Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will be shuttering over 100 more stores — including Kmarts in Butte and Helena. Expected closure is early April.
A spokesman for the Butte Kmart, 3300 Harrison Ave., declined to comment when contacted Thursday afternoon by The Montana Standard.
Staff at the Helena store, 1700 Cedar St., also declined to comment when reached by The Independent Record Thursday.
The land and building occupied by the Helena location are owned by the Mihelish Family Trust, said property manager Gary Mihelish. The store opened in 1974 and was expanded about 25 years ago, he said.
Though Mihelish said the closure was "generally expected," he was surprised the company didn't finish out the last two years of its lease of the Helena property.
"We'll be talking to potential prospects in the next week. There have been some parties that showed interest in the past, but I couldn't do anything because Kmart had the lease," he said. "Hopefully we can attract some new business to the area and revitalize the neighborhood."
Joe Willauer, executive director of the Butte Local Development Corporation, said the Kmart announcement is distressing, primarily because of the jobs that will be lost.
“That’s the biggest thing, we hate to see jobs go away,” Willauer said.
He noted too that Butte does not have many big-box retailers and that the Kmart closing is a loss for consumers who appreciate that shopping option.
He said Butte Local Development Corporation is “working incredibly hard to bring jobs to Butte” and noted that Montana Precision Products is actively recruiting.
The number of employees losing their jobs in Butte and Helena was not available.
According to Sears Holdings, the company "continues its strategic assessment of the productivity of our Kmart and Sears store base and will continue to right-size our store footprint in number and size. In the process, as previously announced, we will continue to close some unprofitable stores as we transform our business model so that our physical store footprint and our digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members."
The company on Thursday informed associates at 64 Kmart stores and 39 Sears stores that "we will be closing these stores between early March and early April 2018."
Eligible associates impacted by these store closures will receive severance and will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores. Liquidation sales will begin as early as Jan. 12 at these closing stores.
The company is also closing Sears stores in Coeur d'Alene and Twin Falls, Idaho.
Last year, Sears announced it was closing Kmart stores in Glendive and Great Falls. One of Billings's Kmarts was closed in 2016. Kmarts in Bozeman and Missoula have also closed in the past few years.