(WMC TV) - Sears Holdings announced Tuesday it will close 100-120 Sears and Kmart full-line stores due to lackluster earnings and sluggish holiday sales.
"Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model," said Sears Holdings CEO Lou D'Ambrosio in a statement on the company's web site. "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."
A Sears Holdings spokesperson refused to speculate which, if any, Sears or Kmart stores in the Mid-South will close. Instead, Action News 5 was advised to monitor closure updates on this web page: www.searsmedia.com.
Dustin Moore, general manager of the Kmart at 3201 Austin Peay in Raleigh, said his store would remain open.
"I know for a fact that I'm not closing," he said.
For those stores that may be closing, consumers should be assured that their purchases are protected within the stores' posted return policies, at least within the time the stores have left. Tennessee law requires them to honor whatever refund policies they have in place as long as they're serving the public.
In other situations, consumers should be prepared for the possibility of liquidation sales, or "going-out-of-business" sales.
If a store's holding a liquidation sale in Shelby County, it must have a permit from the Shelby County Clerk's Office (http://www.shelbycountytn.gov/FirstPortal/dotShowDoc/Government/ElectedOfficials/clerk_index.htm).
"They have to have a permit," said Nancy Crawford, communications director for the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South (www.midsouth.bbb.org). "The permit is good for 30 days. They can renew the permit up to three times, but they can only advertise it for 90 days."
The exception is if a bankruptcy court ordered the sale as a part of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 proceeding. In such a case, the sale is referred to as a "closing sale," which does not require a permit.
Here are some things you should be aware of while shopping liquidation, going-out-of-business or closing sales:
* ALL SALES ARE FINAL. Most liquidation sales do not allow returns, period. That policy should be posted clearly at the store, as well as on your purchase receipt.
* WAIT UNTIL THE FOURTH WEEK OF THE SALE. Sue Goldstein, founder of The Underground Shopper (www.undergroundshopper.com), said liquidation sales run between six and 12 weeks -- and the bargain prices start rolling about the fourth week. By that time, prices have fallen well below the manufacturers' suggested retail prices, and there's still some decent stuff.
* EXPECT NO HELP FROM SALESPEOPLE. They're losing their jobs. They can't lower the prices. You are on your own.
* MAKE SURE THE PRICE TAGS LOOK THE SAME. Sometimes, liquidators will add left-over merchandise from another going-out-of-business sale to the current store's stock -- and they leave the price tags from the previous sale on them! Those left-overs could be broken or reconditioned stuff.
* USE YOUR PHONE AS A PRICE-CHECKER. If you have a smart phone, you can check the prices at a liquidation sale against online sales. Google the product's name and model number - or use a sales app like Pic2Shop. See if there's a better price somewhere else on the web.
* BUY ONLY SMALL TICKET ITEMS OR APPLIANCES/ELECTRONICS WITH SOLID MANUFACTURERS WARRANTIES. "If they have something that is broken, they might be able to go through a manufacturer's warranty rather than the retailer (who's going out of business)," said Crawford.
* BEWARE GIFT CARD RESTRICTIONS. If you're holding a gift card from a retailer that has either filed bankruptcy or launched a liquidation sale, redeem it immediately. Be prepared to be told that it may have expired, but ask the retailer to prove the expiration date.
"Since Sears and K-Mart are not going out of business but merely closing some stores, consumers should have options of redeeming their gift cards either on-line or at other locations that remain open," said Gary W. Cordell, director of the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.
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