Sears Goes Out with a Whimper

HYANNIS –It was the end of a retail era on Sunday when the Sears store at the Cape Cod Mall was permanently shuttered.

The Sears in Hyannis resembled a ghost town with very few shoppers and not much in the way of merchandise at what used to be a bustling enterprise.

The once mighty company filed for bankruptcy in October and the move was anticipated.

The company has struggled with outdated stores and complaints about customer service even for its once crown jewels: major appliances like washers and dryers.

That’s in contrast with chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily in remodeling and de-cluttering their stores.

Sears Holdings, which operates both Sears and Kmart stores, is closing 142 unprofitable stores by the end of the year, that’s in addition to the closure of 46 unprofitable stores that had already been announced. Edward S. Lampert, the company’s largest shareholder, stepped down as CEO but will remain chairman of the board.

A new Office of the CEO will be responsible for managing day-to-day operations.

For decades, Sears was king of the American shopping landscape. Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s iconic catalog featured items from bicycles to sewing machines to houses, and could generate excitement throughout a household when it arrived.

The company began opening retail locations in 1925 and expanded swiftly in suburban malls from the 1950s to 1970s. But the onset of discounters like Walmart created challenges for Sears that have only grown. Sears faced even more competition from online sellers and appliance retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Sears joins a growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or liquidated in the last few years amid a fiercely competitive climate.

Some, like Payless ShoeSource, successfully emerged from reorganization in bankruptcy court. But plenty of others like, Toys R Us and Bon-Ton Stores Inc., haven’t. Both retailers were forced to shutter their operations this year soon after Chapter 11 filings.

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