Sears closing 80 more stores, 2 in Illinois, as it faces liquidation

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Saturday, December 29, 2018
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Sears is closing 80 more stores as it teeters on the brink of liquidation.

NEW YORK -- Sears is closing 80 more stores as it teeters on the brink of liquidation.

The iconic 130-year-old retailer, once the nation's largest department store chain, set a deadline of Friday for bids for its remaining stores to avert closing down completely. The deadline passed. If no bidder is found, the next step is liquidation.

"I really like them. They always have good deals and they always give you perks," one shopper said.

"I think it's sad. Sears has been around forever," said Mina Krauter, shopper.

The retailer that began out as a mail order catalog in the 1880s has been in a slow death spiral, hobbled by the Great Recession and then overwhelmed by rivals both down the street and across the internet.

The 80 stores are due to close by March. That's in addition to 182 stores already slated for closure, including 142 by the end of 2018 and 40 by February.

The Hoffman Estates-based company said nearly half of the closing stores are K-Marts.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October , saying at the time it would close more than 20 percent of all stores, keeping open only its 500 most profitable locations.

The last Sears in Chicago closed earlier in 2018.

"What's happening at Sears is not a surprise," said Neil Stern, retail expert. "It's been a company that's been struggling for at least a decade and they're kind of running out of options to help them save the business."

Sears Holdings Corp., which also runs Kmart, joins the list of retail brands taken over by hedge funds that collapsed under the weight of debt forced upon them.

Under hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, Sears has bought time by spinning off stores and putting on the block the brands that had grown synonymous with the company, such as Craftsman. The company's chairman and biggest shareholder, Lampert loaned out his own money and put together deals to keep the company afloat and to turn whatever profit he could for ESL hedge fund. Lampert and ESL have been trying to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock.

But no official bid appeared to have emerged as of 4 p.m. E.T. Friday. Sears declined to comment.

The two Sears stores closing in Illinois are at 235 Saint Claire Square in Fairview Heights and 7200 Harrison Avenue in Cherry Valley.

WLS-TV contributed to this report.