Sears

Sears’ parent company on Friday announced that the Sears store in the Apple Blossom Mall is one of 51 it is closing nationwide, in addition to 45 Kmart stores. The Winchester store will be closing by the end of February.

WINCHESTER — Sears in Apple Blossom Mall will close by the end of February.

The closure will leave about 20 employees without a job and result in the mall losing its third-largest anchor store.

Transform Holdco, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced Thursday that it was closing 51 Sears stores and 45 Kmarts nationwide. Three other Sears stores in Virginia are closing in Manassas, Fredericksburg and Richmond. The Kmart in Hagerstown, Md., is also closing. Going-out-of-business sales at the stores are expected to begin Dec. 2.

Sears has been an anchor store of Apple Blossom Mall since the mall opened in October 1982. Before the mall opened, the store was on Loudoun Street, where the Loudoun Street Autopark is now.

Mall Manager Larry Nelson said he and employees of the local store found out about the closure when “the rest of the world found out.”

“It’s held pretty close to the vest by Sears until it comes out,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t a surprise to us, or frankly anybody that’s been following the media with regards to Sears. And right now, we have nothing planned to replace it in the immediate future. But I can tell you we see it as an opportunity to re-merchandise that part of our real estate, which [mall owner Simon Property Group] has a really good record of doing whenever anchor stores close.”

Nelson said he is open to “any use at all” for the Sears space, which is 72,084 square feet.

“Malls are evolving and changing so I’m not really sure what that is going to end up looking like a year from now,” Nelson said. “It could be any use.”

Sears has closed hundreds of stores in the past few years. The company was bought out of bankruptcy in February by Transform Holdco. But Transform Holdco said it had faced a difficult retail environment and other challenges. The holding company called the closure of the 96 Sears and Kmart stores a “difficult but necessary decision to streamline our operations.’’

After this latest round of closures, Transform Holdco will operate 182 Sears and Kmart stores.

Employees at the Winchester Sears were not allowed to talk to the media, and the company’s media contact did not return calls.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores have faced intense competition in recent years from online shopping options. According to commercial real estate firm CoStar, retailers closed a record 102 million square feet of store space in 2017, then beat that record by closing another 155 million square feet in 2018.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

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