Costa Mesa’s Sears store, an anchor tenant at South Coast Plaza since the center opened more than 50 years ago, is among the stores that Sears’ parent company will shutter as part of its bankruptcy filing announced this week.
In the latest sign of troubled times for the former retail titan, Sears Holdings Corp. — which also owns the Kmart chain — said Sunday that it would file for Chapter 11 reorganization and revealed plans to close more than 140 Sears and Kmart locations, including the branch at 3333 Bristol St. in Costa Mesa.
“As part of Sears Holdings’ processes to accelerate strategic transformation and facilitate financial restructuring, the company will close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of the year,” according to a company statement. “Liquidation sales at these stores are expected to begin shortly.”
A Sears Holdings spokesman could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday afternoon.
Debra Gunn Downing, South Coast Plaza’s executive director of marketing, said the center “does not comment on matters pertaining to its tenants.”
On Tuesday, there were no apparent signs that the Sears at South Coast Plaza would soon close for good. A steady stream of shoppers wandered in and out, perusing stands of appliances, clothes and tools. A few stopped momentarily to examine a cluster of decorated Christmas trees for sale — perhaps unaware that the store might not make it to the holiday.
Whispers of the announcement were here and there. A couple wondered aloud whether the store’s omnipresent “sale” tags were a result of the bankruptcy. Another shopper chatted with a sales associate about when the closure might occur.
The news spread quickly on social media too, with residents either lamenting the iconic brand’s rocky times or shrugging off the chain’s struggles as a sign of the internet’s prominence in the retail landscape.
Sears’ interest in opening a store in Costa Mesa in the 1960s marked “a crucial turning point” and helped inspire “the [Segerstrom] family’s first steps toward the development of what they, their architects and planners described as an ‘urban center,’ ” according to “South Coast Plaza,” a 50th-anniversary book detailing the shopping center’s history.
As the book tells it, John Wadham — then a real estate manager for Sears — met with Henry Segerstrom in 1962 to see whether the family “would be interested in working with Sears to build a new center” on its farmland.
Sears then asked May Co., a now-defunct department store chain, to join in the endeavor, according to the book. The two were anchors of South Coast Plaza when it opened in 1967.
“The Segerstrom family negotiated the sale of the land to the department stores for $1 each in exchange for the companies underwriting much of the street and infrastructure improvements, which became crucial to South Coast Plaza’s success,” the book states.
However, South Coast Plaza owner C.J. Segerstrom & Sons bought back the Sears space last year in a reported $187-million deal, according to the Orange County Business Journal. Sears remained as a tenant.