores across the country faced the repercussions and received news their doors will be closing this spring.
"Store closures are part of a series of actions we're taking to reduce on going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model," said Howard Riefs, director of communications at Sears Holdings Corp. on Wednesday.
Sears did not say exactly how many stores nationwide are closing. But at least two locally — the one in Cleveland and a Sears store at the Mount Berry Mall in Rome, Ga. — are among them.
Riefs said eligible store associates affected by the closures will receive severance packages and have opportunities for other jobs at other Sears and Kmart stores. Most employees at the Cleveland store are part-time, hourly workers, he said. The Cleveland store employs 67 people.
The Cleveland Big Kmart is an original anchor tenant at Bradley Square Mall, and opened with the mall in February 1991. The store occupies a 100,538-square-foot corner at the mall.
Bradley Square Mall officials directed most Kmart questions to Sears Holdings Corp. on Wednesday, but took an optimistic approach to the news as it pertains to their Paul Huff Parkway property.
"Bradley Square Mall views this as an opportunity to continue our redevelopment," said Stacia Shahan, general manager of the mall.
Mall officials have spent more than $40 million on remodels in recent years, she said, and "we just really view it as an opportunity."
Cleveland residents heard the news of the closure throughout the day Wednesday and some headed to the Kmart store looking for deals.
"I don't really come here that often," said Kevin Hart, leaving the store Wednesday afternoon. "Sometimes, over the holidays, I come here to keep from having to fight the traffic at Wal-Mart."
Hart heard the mall Kmart was closing, so he stopped by to search for sales.
"I was on lunch, thought I'd swing by," he said.
It was news to Sean Whitwell, meanwhile.
"Is it closing?" he said.
Whitwell, a Canadian visiting friends in Cleveland, stopped by the Kmart to pick up a few groceries.
"I liked the ones back [home], too," he said.
Riefs said Wednesday that Kmart customers with layaway contracts should either pay off their contracts early or cancel their contracts at the Cleveland store and have them transferred to another store nearby.
"We truly apologize for any customer inconvenience," he said.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at email@example.com or 423-757-6480.