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The general manager of the Sears location in the Hot Springs Mall confirmed Friday that the store is closing, making it the latest casualty of the ailing giant's struggle to adapt to a shifting retail environment.

Christy Eddlemon said Friday the store will begin liquidating its inventory next week. A closing date was unknown at presstime.

"The store will still be open to the public, but we will start the sell out process next week," she said. "There's no other details to announce as of right now."

It's unclear if the announcement is part of a larger round of closings, such as the more than 140 locations Sears said it was shedding as part of its parent company's bankruptcy filing last fall. Calls and emails to the corporate communications office were not returned by presstime.

Mall General Manager Scott Green said the announcement was not a surprise given the retailer's financial difficulties, but he said the timing was sudden.

"We knew it would be coming, but we didn't know when," he said. "We thought they would be here for one or two more years. It's a positive thing for us. We have had several companies contact us about wanting to go in at an end cap. It's large enough that we could subdivide it and make it two or three stores."

Green said the mall has about a 50 percent occupancy rate. Andy Weiner, president and CEO of Rockstep Capital Opportunity Fund, the shopping center acquisition and development company that acquired the mall in a 2015 foreclosure auction, said last year that enclosed malls are recruiting nontraditional tenants to offset the flight of retailers.

He said he foresees malls as mixed-use spaces with retail tenants and tenants providing educational, medical, fitness and health and wellness services.

Green said JCPenney, the mall's other anchor tenant, is on firmer footing than the local Sears.

"They opened up a Sephora last year," he said, referring to the beauty and skin care product provider. "They generally don't do that if a store isn't doing well."

The space occupied by Dillard's is owned by Dillard's Inc. and wasn't included in Rockstep's acquisition.

Weiner has told the Garland County Board of Equalization that Sears and other anchor tenants were given favorable lease terms for helping finance the construction of the mall in the early 1980s. The long term leases require their approval before changes can be made to the mall property.

A series of equalization board rulings and mediated settlement agreements have reduced the appraised value of the mall's real property from more than $19 million prior to Rockstep's acquisition to $8.1 million.

Local on 04/27/2019

Print Headline: Local Sears outlet announces closing

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