Sears is pulling out of the Downtown Chatham Centre (DCC) within a year’s time.
Vincent Power, corporate communications officer with the company, said the lease expires in October of 2017, and Sears announced to staff in mid-October of this year that it would not be renewing the lease.
He stressed that until then, it’s business as usual.
The closure will impact nearly five-dozen employees. Power said there are presently 56 people working at the Sears store in Chatham, almost all of which are part time. He stressed the turnover rate in the retail industry is about 30 per cent per year, and expects there will be a natural reduction in associates over the next year as a result.
If staff are interested in relocating for any positions that come up within the company over the course of the next year, Powers said they would be given primary consideration for those jobs, provided they have the proper skill set.
He stressed the employees in no way have any bearing on the closing of the store.
“They are a good team and we thank them for the dedicated service they have provided us and our customers over the years,” he said.
The announcement came as no surprise to Lynn O’Brien, general manager of the DCC.
“They’ve been closing stores for several years. They are trying to find their way in the marketplace,” she said of Sears Canada. “It’s not a reflection of our community. It’s not a reflection of the shopping centre. It’s a reflection of Sears and their market share in Canada.”
Powers said the company’s changing needs led to the pending closure.
“Within the last few years, we had converted our Chatham store to an outlet format, in order to help improve its top-line performance. As an outlet store, that meant instead of a regular full-line store assortment, it was mainly selling off-price goods that were surpluses from our catalogue channel and other retail stores,” Power said in an e-mail to The Voice. “However, more modern inventory management systems and capabilities have greatly reduced the amount of surplus inventory we have to sell in our outlet stores, so we do not have the space requirement for that channel as we had in past years and throughout our history.”
O’Brien said she and DCC personnel aren’t just sitting back and watching what is unfolding. In fact, two new stores have opened in the mall in the past six weeks, and work is already underway to secure a replacement for Sears.
“We will be and we have been aggressively seeking a tenant for this space. We’ll work with the municipality on some ideas as well.”
O’Brien said she’s confident they’ll find a replacement, adding they have already met with one prospective tenant.
And if someone in the community has a suggestion for the DCC, she’s all ears.
“We welcome ideas. What would you like to see? What do you think would work for us? We’re an open door. We just want the community to do well,” she said.