SIKESTON - After weeks of rumors and speculations, the Kmart Corp. officially announced Friday that the Sikeston Kmart, along with 283 other Kmart stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico, will be closing.
"I really hate to see that [Kmart close]," Kmart shopper Ellen Bryan, of Benton, said. "I've done a lot of shopping here, and it's so easy to find what I'm looking for."
Like Bryan, many shoppers across the nation will have to find a new place to meet their shopping needs. Kmart Corp., headquartered in Troy, Mich., released the list of closings Friday morning. The nationwide store closings include 271 Kmart discount stores, 12 Kmart Supercenters and 1 store in Puerto Rico. Two other Missouri stores will be closing, which are in Gladstone and St. Peters.
Kmart Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 22, stated that the reason behind the store closures was unmet financial requirements with Kmart's reorganization plan. Missy Marshall, Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, was given more information about Sikeston Kmart's closing.
"I was told by a representative at Kmart's corporate office that the building rent and lease agreements were a major factor in the decisions being made on what stores to close," Marshall said. "The chamber worked with the city and an area developer in trying to sway Kmart's decision. Unfortunately, it didn't work."
Sikeston Kmart management refused to comment on the closing; however, one employee did say that the store is expected to close in 60 days. The employee also said Sikeston Kmart employees didn't find out about the closing until Friday morning.
Kmart is the nation's third biggest discount retailer after Wal-Mart and Target. In a statement, Kmart Corp. said the store closures will enhance the company's operational and financial performance. Kmart said it expects to save approximately $550 million in 2002 and $45 million each year after that. Currently, Kmart operates 2,100 stores nationwide.
"It is, of course, a big loss for the Sikeston area to lose our Kmart," Marshall said. "It is a big loss for all the communities losing their Kmart stores." Marshall admitted she hated that Kmart is not going to be a part of the expansion taking place in the area. They are leaving just as Sikeston's business community is growing, she added.
It's important for the Sikeston area to have a variety of stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc. available not just for Sikeston and Miner residents, but available to residents from Dexter, Charleston, East Prairie, New Madrid and so on, Marshall said. The Sikeston area has grown in the last few years as a service retail and healthcare hub, she said. The more Sikeston has to offer, the more people that travel to spend their money, she explained.
Sikeston's Kmart facility is not owned by Kmart Corp., Doug Friend, Sikeston's city manager, said. It is owned by a group of Florida investors. Approximately three weeks, ago, the city was contacted by a real estate broker from Philadelphia who has been retained by the owners in anticipation of Friday's announcement, Friend stated. The city hopes to cooperate with all interested parties in their efforts to have the store continue as a retail facility, he said.
The store closings will result in the loss of 22,000 jobs. "We express our heartfelt concerns to the employees of Kmart who are now experiencing the anxiety of job loss," Friend said. "I have requested that the city's director of economic development begin a dialogue with the Kmart Company and the store's owners to learn more about the company's plans for continued operations of the store."
Friend added that the City of Sikeston will participate in any reasonable manner they can to soften the economic hardship of those directly affected by the decision to close the Sikeston Kmart.
Marshall said the Sikeston Kmart has been a good chamber member, and the chamber will really miss them. They have been really supportive of the chamber's many programs and events, she said.
"We wish all the employees well," Marshall said. "And we hope we can have a new business in that location real soon creating new jobs and revenue for the area."