CHAMPAIGN — Sears will close its store and auto center at Champaign's Market Place Mall in January, a company spokesman said Friday.
The store began a liquidation sale Friday, advertising discounts on all merchandise.
Sears, which has had a store in Champaign for 85 years, employs 56 at Market Place, said Howard Riefs, a spokesman for Sears Holdings Corp.
"They will have an opportunity to apply for positions at other Kmart and Sears stores," he stated in an email. "Eligible employees will receive severance."
The shutdown comes as no surprise. Sears announced in February 2012 that it would close the store sometime in 2013.
That announcement came after Sears arranged the transfer of rights to that location and 10 other Sears locations to General Growth Properties, which owns Market Place Mall and other malls throughout the country.
"The store closures are part of a series of actions we're taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model," Riefs said.
"These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail — at the store, online and in the home."
Riefs said there are no plans to open another area store.
Once Sears closes in Champaign, local shoppers wanting to visit a Sears store will have to go to Danville's Village Mall, Mattoon's Cross County Mall, Bloomington's Eastland Mall, Forsyth's Hickory Point Mall or farther.
The Sears store at Market Place occupies 150,932 square feet, said Dennis Robertson, general manager of Market Place Shopping Center. He said plans for the Sears space are still being negotiated by General Growth Properties.
The Sears store at Market Place formally opened on Oct. 15, 1975, with about 400 employees. Before moving to Market Place, Sears was located on North Hickory Street in downtown Champaign.
According to a 1950 article in The News-Gazette, Sears opened its local store on Nov. 18, 1928 — only three years after Sears moved into retailing. Before that, Sears, Roebuck & Co. had been a mail-order firm.
As of Feb. 2, 2013, Sears Holdings Corp. operated 788 full-line Sears stores, according to the company's annual report. However, Sears has sold off several properties this year to generate cash.