Business

Sears will close multiple NC stores after filing for bankruptcy

Posted October 15, 2018 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2018 12:28 p.m. EDT

— As the company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Sears will be closing more than 142 stores across the country. Two of those stores are in our area, one in Goldsboro and the other in Fayetteville.

Sears was once among America's most iconic retailers, selling everything from houses to clothing. One of its most popular items has been Toughskins, a brand of jeans for children.

"As a kid, everyone would talk about Toughskins from Sears," said Tammy Duke of Butner, who wore the jeans as a child. They were sold with a guarantee that kids would grow out of them before the pants wore out.

For Tony Landi, raised in small-town Mebane, Sears was the go-to store.

"I remember getting clothes and Toughskins, things like that," Landi said.

Now it's more of a has-been.

"Growing up here, it was one of the few stores that I really remembered," he said. "I mean, it was the first one I knew about that was big and kind of seemed to have everything you could think of."

Sears has even sold homes.

Back between the two world wars, the Sears catalog sold kits for building houses. They'd arrive on a train in 12,000 pieces, with instructions included, at a cost of about $2,000. The new homeowner would hire a contractor to put it all together. You can still see Sears kit houses in Raleigh's old neighborhoods, like Mordecai.

But the landscape of American retail changed as Wal-Mart and online sales moved in. Economist Steve Horwitz of Ball State University says Sears didn't adjust.

"How do you deal with an age of internet commerce?" Horwitz asked. "Sears never quite established a distinct identity there. They really couldn't compete with the cheaper stores, right? They couldn't compete with the upscale stores. And they never had the specialty of a Best Buy or something like that."

It is possible that Sears could survive by downsizing the amount of merchandise they sell.

"Some of the things Sears is best known for – appliances, say – they could be able to carve out a niche that way," Horwitz said.

The Triangle still has several Sears locations, including two in Durham and one in Raleigh at Triangle Town Center.

At its peak, Sears had more than 4,000 stores. After these closures, it will be down to about 500.