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Sears Goes Bankrupt

The Briarwood store is among the casualties.

by Sabine Bickford

From the November, 2018 issue

Briarwood is about to lose one of its anchors: the Sears store there is one of the 142 "least profitable" Sears and Kmart locations that will close "near the end of the year," according to a press release from parent Sears Holdings. Liquidation sales are expected to begin shortly.

Sears, a former giant of retail now billions of dollars in debt, has anchored the east end of Briarwood since the mall first opened in 1973. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sears was the Amazon of its time: allowing customers to make purchases from its catalog from the comfort of their homes and receive them in the mail. It moved into malls in a big way after WWII, but like Kmart, it had fallen behind competitors like Walmart even before Amazon disrupted the entire industry. Hedge fund billionaire Edward Lampert merged the two companies in 2005 then watched sales fall by two-thirds before filing for bankruptcy in October.

The Briarwood Sears has been better kept than some (media reports have noted empty shelves, leaky ceilings, and handwritten signs elsewhere), and in October at least one family still was choosing the store to buy a new mattress. But as other stores closed, tensions have been running high for a long time. A customer who asked to remain anonymous recalls resisting a pitch to sign up for a store credit card in 2016--and being told that Sears' financial troubles were the fault of "people like you." The day before the bankruptcy filing, another employee was overheard lamenting that he had not taken the lump sum Sears had offered to trade its employees for their pensions last year.

Sears, Briarwood mall. (734) 998-3900. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Closing date TBA.     (end of article)

[Originally published in November, 2018.]


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