A steady parade of customers streamed into Hillsboro’s Kmart throughout the day on Sunday, the store’s final day of operation here.
Hillsboro’s Kmart was among 45 Kmart stores and 18 Sears stores across the country that are closing by the end of January, the company announced last November.
Most of the large facility was void of merchandise Sunday afternoon, with the remaining items gathered in an area close to the checkout lanes. In addition to its retail inventory, the story has been selling many of its shelves and fixtures.
Customers who shopped Sunday were the recipients of prices slashed by as much as 90 percent. For example, an official NBA Cleveland Cavaliers long-sleeved t-shirt that retailed for about $25 rang up for less than $3, including tax, at the cash register.
Hillsboro resident and longtime Kmart shopper Maria Curtis said she was sad to see the doors close.
“This is my family,” she said, complimenting staff for their friendliness, service and courtesy through the years. She called Kmart workers “good people,” adding that her daughter had once worked there.
James Steele came with his wife from Chillicothe to look for bargains and witness a piece of retail history as the store prepared to shutter. He wondered how much longer other Kmarts, including the one in his hometown, would remain open.
Steele said the effort to combine Kmart with Sears “was OK for a little while,” but did not prove sustainable in the long run.
Emily Williams of Leesburg said she would miss buying Christmas gifts at Kmart, as well as its wide selection of baby clothes, an item mentioned by several shoppers as a store highlight. She said Kmart offered good prices compared to other stores.
Store managers said they were not allowed to speak to the media. They weren’t certain what time the doors would close Sunday, a decision apparently left to a liquidator who was scheduled to arrive later in the day.
When it announced the decision to close the Hillsboro Kmart, the company said, “Sears Holdings 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 statement added that “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.”
Hillsboro was one of five Kmarts in Ohio on the closing list.
Shortly after the Kmart closing was announced, The Times-Gazette reported that Rural King was interested in locating to the facility.
Brian Hutchins, vice-president of Business Development for Rural King, said at the time, “We have had and continue to have interest in Hillsboro. However, we have not been able to come to terms with Sears Holding Corporation on their property. Our offers have been repeatedly rejected with no meaningful feedback from them.”
Contacted again earlier this month, Hutchins said the company was still awaiting a response from Sears. He did not immediately respond to an inquiry on Monday.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @AbernathyGary.