How Much Longer Will Local Kmart Stores Survive?

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With Kmart and Sears stores struggling and closing across the country, it’s easy to wonder what’s next for area stores in Clarion and Venango counties.

Kmart in the Clarion Mall and in Sugarcreek Township, Venango County, have both been open for several decades, and so far, they have withstood the relentless march of Walmart and online shopping options.

Sears Holdings Corporation, incorporated November 23, 2004, is an integrated retailer. The company is the parent company of Kmart Holding Corporation (Kmart) and Sears, Roebuck, and Co. (Sears). The Company operates through two segments: Kmart and Sears Domestic.

Sears and Kmart were both retail pioneers.

Sears’ catalog and department stores were fixtures of American life stretching back to the 19th century before being hurt in recent years by competition from steep discounters and by missteps that included forays into financial services and the decision to sell off a lucrative credit card business.

Kmart helped create the discount-store format that Walmart Stores Inc. came to dominate.

At the end of 2011, Sears Holdings announced the closings of 100 Sears and Kmart stores.

Hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert engineered the combination of Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy.

Sears, which started with a lone Minnesota watch seller in 1886, helped define the mail-order catalog industry – selling shoes, clothes, guns, and even ready-to-assemble homes to farmers across the country.

Kmart, which started as a five-and-dime store in Detroit in 1899, once commanded a retail empire that included Waldenbooks, Borders, OfficeMax, and Sports Authority before spinning them off.

A long sales decline and an ill-advised price war against Walmart led to its 2003 bankruptcy filing, which allowed Lampert to gain control of the company.

The Clarion Mall Kmart location opened in 1980 and in 2016 signed a new lease to continue to operate there.

In Venango County, Kmart opened on Allegheny Boulevard in Sugarcreek in 1981 before eventually building a new store nearby in 1994 and moved there in 1995.

Store managers in both locations – Bill Brown in Clarion, and Jim Reed, in Sugarcreek – told exploreClarion.com that they couldn’t comment on their respective stores and referred questions to the company’s corporate media department in Chicago. The corporate office did not reply to phone calls or emails.

In Pennsylvania, more than a dozen Kmart stores have closed in the last few years, the closest being in Butler, DuBois, and Erie. Nationwide has seen more than 200 Kmart and about 60 Sears stores close (or set to close by this fall) in the last two years.

The most recent nationwide store closings were announced in early July with Sears Holdings announcing the closing of 43 stores, including 35 Kmart, seven of which were in Pennsylvania.

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