PLEASANTVILLE – A retail tradition will end in March when the Kmart on the Black Horse Pike here closes, the victim of a poor local economy and the Walmart superstore under construction less than a mile away.
On Wednesday, Sears Holdings Corp. announced it will close 109 Kmart stores and 41 Sears locations, including the Kmart in Pleasantville and one in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township in Cape May County.
The closings will leave the store at Somers Point Plaza on New Road the only Kmart remaining in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
The Kmart has been in the Pleasantville Shopping Center, 800 E. Black Horse Pike.
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“We are taking strong, decisive actions today to stabilize the company and improve our financial flexibility in what remains a challenging retail environment,” said Edward S. Lampert, chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings. “We are committed to improving short-term operating performance in order to achieve our long-term transformation.”
Lampert said he will focus on Sears’ member loyalty program and a strategy of integrating online, mobile and in-store shopping.
“We are confident that concentrating on these key initiatives will lay the foundation for growth over the long term,” he said.
The mood was somber inside the Pleasantville Kmart Thursday morning.
“They told the employees yesterday as they came in to work,” said Charlene Bush, 61, of Pleasantville, who works in the cash office.
Bush has worked at the Pleasantville store for the past 18 months.
“I guess I can apply to work at the Somers Point location,” she said; however, the Pleasantville store is closer to her home.
“It’s minutes from where I live,” Bush said.
Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle said he heard about the closing on Wednesday, but has been expecting the news since the Walmart was approved along the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township.
Every year Kmart donated the bicycles given away at the city’s Winter Wonderland celebration, he said.
“It was more than just a business,” Tweedle said.
“When you think of a community, you think of schools, businesses and residents. They were a huge part of the equation.”
Shopper Brandi Pressley, 42, of Mays Landing said she heard about the closing Wednesday night on Facebook.
“When I buy items at Sears I get points I can use here,” she said. “I took two buses to get here. Maybe I’ll have to take three to get to Somers Point.”
Kmart managers told employees they can apply for jobs at other Kmart stores.
Tweedle said the new Walmart should be able hire most of the employees.
“We thought it would be closing,” he said. “Walmart is going to provide so many job opportunities.”
The news was a surprise Thursday, Jan. 5 to Middle Township Mayor Mike Clark.
“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” Clark said. “It’s never good when a store in Rio Grande closes. Hopefully, they’ll reconsider, but if it closes, we’ll try to get someone else in there as an anchor store.”
According to a Sears statement, stores across the country could close as early as spring, and liquidation sales are expected to begin at some stores Friday, Jan. 6.
Yet the news in Rio Grande isn’t all bad, Clark said.
“The news has always been so good as far as Rio Grande goes,” the mayor said. “We have a lot of commercial construction going on in Rio Grande.”
That construction includes a new building for the state Department of Children and Families, across from the Walmart Shopping Plaza, and an addition to the Frank Theaters in Rio Grande.
“And we just opened a new Aldi, and they hired a bunch of people,” Clark said.
Aldi opened a grocery store in Rio Grande in November.
Sears Holdings has announced the closure of several hundred Kmart and Sears locations over the past 18 months while it struggles with declining sales and challenges from other retail providers.
Also on Wednesday, Sears announced it was selling the Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $775 million and annual payments of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.
Staff writer David Benson contributed to this story.