Bargain-hungry customers lined up Sunday morning outside Sears’ flagship store in the Loop as if it was Black Friday.
There were plenty of deals to be had, to be sure. But many customers were somber even as they picked the shelves clean, knowing that Sears – whose name once adorned the city’s tallest skyscraper – would be closing the downtown store for good.
“You associate Sears with Chicago like you do Marshall Fields,” said Yavonna Hodge, of the Avalon Park neighborhood, referring to the iconic former Chicago retailer, which was acquired by Macy’s nearly a decade ago. “Pretty soon Sears won’t be in Chicago, either. It’s the end of an era.”
While Hodge was sentimental about the store closure, she was also excited to pick up some new bedding at bargain basement prices – slashed between 50 and 80 percent throughout the store.
Hoffman Estates-based Sears, already reeling from years of sales declines and worsening financials, ultimately decided it could no longer continue to support the location’s millions in losses, the company previously said.
The store started liquidating merchandise in January, when the company announced it would be closing the location.
On Sunday, shortly after the doors opened at 11 a.m., what was left on the shelves was snatched up, with little left by early afternoon. Those lucky enough to score something good waited in long lines.
“In three seconds everything was gone, said Juan Reyes Jr., 43, of Canaryville. Still, Reyes was able to find a Craftsman wrench in the tools section and some clothes for his daughter – a total cost of about $10, he said.
Meanwhile, workers on the store’s upper levels were already disassembling display cases.
Scanning a bare tool shelf, 35-year-old Joe Tomasello, of Rogers Park, said he waited for the last day to go shopping – hoping to get a better price.
“As you can see, the walls are quite bare,” said Tomasello, who added that he worked at a suburban Sears store in college.
The company has said many of the store’s 160 retail employees will be out of work – though they can apply for jobs at other Sears or Kmart stores. Chicago Public Schools will eventually move their administrative offices into much of the store’s retail space.
Another 150 employees who work in e-commerce and information technology will remain on the fourth floor of the building at 2 N. State St.
Gone with the retail jobs, though, is the organic experience of walking into a store and making a purchase, said Tomasello.
“It’s a different company. They are trying to be leaner and make the company more competitive in the e-commerce arena,” Tomasello said. But you lose the ability to “look at it – feel it – try it on, before you buy it.”
“For some people it’s going to be quite missed,” he said.