Photo by Joe Boyle
Shoppers depart the Sears store at the Chicago Ridge Mall on Sunday afternoon. While sales are still good at the local store the company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
By Joe Boyle
The parking lot was almost full outside the Sears store along the north end of the Chicago Ridge Mall on Sunday afternoon.
But despite a steady flow of customers entering and departing the store with purchased items, will Sears continue to be a destination point for shoppers that visit the store at the corner of 95th Street and Ridgeland Avenue?
Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15 due to sagging sales and rising debts as they struggle to exist in a rapidly changing market that is now speared by online sales as opposed to once iconic brick-and-mortar stores.
With the Chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement, Sears will close 142 of its over 700 remaining stores. As for now, no plans have been made to close the Sears at the Chicago Ridge Mall. But analysts have said that future of Sears is cloudy and will only be a matter of time when all the stores will close.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar is counting on the local Sears to buck that trend.
“You look at all the stores that have closed and I know we are doing substantially well,” the mayor said. “What I have been told is that the sales have been doing really well here.”
Tokar has been reading about the recent problems the company has been enduring nationwide, but has heard nothing about the Sears at Chicago Ridge Mall.
“I don’t know what the status is right now,” Tokar said. “No one has told me otherwise. I hope it stays open.”
While Sears is expected to lose more than $220 million in just the first month of its bankruptcy, the retailer operatives are hoping that a $112 million loan will take place through the efforts of Edward Lampert, chairman of Sears. Representatives of Sears are optimistic that Lampert’s ESL investment hedge fund will advance the loan by Saturday, Nov. 3. Critics are not as hopeful, pointing to Toys R Us borrowing up to $1 billion when it filed for bankruptcy but still could not survive.
Sears was once the one-stop shopping store. Beginning as a mail-order watch business 132 years ago in Minneapolis, the business grew rapidly and found a home in Chicago. Generation after generation grew up with the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog. Many parents, and children as well, would skim through the catalog when it arrived in homes as early as September to see what they would like for Christmas. That tradition continued until 1993, when Sears discontinued sending out the catalogs.
But the company has shrunk considerably from 350,000 employees at its peak and is now under 90,000. They have fallen because of a changing marketplace, an increasing online presence, and additional discount stores.
However, Sears' woes were not apparent Sunday at Chicago Ridge Mall. Several shoppers had little or nothing to say about Sears’ financial predicament. One woman left the store with her daughter, who had just purchased a vacuum cleaner. The mother preferred not to give her name but said she has shopped at Sears for years and added that their products are dependable.
Tokar said that Sears has been productive at the Chicago Ridge Mall and hopes that continues for years to come.
“Our Sears has just about 10 percent less customers than Carson’s did,” Tokar said. “And that’s pretty good. We’re not talking about 50 percent or more here. So, our Sears has been doing really well.”