Sears’ departure will ‘certainly be an impact’ on Dayton area

Customers look back, mall owners and experts look forward as traditional retailers struggle.

Sears announced its bankruptcy filing Monday, prompting customers to share a heavy dose of nostalgia, even if they hadn’t purchased any of the brand’s iconic Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances or other merchandise in years.

In a few months, both the Sears at the Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons will close their doors, leaving the department stores in Springfield and Piqua as the last standing Sears Holdings stores in the Dayton region.

Larry Beaudry of Springboro walks the Dayton Mall almost every day. Most days, he doesn’t step into Sears, but Monday he decided to take a look at the sales.

“I’ve shopped here for tools, and once you’ve got them, I think that’s part of the downfall, they last forever,” Beaudry said.

Other stores in Ohio are expected to close now that the long-struggling store has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There’s potential that all of the company’s Sears and Kmart stores could close if it fails to reach a restructuring agreement.

“The retail environment has changed globally, and because of that we’re seeing announcements like we have from Elder-Beerman and from Sears where they’re having to make changes in their companies,” said Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

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There will “certainly be an impact” on the Dayton area, as employees are displaced among store closures, Kershner added.

Among the job losses, local malls will be faced with figuring out how to redevelop the large, vacant retail spaces left behind by the dying department stores.

“We’ve worked diligently to address unproductive department store space over the previous couple of years,” said Lou Conforti, CEO of Washington Prime, which owns both the Mall at Fairfield Commons and Dayton Mall.

“Tenants which have failed to evolve in order to satisfy an increasingly savvy consumer do not belong in our assets. For those who embrace this necessary dynamism, respect their demographic constituencies and practice good old-fashioned merchandising, we will bend over backwards by providing our robust infrastructure to ensure their success,” he added.

But the shakeout of Sears is a good thing, according to Ball State professor Steve Horwitz.

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“This is a good thing for American consumers who have found far more value in the various options they now have with respect to price/quality, specialization, and online presence,” he said. “This sort of dynamic change is a sign of a healthy, competitive economy that is delivering value for consumers. Firms need to either adjust to that new reality or face the fate of Sears.”

Several customers at the Dayton Mall store said they didn’t really have a comment about the store’s impending closure in November because they didn’t shop at the store before its liquidation sales, an indication of why the company that was once the top retailer in the nation has struggled.

Sears Holdings hasn’t seen a profitable year since 2010 and has announced round after round of store closures in recent years. It will add 142 shutterings to the list under the bankruptcy plan.

Nearly 45 years ago, Linda Linville of Waynesville opened her first credit card at Sears just after she and her husband married.

“My husband bought all these Craftsman tools, and we bought all of our appliances, we bought clothes, shoes, everything because it was our first credit card,” she said. “And we still have it. We don’t use it now.”

Yet she said her initial reaction was that the bankruptcy is devastating, like with recent Toys “R” Us and Elder-Beerman closures.

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“I think it’s because of everyone who shops Amazon. It’s sad to say, but I think Amazon kind of ruined it all,” she said. “We don’t have anywhere to take the grandchildren. You can’t go to Toys “R” Us, so they’re missing all of those wonderful experiences.”

Noel Nushawg Sr. of West Carrollton said he walks through the Dayton Mall, including Sears two to three times a week. Though he bought his lawn mower there, he said he doesn’t really shop much.

“They say all good things sooner or later come to an end. When? You don’t know, but when it does, it’s sad,” the 80 year-old said. “Sears will never leave my mind.”


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Sears stores in the Dayton Area

Dayton Mall Miamisburg: Closing early November

Mall at Fairfield Commons Beavercreek: Closing early December

Upper Valley Mall Springfield: Remaining open

Miami Valley Centre Mall Piqua: Remaining open

Northgate Mall Cincinnati: Closing early November

Eastgate Mall Cincinnati: Remaining open

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