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Grand Forks Sears location to close in September

A shopper enters the Sears store in Grand Forks Thursday, May 31. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Sears Holdings announced Thursday it’s closing 63 stores across the country -- including the Grand Forks Sears at Columbia Mall.

The store is scheduled to close by September with liquidation sales starting in June, according to a press release Thursday afternoon. In an earlier release Sears Holdings posted Thursday morning, the company said it was closing 72 stores. Sears adjusted the number after pulling “a small group of stores from the closing list” as “they are being evaluated further.”

Sears Holdings informed the affected stores Thursday morning. Managers at the Grand Forks Sears weren’t available for comment.

Sears opened its 108,000-square-foot anchor store at Columbia Mall in 2000. Long before that, there was a Sears downtown and later one at the Grand Cities Mall, where the Grand Forks Kmart is now.

Although Sears Holdings, which also owns the Kmart chain, also announced several Kmart closings, the Grand Forks site is safe for now.

The loss of Sears is one of several recent closings at Grand Forks’ Columbia Mall. In March 2017, Macy’s closed its anchor store there and sold the space to a California property management company. In May, a Yankee Candle store closed and a Rue 21 will close in June.

“It’s nothing that’s fundamentally wrong with Grand Forks,” Keith Lund, president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., said. Retail stores are closing everywhere as more people shop online.

Traditionally, Grand Forks has been a retail destination for Canadians and other shoppers from the region. As internet shopping overshadows that, Lund said one option for shopping malls is to attract experience-based retail businesses, or businesses that offer a service shoppers can’t get online.

The head of the local Chamber, Barry Wilfahrt, agreed, listing the East Grand Forks Mall as a prime example for its movie theater.

“They probably didn’t know it at the time, but that movie theater really was an anchor,” Wilfahrt said.

Sears said sales dropped 30 percent in the most recent quarter, leading to a loss of $424 million. Sales have fallen for more than six straight years despite efforts to revamp stores.

After the latest closings, there will be about 820 Sears and Kmart stores, down from about 2,000 locations five years ago.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.