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Mall: Sears closing will bring changes
Closing possible before end of the year
Sears said Friday it will close its Liberty Fair Mall store (above), probably before the end of the year. (Bulletin photo)
Sunday, September 16, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The closing of Sears will trigger changes at Liberty Fair Mall, but the mall’s owner is committed to succeeding in Martinsville, it said Friday.
Sears announced Friday that its Martinsville department store, which has been one of Liberty Fair’s anchor tenants since the mall opened in 1989, will close, probably before the end of the year.
The closing, which Sears officials said results from failing to come to terms on a new lease, could leave as many as 75 employees without jobs.
Hull Storey Gibson Companies LLC, which bought the mall on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville earlier this year, issued a statement on Friday saying company officials are “sorry to see Sears leave the market.”
But “we still have a strong lineup of anchor tenants that are performing well,” the statement said, “and we believe that the property has a bright future ahead.”
Belk, which also has been at the mall since it opened, and JC’s 5-Star Outlet — formerly the JCPenney Outlet Store — are the other anchors. The latter was one of Penney’s regular department stores when the mall opened.
“With Sears leaving,” the statement continued, Hull Storey Gibson “will be working on evaluating and improving the layout of the (mall) property to strengthen its ability to serve the community and attract new tenants.”
“We will need to go through some changes at Liberty Fair and there will inevitably be a period of transition, but we are committed to creating a successful shopping and dining venue,” the statement said.
It concluded that the mall “can and will succeed here in Martinsville.”
Hull Storey Gibson executives were traveling Friday afternoon and could not be reached for comment, said Coles Hull, the company’s marketing analyst.
No official date has been set for Sears to close, but it could be before mid-December, said Store Manager Randy Brown.
Sales figures at the store have been good, Brown said, adding that they did not factor into the decision to close the store.
Kimberly Freely, a spokesman at the company’s headquarters near Chicago, confirmed that the Martinsville store is closing due to not being able to come to terms on a new lease. She said the company would not elaborate.
Freely said she “could not speculate” on whether Sears has looked at other area locations for a store or whether the company would be interested in doing so.
Most of the mall store’s employees are part-time, Freely said. She added that after the store closes, employees will be notified when jobs come open at other area Sears and Kmart stores, but they would have to apply for the jobs.
Kmart bought Sears in 2005.
Brown said employees at the Martinsville Sears are “very disappointed that we’re not going to be here to serve our customers” anymore.
“Hopefully, they will continue to shop Sears at other locations,” he said.
The nearest other Sears store is at Piedmont Mall in Danville, which also is owned by Hull Storey Gibson.
The Georgia-based Hull Storey Gibson bought the roughly 434,000 square-foot Liberty Fair Mall in May. The price was undisclosed.
It was the second time in three months that the mall changed ownership. Following a default on a loan, Liberty Fair had been sold for $15 million at auction Feb. 29 to a financial lender who was the noteholder.
The mall’s previous owner was Liberty Fair VA, LP, a limited liability partnership.