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Sears, Kmart to Close?

Corporate Officials Warn That 120 Stores Will Be Closed Nationwide

Shoppers and scores of retail employees soon will learn whether the Sears department store at Santa Barbara’s La Cumbre Plaza and the Kmart at 6865 Hollister Avenue in Goleta will close for good.

After an upbeat holiday retail season for many companies, Sears Holdings Corp. officials on December 27 said their sales sank like a stone and they will close up to 120 Kmart and Sears chain stores. Kmart and Sears have a combined 2,177 U.S. big-box locations and 500 in Canada.

Sears’ La Cumbre store manager Ted Herrell said he could not comment on whether his location will be closed. The Goleta Kmart store manager was not immediately available for comment. A list of stores to be closed soon can be seen at searsmedia.com .

In the past, Sears officials would keep “marginally performing” stores open to give them time to improve sales. But the press release announced that policy would be changing, explaining, “We no longer believe that to be the appropriate action in this environment.”

Sears also said it has used all of its available credit, with $483 million now in outstanding debt as of December 23, compared to nil last year. They said smaller fourth-quarter earnings are expected this year compared to 2010. Kmart store sales sank 4.4 percent through Christmas Day, and were down 6 percent at Sears’ U.S. stores. Company-wide, they were down 5.2 percent, officials reported.

But this comes as no surprise to industry analysts who said the store closings were anticipated because of their lackluster appearance and poor service.

The latest cutback follows Sears’ third-quarter announcement this year that it would shut 10 stores. Sears is home to such brands as Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances. It hopes to make up to $170 million by selling inventory in stores to be closed and selling or subleasing store space.

PAUL ORFALEA TO SPEAK: The founder of one of the South Coast’s most recognizable brands, Kinko’s, is scheduled to speak at the second of three Central Coast MIT Enterprise Forum sessions in the New Year.

The first forum is titled “The Robot Will See You Now: How Non-Medical Technologists Are Revolutionizing Health Care.” It will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on January 18 at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center, 1118 East Cabrillo Boulevard.

The presenter is Michael Chan of GM International and EVP Marketing, InTouch Health. Panelists include Justin J. Bellante, cofounder, president, and chief executive officer of BioIQ and Davis Brimer, founder and CEO of Active Life Scientific.

The forum’s next topic is “Effective Startup Management” from 5 to 8 p.m., February 15, at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center. The presenter and keynote speaker is Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. Panelists will be announced at a later date.

And, on March 16, 17, and 18 at Antioch University in Santa Barbara, the MIT forum will host “Start-Up Weekend,” a 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and new business enthusiasts will come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch start-ups.

To register for MIT Enterprise forum events, visit mitcentralcoast.com.

The South Coast Biz Blog is a roundup of the latest business news in the Santa Barbara area and is written by Ray Estrada, restrada_2001@yahoo.com, who has covered business in the region for numerous publications over the past couple decades. See more at independent.com/biz and wordpress.com/southcoastbizblog.

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