South Iowa Street store that represents last vestiges of iconic Lawrence retailer set to close
So long, Sears.
Lawrence lost its full-line Sears department store back in 2011, but it soon was replaced with a Sears Hometown store near 23rd and Iowa streets. But that venture is also set to come to an end. An employee of the store confirmed a going-out-of-business sale has begun at the store, 2329 Iowa St.
A sales associate of the store said employees had been told the last selling date for the store is scheduled to be June 24.
The closing will mark the end of a Lawrence retailer that has stretched across multiple generations. The closing also will serve as another reminder of how much the world of retail has changed. The Sears closing follows the closing of Lawrence’s J.C. Penney store last year. For decades, Sears and J.C. Penney were the largest retailers in America, and it would have been hard for Lawrence residents of a certain generation ever to imagine the town not having either of the stores. Think of a future Lawrence without a Walmart or a Target.
Lawrence’s Sears Hometown store is significantly smaller than the full-line store that previously operated in the city. The store primarily carries appliances, tools, and lawn and garden equipment.
The Sears Hometown stores are operated as part of a franchise rather than as a company-owned store. Company-owned, full-line Sears stores, however, also have been facing closures. The parent company of Sears — which also owns Kmart — announced in 2017 plans to close more than 300 Sears and Kmart stores. Last month, there were national media reports that a handful of other Sears stores had been slated for closure.
While the loss of Lawrence’s Sears Hometown store will be mourned by some, local leaders are probably more concerned about the health of the Sears parent company. As noted, it owns the Kmart chain of stores. Lawrence is home to one of Kmart’s larger distribution centers. Questions have arisen about whether Sears and Kmart can continue to operate in the future, as the retailers deal with large amounts of debt and increasing competition from online retailers.
The stakes for Lawrence are high. In addition to occupying one of the largest industrial buildings in all of Douglas County — it is the one right at the west Lawrence interchange of the Kansas Turnpike — the Kmart distribution center also employs about 320 people, according to figures from local economic development officials.
As for the Sears Hometown store, the going-out-of-business sale already has begun. A store employee said pretty much all merchandise has been reduced by at least 30 percent, and some merchandise already is at a 50 percent discount.