Kmart to close Wabash Avenue store

September 30, 2014|By Natalie Sherman | The Baltimore Sun

Kmart plans to close its Wabash Avenue store in Baltimore by early December, laying off more than 100 employees as the company works to improve its financial performance, according to a notice submitted to the state last week.

Representatives of Klein Enterprises, which owns the Wabash Avenue center, said Kmart's parent company, Sears Holdings Corp. had not notified them definitively about the decision, but believe the closure provides an opportunity to reinvent the northwest Baltimore property.

"Kmart is a failing retailer," CEO Michael Klein said. "We think we'll be able to bring in new retailers that will improve the shopping center tremendously."

Sears Holdings Corp., which also owns Sears, reported net losses of $573 million for the three-month period ending Aug. 2. CEO Edward S. Lampert said at the time the results were unacceptable and he would push the company to look for ways to cut costs and reduce its physical footprint.

The firm closed 75 Kmart stores in the first half of 2014. Kmart's Sinclair Lane location in east Baltimore closed in July.

"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," spokesman Howard Riefs said in a statement. "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."

Kmart submitted a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification to the Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation for the Wabash Avenue site on Sept. 23, according to an online log. Generally, employers must submit the notice if they have more than 100 employees, or if a closing will cause job losses for at least 50 people.

The Northwest Plaza Shopping Center closing will affect 107 employees, according to the state. The store began a liquidation sale Sept. 28 and will close to the public in early December, Riefs said. The company, which had 1,077 Kmart stores at the beginning of August, does not have plans to close other local stores, he said.

Will Beckford, the Baltimore Development Corp.'s managing director of neighborhood development, said the city was not surprised by the plan to close the store, and is optimistic another company will want to locate in the roughly 95,000-square-foot space.

The mayor's office of employment development plans to reach out to the laid off workers, he said.

nsherman@baltsun.com

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