Kmart employees will be looking for new jobs after the announcement that the Mayberry Mall location would be one of 64 stores closing by mid-December.
Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart and Sears, announced the closings, which include other area stores like Burlington, Wytheville, Virginia, and Martinsville, Virginia.
Sears Holdings has been struggling as sales continue to plunge, according to Business Insider. The company even received a $300,000 loan from its CEO’s hedge fund in the most recent quarter, so it could continue to operate.
Recently, analysts from Moody’s, an investor service which assigns credit ratings, noted Sears doesn’t have enough cash — or access to cash — to continue operations.
“We can confirm that we are making the difficult, but necessary decision to close the Kmart store at 100 Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy,” wrote Sears representative Howard Riefs in an email.
Riefs noted the liquidation sale at the store will begin on Thursday, and the company will move forward with the mid-December closing date.
“We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced,” stated Reifs in explaining the closures.
Reifs would not release how many people were employed by the store. However, he noted most employees who will see an end to their employment at the Mount Airy location are part-time, hourly employees. Some of them will be eligible for severance packages, and all may apply for other jobs within the company.
The employees were informed of the closure on Friday, according to Reifs.
Discussing the Sears store at the Mayberry Mall, Reifs noted the Sears Hometown Store at the mall was not owned by Sears Holdings.
A message left with that company’s representative was not returned on Tuesday.
Mike Kohan, from Kohan Investment Group, a New York-based company which is listed as the Mayberry Mall’s agent on tax records, learned about the closing from The News on Tuesday. He called this event “unfortunate.”
“We were aware of the situation,” explained Kohan of the discount chain considering closure of the Mount Airy location. “We tried to offer some incentives, but I guess they went ahead and did it.”
Kohan said the work to begin filling what will become an empty big-box store at the mall with a new tenant will begin immediately.
“It’s a tough challenge to fill a store like that. There are not a lot of people looking to fill those (types of locations),” said Kohan. “That doesn’t mean we are going to stop trying to fill it.”
Todd Tucker, Surry County Economic Development Partnership president, echoed Kohan’s concerns regarding filling the space with a new tenant.
“There’s not a lot of players in that market,” said Tucker.
Tucker explained Wal-Mart and Target have taken over the market for large retail stores, and there is a market for smaller stores such as dollar stores. There is little market for “mid-size” stores such as Kmart, however.
Tucker’s said he hopes to work with the property owner to put the space back into use. They may explore other uses for the property not in the retail market.
“It’s unfortunate, and we’re always concerned when people lose their jobs,” said Tucker. “Hopefully we can work with those folks to find them other employment opportunities.”
“There may be open positions in markets other than retail that they are qualified for.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.