As a sales associate at the Sears Hometown Store at Starkville’s University Square Shopping Center, Jimmy Glenn would like to set the record straight.
On Dec. 27, Sears Holdings announced the closings of 100 to 120 Sears stores, including the Sears at Columbus’ Leigh Mall, as well as Kmarts, which are owned by Sears Holdings. As a result, Glenn said customer after customer has come into his store asking the same question.
“At least every other person, I would say one out of three people, is asking if we’re closing too,” Glenn said.
His answer is always “no.”
The Sears Hometown Stores in Starkville and other towns are independently owned and operated, keeping them off the list of the first 80 closings Sears has announced.
Tiffany Lilley, owner of the store, said the closings are limited to Kmarts, full-line Sears stores, Grand Essentials Sears stores and “hardline” stores. While about 20 to 40 more closings remain to be announced, Lilley said the only major ties her Hometown Store has to Sears are the brand name and the merchandise, insulating her store from the company’s financial issues.
“The stuff I sell is Sears stock; it is their merchandise,” Lilley said. “I’m responsible for any bills and that kind of stuff that comes along. I have to pay my employees; I have to pay my light bill.”
Much of the Hometown Store’s stock consists of appliances, home electronics, tools and other home improvement supplies, but Lilley said she is able to order any item a full-line store has.
“Most of the time, within a week, we can have it to the customer,” Lilley said.
Press releases from Sears Holdings say a typical store being closed employs between 40 and 80 associates. Lilley said her store employs six people, including herself.
Still, Dewayne Stevens, manager of the Starkville store, said he was relieved to learn the store was not among the Sears locations closing. Both Stevens and Glenn said they hated to hear the Columbus store would be closing because of the jobs lost, but Stevens said he does hope the Starkville store will help fill the void left by the Columbus store.
“I don’t know that we’ve done a lot of deliveries (of items to homes) in Columbus,” Stevens said, “but with that store closing, I would hope that we would have more deliveries over there.”
Lilley said she believes former customers from the Columbus Sears will now come to the Starkville store. She said the Sears Hometown Store has been in Starkville several years, and she is hoping the store will remain in place for several more.
“We’ve done a lot with it and hope to be able to serve Starkville for many, many, many years to come,” Lilley said. “Sears has loyal customers. They’ll drive miles to go shop at Sears. We plan on being there to serve anybody that we can possibly help. It always is negative for stores to close, but Sears is a strong company.”