Lights out at Sears: Bend store to close this year

Store opened in 1980, to close in mid-December; 48 workers hit

BEND, Ore. - The Sears store and auto center at Bend River Promenade, a shopping fixture on the High Desert for decades, is closing to the public in mid-December, the struggling retail giant announced Tuesday.

The store will begin its liquidation sale on Friday, said Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications for Sears Holdings. The store's 48 employees were notified of the decision on Monday.

The retailer's recent string of "store closures are part of a series of actions we're taking to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model," Riefs said.

"These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail -- at the store, online and in the home," he added.

Bend's first full-sized Sears store arrived when the new Bend River Mall opened in April 1980.

Before that, there was a Sears Roebuck catalog store on Wall Street in downtown Bend from at least 1954 through 1967, when it moved to the "Bend Plaza," then later for a brief time to a spot on NE Greenwood Avenue near Third Street, said Kelly Cannon-Miller, executive director of the Des Chutes Historical Museum.

Rita Bowne, who manages Bend River Promenade and three other Northwest malls for the Los Angeles-based owners, said the news of the store's closing did not come as a shock.

"Oh no, it wasn't a surprise," Bowne told NewsChannel 21. While she is not privy to the Bend Sears store's sales figures, she (like many observers) had a sense that business at the store had slowed in recent years.

"We are looking for new tenants," Bowne said, adding that there are some possible tenants they are in discussion with -- "I can't tell you who."

The store covers just over 63,000 square feet. "It's a decent space," Bowne said. "Odds are it'll be divided, but it's a good opportunity and a prime location."

Riefs said all Sears warranties will continue to be honored. "We will continue to have the same product repair fleet to attend to those products that are under a service protection agreement," he explained.

As most American shoppers know, Sears has been in a struggle for years, closing hundreds of stores across the country to tighten its belt amid the surge in business for low-cost retailers like Walmart and Target, as well as Macy's and Kohls - not to mention online retailers.

The other remaining general-line department store, JCPenney, also has been trying to find a winning new strategy in the changing retail landscape.

Smaller Sears "Hometown Stores," operated by a different firm, remain open in Madras, Redmond and Prineville, carrying appliances, tools, consumer electronics and other items.

We'll have some Bend shoppers' reaction to the news tonight on NewsChannel 21 at 5, 6, 10 and 11.

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