The city's Kmart store is one of 28 closures announced Thursday by Sears Holdings Corporation, which oversees Kmart operations.

MASSILLON  A national, big-box retailer's downsizing effort has trickled down to impact a city department store — and the customers who shop there.

Sears Holdings Corporation, the parent company of Kmart, announced Thursday that it will close 28 Kmart department stores later this year, including the Massillon location at 2600 Lincoln Way E. According to a news release from the company, the city's store is scheduled to close in mid-November.

Liquidation sales could start as early as Aug. 31, the release states.

Carol Boudrie, a Perry Township resident, was walking into the Massillon store Thursday afternoon and appeared somewhat surprised by the development. She said she occasionally shops at Kmart for "good deals" on clothes, in addition to doing some Christmas shopping in November and December.

"I'm sad. I come here periodically, maybe twice a month," said Boudrie. "It (the closing) is probably due to all the online shopping people do now."

Sears and Kmart seem to be facing many of the same financial challenges that Kohl's, Macy's, JCPenny and other retailers have — intense competition from online sellers, such as Amazon.com and a revamped Walmart site, which has upped its online shopping efforts within the last year.

Another shopper appeared not to be surprised by the closure announcement, citing additional product options, as well as a more modern store layout and display at other retailers, such as Target and Walmart.

"I thought it was inevitable. They (Kmart) just don't have the foot traffic here," said the woman, who resides in Massillon but declined to give her name.

Overall, Sears Holdings now has 1,250 stores in the U.S. — 650 of which are under the banner of Sears, while 610 are Kmart stores, according to an Associated Press report. Last year, Sears was at 709 locations, while Kmart had 883.

Massillon store manager Ray Provenzale referred all inquiries on the store closing to the Sears corporate office in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Howard Riefs, director of Corporate Communications for Sears, responded Thursday via email to a phone message left by The Independent. Eligible Kmart employees, he said, "will receive severance pay and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears and Kmart stores."

He declined to say how many employees the Massillon store has.

Kmart leases the facility at 2600 Lincoln Way E, Riefs said. The owner of the building and property is Daniel G. Kamin Massillon LLC, according to the Stark County Auditor's website.

David Maley, the city's economic development director, said a plan could be initialized to repurpose the Kmart property.

"We don't want to leave that space vacant," said Maley, adding that he was not surprised by the upcoming Kmart closure. "We're sorry to see them leave. I'm not sure how the store was doing."

Ted Herncane, president of the Massillon WestStark Chamber of Commerce, acknowledged that he was not shocked by the store's closing.

"Every year, Kmart closes several locations, and ours always seemed to survive," he said. "Sadly, I guess the time has come for our Massillon store."

Kmart Express gas station, located in the southeast corner of the Massillon store's parking lot, has already shut down. A sign in the window of the cashier's facility read, "We are permanently closed, thank you for your business. - Express workers."

Reach Steven at 330-775-1134 or at steven.grazier@indeonline.com.
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