Sears has listed 505 stores it hopes will stay open. Springfield made the cut. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Springfield Sears could survive bankruptcy

The Springfield Sears is one of more than 500 locations the store’s owners hope a buyer will keep open, but a local official says the store isn’t driving the traffic the city needs from the space.

In a court document filed last week, Sears announced 505 stores it hopes a buyer will keep open. Among that list were 17 Ohio Kmart and Sears stores, including Springfield’s Sears, one in Cincinnati and two near Columbus. The chain is currently looking for bidders in bankruptcy court to take over the 505 “go forward” stores.

The Clark County Land Reutilization Corporation bought 40 acres at the mall for slightly more than $3 million earlier this year and has been working with a private developer to find ways to revive the mall space. Executive director Tom Hale said he’s been in contact with Sears for months and up until October, when they stopped returning his calls, they said the store would not close.

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Other regional stores are already slated to close. The Dayton Mall store in Miami Twp. shuttered earlier this week, and the company plans to shut down the Mall at Fairfield Commons store in Beavercreak in December, followed by the Piqua store in February. In total, the company has announced more than 228 store closures since this summer.

“Sears like many of those kind of chain stores are facing increased competition from online retailers and a lot of brick and mortar stores are having a hard time making it,” said Bill Even, economics professor at Miami University. “The things that people used to get at Sears they can get fairly easily online.”

But Sears likely decided to keep Springfield because it owns the space and nearly 13 acres at the Upper Valley Mall, said German Twp. planning and zoning director George Degenhart.

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Sears leases most of its properties from malls themselves or Seritage Growth Properties, the real estate investment company spun off from Sears Holdings in 2015.

“Some of the stores that they closed probably drive more traffic than we do,” Degenhart said. “This is a property management decision, not a retail decision.”

Sears also has very little competition, being the only remaining anchor at the Upper Valley Mall. Sears’ partnership to install tires shoppers buy on Amazon has also seen some success across the nation, including Springfield’s Auto Center.

But if Sears Holding Corp. does find a bidder to take over the Springfield store, it could limit the options for future development that would make the property better for the community. But all opportunities are still on the table, Degenhart said.

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“We hope they’re successful. We hope they go along with the new plan whatever it may be. No one’s ever really asked them to leave. We just wanted always a decision…and apparently right now they’re staying,” Hale said, adding that Sears could greatly benefit from the development if they’re willing to go along with it.

The city is considering all options, Degenhart said, including reusing the mall buildings or tearing it down and starting again. He said he wants to space to be a gathering place for the area where everyone can find something they want to do.

“If we can drive traffic, everything else will take care of itself,” he said. “If you’ve got a music venue or a sports venue, if that brings people, it will even drive retail again,” Degenhart said.

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