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April 20, 2018

Sears in Warrenton will close in mid-July

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
This is not unique to Warrenton. This is happening to Sears stores all over the country; they’ve been bleeding money, from what I’ve heard.
— Town Councilman Bob Kravetz
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Staff Journalist
The Sears store in Warrenton will close this summer, a company spokesman confirmed Friday morning.

“We are making the difficult, but necessary, decision to close the Sears store in Warrenton,” Sears Holdings representative Howard Riefs said in a prepared statement. “The store will close to the public in mid-July . . . . Until then, it will remain open for customers.

“The store will begin its liquidation sale on April 27. We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced. This is not an effort solely aimed at cost savings but is part of a strategy we’ have been executing against as many of our larger stores are too big for our needs.”

Local customers and business and government leaders for several years have speculated about the store’s continued operation as the once-mighty retailer closed other locations around the county in an effort to remain afloat. The rapid rise of online shopping has hammered dozens of major retail companies.

“I’m not sure it’s that big of a blow, because Sears has been floundering for years,” Town Councilman Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) said of the planned closure. “Many times that I’ve been in there, I’ve been one of the few people in the store.”

“This is not unique to Warrenton,” Mr. Kravetz added. “This is happening to Sears stores all over the country; they’ve been bleeding money, from what I’ve heard.”

Founded in 1886, Sears operates one of Fauquier County’s largest stores in the Warrenton Village shopping center. The building’s size required a Warrenton Board of Zoning Appeals variance to fit on its site, the only property in the shopping center that the Weissberg Corp. does not own.

The single-story, 96,000-square-foot building opened as a Kmart in 1996. Nine years later, Sears purchased Kmart, shut many of underperforming stores and rebranding others throughout the country.

In 2005, the Chicago-based retail giant converted the Warrenton store to a Sears.

For tax purposes, the county values the building and 8.8-acre commercial site at $10.3 million.

About two months ago, Warrenton Community Development Director Brandie Schaeffer and Economic Development Director Tom Wisemiller met at Town Hall with representatives of property owner Seritage SRC Finance LLC, based in Manhattan.

“They just wanted to talk about the general planning of the site,” Mr. Wisemiller said Friday. “They were exploring their options — what they could do with the land, what they could do with the building.”

The Seritage representatives didn’t discuss how the building might be reused or potential tenants, he said. “As far as I know, they don’t have a site plan or a proposal in the pipeline.”

Under one scenario, Seritage hopes to rent to the building to multiple users, Councilman Kravetz said.

“From what I’ve heard, they’re thinking about dividing it into smaller (spaces) to lease to other retail operations,” he said.

The latest round of Sears and Kmart closings will leave the retail company with 940 stores, down from just more than 3,500 six years ago.

Although seldom busy, the Warrenton store continues to attract customers, particularly because of its Lands End clothing, Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools.

The stores approximately 20 employees will be offered jobs elsewhere with the company.

“Having fewer stores – and the right format – will help us bring Sears Holdings to a size and place to meet the realities of the changing retail world,” Mr. Riefs said. “We understand that members may be disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform, websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes its doors. As a result, we hope to retain a portion of the sales previously associated with this store by maintaining our relationships with the members who shopped this location.”

Editor Lawrence Emerson contributed to this report.
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Sven622 · April 24, 2018 at 3:34 pm
Library? If we put the library in there it would be even more deserted than Sears is.
Rover 530 · April 20, 2018 at 11:26 pm
It's sad that this site of an American icon is closing in our home town. Benn a loyal customer for several decades.

I agree this building could be repurposed for the new library. Lots of space. Centrally located in the county. Lots of parking. Would save the county millions of dollars. What's not to like?

Recreationally, this space can also be used as a new bowling alley. A lot of bowling dollars has been flowing to Pr. William and Culpeper every week since our outdated bowling alley ceased to operate.

The town could possibly use some of the space for their council meetings and other activities.

The owners of the property would naturally determine how their property would be used but I believe they have a lot of choices and so do our local governments and potential entrepreneurs.

A lot to think about for the community.
BJ · April 20, 2018 at 8:36 pm
Slow and Sad death for this company. Lots of parking for a library, great location. No need to build another one. Have a drop off box in Old Towne for book, etc. returns.
AngryBob - I don't get it either how executives can take huge bonuses when the ship is sinking.
AngryBob · April 20, 2018 at 10:15 am
Years ago Sears was my go-to place for everything, from clothes to tools to appliances. Then it became K-Mart clothes and garbage Chinese tools and I've never been back. Looks like nobody else has either.

Such a sad end to a previously great company. And to think that a bunch of executives took huge bonuses while ruining it.
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