Norwalk's Kmart to close in mid-May

Aaron Krause • Feb 3, 2014 at 9:44 AM

The Kmart store in Norwalk will close for good in mid-May, a local store official and company spokesman confirmed Friday.

It was Kmart's decision not to renew the lease. Incorrect information was published in Saturday's print edition of the Norwalk Reflector.

The local store official referred comments to corporate officials.

"Until then, the store will remain open for customers," Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs confirmed in an e-mail Friday.

Riefs said the store will begin liquidation sales on Feb. 23.

The Norwalk store is owned by Maple City Builders. The landlord, John Hipp, said it was Kmart's decision not to renew the lease.

From Kmart's end, Riefs said the Norwalk store's 52 employees who are eligible will receive severance and have the chance to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores. Most of the associates are part time/hourly, Riefs said.

Ellen Heinz, executive director of the Norwalk Economic Development Corp., said it's a tough blow for the community but the search will begin right away to bring new businesses into town.

"Retail is a tough business, especially when it is a national chain," she said. "They look at a lot of factors, not just performance.

"Population can weigh heavily on whether a store is chosen to remain open or not."

"Norwalk is very supportive of business," Heinz said. "We have had strong increase in the retail business the last two years. We have had more than 20 businesses start up the last two years. There is a lot of potential here. This is a great location for a retail operation. We are looking forward to the possibilities we have.

"We never want to see a business close and see people dislocated," Heinz added. "But we are working on a lot of projects and Norwalk is a great place to move a business or start up a new business."

In 2004, Sears Holdings Corporation became the parent company of Kmart.

Kmart and Sears Holdings have been struggling, as year-to-year comparisons of sales in both Sears and Kmart stores have declined, according to company financial reports. Holiday sales were underwhelming.

The companies have been announcing store closings around the nation and last week made headlines by saying that Sears' flagship store in Chicago would close. The company is headquartered outside Chicago.

"Store closures are part of a series of actions we're taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model," Riefs said in an e-mail last week. "These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail -- at the store, online, and in the home."

Most workers at both stores are part-time and hourly, Riefs wrote.

Sears, which began as a catalog company, has told analysts that it is moving toward online sales and away from brick-and-mortar retail.

Discount store Kmart operates more than 1,300 locations across the United States. Customers may find a wide range of products from shopping at Kmart, such as clothing, jewelry, housewares, tools, electronics, and toys. Annually, Kmart creates close to $15 billion in revenue.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reflector Managing Editor Joe Centers and Jane M. Von Bergen of The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT) contributed to this story.

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