Sears, Kmart stores in Nebraska set to close

Sears, Kmart stores in Nebraska set to close
World-Herald News Service

A 90-year history of Sears stores in Omaha appears to be wrapping up with Friday’s announcement that the Crossroads store is closing.

That 72nd and Dodge Streets store, along with an auto center, was among 80 Sears and Kmart outlets the financially embattled Sears Holdings said it plans to shut down in late March.

Also set to go is the Sears in Lincoln. On an earlier hit list was the Oak View Mall Sears store in Omaha, which started its wind down six months ago.

Sears Holdings earlier closed all of its Kmart stores in Omaha, with the final one at 50th and L Streets going dark in early 2018.

While Sears at the Crossroads had been a go-to for such items as appliances and vacuum cleaners since 1960, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. mother company actually made its retail splash in Omaha back in 1928.

Opening then to fanfare and 500 Omaha clerks and salespeople, the six-floor retail store at 31st and Farnam Streets featured a department devoted to farm implements and supplies, then the only one of its kind in the growing chain.

According to a World-Herald story at the time, the building was filled within 15 minutes of the grand opening. And within three hours, officials estimated that more than 8,000 shoppers had been through the doors.

The Sears history — its nostalgic catalogs, assortment of furnishings, toys, housewares and clothes — rings sentimental to many generations of Nebraskans. But the company founded as a mail-order retailer of watches in the 1880s has been suffering from debt and declining sales.

In October, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and started the shutdown of 142 of its 700 or so remaining stores.

Friday’s announcement now brings Sears Holdings, which also has the Kmart brand, closer to 400 stores as it struggles to stay afloat.

A person who answered the phone at the offices for the Crossroads store said Friday that its employees had been informed of the news. She referred calls to a corporate spokesman, who pointed to a company statement that said the latest round of closures were part of financial restructuring.

A liquidation sale is to start at the Crossroads Sears in about two weeks.

The end of the Sears era in Omaha, while sentimental and nostalgic, shouldn’t make much of a difference in the local retail market, said Jay Lerner, president of Lerner Co., an Omaha real estate brokerage that focuses on retail.

“Sears was an icon. Sears and Roebuck, that was a huge deal,” Lerner said. But he added that sales were not going well at the Crossroads store.

Dan Dutton, who specializes in retail for Omne Partners in Omaha, said that despite the “amazing Sears story,” the demise of the last local store could be good for Omaha.

With Sears out of the picture, he said, perhaps so is at least one “sticking point” in the ongoing challenge to redevelop the broader Crossroads Mall site.

“Sears was one of the most innovative retailers of their time,” he said. “But I’m excited about the opportunities that will spring forward.”