Shutdown of Kmart in Sikeston is reported

Saturday, February 16, 2002

A Detroit, Mich., newspaper is reporting that the Sikeston Kmart is one of 291 stores in the country that will be closed as part of the company's attempt to emerge from bankruptcy as a more financially viable discount store.

The media relations department for Kmart, which is headquartered in Troy, Mich., did not return phone calls about the list, which ran in Friday's Detroit Free Press.

Sikeston's Kmart store manager John Willems declined to comment, but Kmart's Web site said that it is "premature" to discuss store closings.

"When Kmart has information about store closures," the site says, "the company will inform its associates and then make a public comment."

The Sikeston Kmart is located at 1110 S. Main. The list includes only one other Missouri store in Gladstone. Although most of the stores on the list are in smaller communities, the group includes Buffalo, N.Y., Orlando, Fla., Oklahoma City and Dallas.

Kmart has said it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in 2003 and is undergoing a restructuring. Analysts have said Kmart needs to close about 300 poorly performing stores.

Those who work in economic development in Sikeston said they hope the list is inaccurate and the store, which employs 72 people, will remain open.

"We were told the decision was not going to be made until sometime in mid-March," said Bill Green, the director of Sikeston's Department of Economic Development.

But Green said if the report is true, it would be a big blow to the retail district, the labor force and kill a major source of sales tax revenue. All of those things are hard to come by, he said.

"It's very difficult to recruit businesses to the community," Green said. "Of course we are very concerned if one of them closes."

Green said he had hoped that because the Kmart store was relatively new -- it opened 10 years ago -- it would be insulated from the closures.

"I understand there clearly will be some stores closed," he said. "I was just hopeful ours would survive it, and I am still hopeful that the rumors that are circulating are not true."

Missy Marshall, the executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Kmart is located in a "glowing retail section" of Sikeston. She said she has heard from a Kmart source that the Sikeston Kmart had better holiday sales than Kmarts in Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.

"I'd hate to see Kmart lose an opportunity," she said. "And it would hurt. It would hurt any community."

Kmart, known for its Blue Light Special and discount prices, filed bankruptcy on Jan 22, becoming the largest retailer to declare for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Kmart has about 275,000 employees for its 2,114 stores in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. The No. 3 discount retailer -- behind Wal-Mart and Target -- has struggled in the fiercely competitive market.

But Marshall said Kmart has a loyal clientele that comes from all over the area to shop.

"Sikeston really has become a retail hub for the southern part of the Bootheel," she said. "I really hope Kmart can be a part of it."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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