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Fingers crossed for Kmart, Sears

December 27, 2011 - Steve Murch
Tuesday was a strange day of coincidence, with potentially devastating news locally.

When I walked in the building in the afternoon to start the day, I had a conversation with Business Manager Kathy Burton about the Alpena Mall. I have been told, though haven't seen personally, that Gliks has a sign indicating a moving sale. Where it is moving isn't specified on the note, though it is staying in Alpena, just changing locations — that rumor has been around for months.

Kathy and I talked about how Kmart never should have left the mall and ventured across the street into its own building. Kmart never thrived in the stand-alone location. While economic times have changed and making predictions is dicey at best, Kmart probably would have done much better if it had stayed in the mall. Though it's difficult to project, with JC Penney at one end and Kmart at the other the mall might be much different than it is now — too many vacancies and not enough foot traffic.

After coming upstairs to the newsroom, I found reporter Andrew Westrope trying to get news on the local Kmart and Sears stores, as the parent company announced earlier in the day it is going to close at least 100 stores. If both close, it would be a tragic happening in Alpena, taking away two more shopping options and leaving one very large empty building.

More local residents would be added to the local unemployment numbers, and another big property will be a burden for the tax rolls — two thing not needed in Alpena County. We have to keep our fingers crossed that neither store is closing in Alpena.

As Andrew was passed around from person to person at the corporate level, one thing became clear — corporate issues had to have led to some of the problems.

Andrew never got any answers, though it's early enough in the process to understand why nothing was said. However, someone simply saying there would be no further comment until later would have been sufficient at this time. Instead, he was passed from one person to another for nearly an hour, then told by someone that she would put him on hold and stay with the line until someone came on. At some point, she simply disconnected him from hold and he was left on the line unaware. There wasn't any music while on hold, so he never noticed the difference. Maybe that's why they don't have music, so no one will notice when they have been disconnected.

If that is how the company operates, then there is no wonder why it is going under. The 100 stores likely aren't the final move. The company has made cuts in the past, and Alpena was left wondering what would happen. It survived in the past, but there is a feeling it might not this time. One of the stores will, but I can't believe both will.

I hope I'm wrong.

“There’s no reason to go to Sears,” New York-based independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi told the Associated Press. “It offers a depressing shopping experience and uncompetitive prices.”

That may be so, but in a small community it is one more option that wouldn't be there otherwise.

 
 

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