WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) – The flag flew stiff in the wind over the main door of the Sears store in Washington, PA today as employees and customers hoped the winds of change would calm short of closing the store.
In the historic landscape of American retail, the Sears brand has been a stalwart through 126 years. The way Bob McIntrye sees it, “It was a staple in America. You used to be able to buy houses through Sears.”
Over its storied history, Sears has given flight to iconic brand names like Kenmore, Toughskins, DieHard, Allstate, Discover, and Craftsman. Sears has been a vital part of John Russell’s life, “When I was first married I bought my stove, refrigerator, washer, dryers. So it was important to me over the years.”
But as this day began it looked like the legacy was doomed. The Sears Board of Directors was expected to ask a bankruptcy judge permission to liquidate and close the remaining stores.
Former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert has offered $4.4 Billion dollars for the remainder of the company in an effort to save the 425 stores and the 50,000 jobs. After extensive negotiations, the attorney’s representing Sears told a bankruptcy judge in New York it is accepting Lampert’s offer if he can meet the conditions he has offered. The first part of that will be a $120 million dollar payment by Wednesday afternoon. There are many on the creditor side who do not like Lampert’s offer and feel liquidation is the best way to satisfy the company’s obligations. There is no guarantee they will not outbid Lampert when the assets are auctions on Monday.
Customers like Wendy Kirby aren’t ready to say goodbye to what they depend on Sears for, “Work clothes and everything. You can’t get better deals, and appliances they have everything.” Their hope, and the hope of Sears employees rest in the success of Lampert’s offer.
If those who choose to liquidate win there is no estimate on how much longer the stores will remain in operation.