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updated: 11/7/2019 8:46 PM

Sears leaving Spring Hill Mall in February, and West Dundee mayor ponders future without retail anchor

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  • Sears advertises a holiday sale in anticipation of Black Friday at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee. The store will be closing by February, leaving the mall with only one anchor, Macy's.

    Sears advertises a holiday sale in anticipation of Black Friday at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee. The store will be closing by February, leaving the mall with only one anchor, Macy's.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Sears store at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee is the latest to be shuttered by the struggling retailer, company officials confirmed Thursday.

The West Dundee store is among 96 more Sears and Kmart stores to be closed as the retailer's parent company, Hoffman Estates-based Transformco, works to right the company after purchasing it in bankruptcy court in 2018. A liquidation sale is expected to begin Dec. 2, with the store's closing expected in February.

A Sears spokesman Thursday would not say how many employees are affected by the closure but added all employees will be offered severance packages.

With the Spring Hill Mall store's closing, only three Sears stores remain in the suburbs, at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, North Riverside Mall and Chicago Ridge Mall. Transformco said the closings will leave the company with 182 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide -- slightly more than half the stores it obtained when a bankruptcy judge approved the $5.2 billion sale last February.

West Dundee officials were notified of the store's closing Wednesday when the company sought a sign permit to begin liquidation, Village President Chris Nelson said.

The news didn't come as a surprise.

"They have been reducing head count continuously over the last year," Nelson said. "We anticipated it, and so we were happy that they remained in operation. At least the store survived a significant number of cuts nationally."

Village officials anticipate losing slightly more than $100,000 in yearly sales tax revenue.

"Sales tax was declining really independent of how well the store was doing because the order model had changed (with more online sales)," Nelson said.

He said he doesn't expect Sears' closing will affect foot traffic at other mall stores.

The Transformco statement said the store closings were a "difficult but necessary" step as it works to focus on "our competitive strengths." The company -- led by former Sears President and CEO Edward Lampert -- and other investors recently added $250 million to develop new initiatives, according to the statement.

In August, the retail giant told the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity it would cut around 250 employees at its headquarters in Hoffman Estates. The Sears store at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale was among earlier announced closings.

A sign on the Stratford Square Sears store Thursday indicates only four days remain until closing. The store is virtually empty of merchandise and its fixtures are now for sale.

Sears departure leaves the 750,000-square-foot Spring Hill Mall with just two anchor stores, Macy's and Kohl's, and a 100,000-square-foot vacancy officials are eager to fill.

Brookfield Properties spokeswoman Lindsay Kahn said no information is available at this time on next steps after Sears leaves.

Mall officials previously have welcomed the idea of reconfiguring the Sears space "recognizing that the retail landscape is changing," Nelson said.

"The interior mall with a four-anchor model, it's likely not sustainable in the future," Nelson said.

That's among the reasons mall owners poured $40 million into the shopping center in 2016. That investment spurred a massive redevelopment, including a new 35,000-square-foot Cinemark theater, three new restaurants, a renovated food court, a new exterior plaza and a mall wing with outward-facing retail, Nelson said.

"With Sears' closure, it actually presents some opportunity to actively market the site," Nelson said. "We do believe that the future mall will have less space dedicated to retail and more space dedicated to office, residential or public use."

That's the vision of Atlanta-based Sizemore Group, a firm hired by the village to create a framework for the area's potential redevelopment.

Company representatives have been working with village officials to develop conceptual designs for how the mall campus could be transformed into a "scaled-up downtown" in the next five to 20 years.

"The owner of the mall -- Brookfield Properties -- will purchase the site and then work with us to repurpose it," Nelson said. "It will be difficult to put another retail operator in that Sears space. We will likely see a more creative use."

• Daily Herald Business Ledger Editor Richard Klicki contributed to this report.