Sears to close Miller Hill Mall store, West Duluth Kmart

Like its sign at Miller Hill Mall, Sears is pretty much on the fritz nationwide. The corporation no longer even pretends to have a recovery plan.

Sears at Miller Hill Mall and Kmart at 215 N. Central Ave. in West Duluth both will close, Sears Holdings announced Thursday afternoon.

The news came one day after the infected retailer announced a dismal first quarter. They are among 48 Sears stores and 15 Kmarts to close nationwide. 

"As part of our ongoing efforts to streamline the company's operations and focus on our best stores, we have identified approximately 100 non‐profitable stores, many of which will begin store closing sales in the near future," Sears Holdings said in a prepared statement. "We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which are a critical component in our transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed and as warranted."

The company did not reveal if it has any resuscitation plans.

Eligible Duluth employees will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores, the company said. Many in the region, however, have already been closed, including two Kmarts in Duluth and individual Kmarts in Grand Rapids, Superior, Ironwood and Virginia.

Sears has cut its store count in half within the last five years, according to the publication BusinessInsider. The company had 1,002 stores as of early February, down from 1,980 stores in 2013. It closed another 103 stores in April, in addition to the 42 stores that will close by August. Today, the two chains have 894 stores compared with 3,500 when they merged in 2005, Investopedia said in a Thursday story.

In its quarterly report, released Wednesday, Sears reported a $424 million loss. A year ago, the corporation reported $245 million in net income. 

Revenues totaled $2.9 billion during the first quarter, compared with revenues of $4.2 billion in the prior year quarter, with store closures contributing to nearly two thirds of the decline, Sears Holdings reported. Total comparable store sales declined 11.9 percent during the quarter, comprised of a 9.5 percent decline at Kmart and a 13.4 percent decline at Sears.

Thursday’s announcement came barely a month after Bon Ton Stores said it couldn’t find a buyer and would be closing its retail outlets. They include the Virginia Herbergers and Younkers at Miller Hill Mall in Duluth. The Younkers at Mariner Mall in Superior closed earlier this year.

Sears and Younkers have two of the largest footprints at the Duluth mall. Sears, however, has exhibited obvious signs of decline. Shelves in some departments, for instance, were not fully stocked. It also has been open fewer hours than its mall neighbors. That's because Sears owns the space it occupies and therefore is exempt from certain rules maintained by Simon Properties, the mall's owner.

Although the demise of brick and mortar retail stores has been blamed on Amazon and other Internet companies, Sears, through its catalog, was among the first to launch the buy from home model.

Sears Holdings’ stock has dropped from $42.95 in May of 2015 to $2.81 after markets closed Thursday.