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Fargo KMart escapes latest round of store closures

Fargo's last remaining KMart at 2301 University Drive S. has escaped the latest round of store closures. Forum file photo

FARGO—The last remaining KMart in Fargo-Moorhead has escaped another round of store closures. Not so lucky are Sears stores in Grand Forks and Brooklyn Center and Duluth in Minnesota.

Sears, the struggling department store chain, said Thursday, May 31, it would close another 72 Sears and Kmart stores as sales plummeted, continuing the decline of what was once the country's largest retailer.

Sears said sales dropped 30 percent in the most recent quarter, leading to a loss of $424 million. Sales have fallen for more than six straight years despite efforts to revamp stores, stock more mattresses and appliances, and partner with sites like Amazon.

After the latest closings, there will be about 820 Sears and Kmart stores, down from about 2,000 locations five years ago.

"The demise of Sears has felt like a prolonged, drip, drip, drip," said Mark Hamrick, an analyst for Bankrate.com. "By diminishing the quality of the in-store experience, Sears has basically trained consumers to avoid going inside."

On Thursday, executives said they were looking into selling the retailer's Kenmore brand of appliances, which has been one of the bright spots in the company's performance. Last year, Sears sold its Craftsman brand to Stanley Black and Decker for $900 million. Earlier this month, the retailer said it would begin selling tires on Amazon.com, where it already sells its Kenmore line of appliances, giving consumers another way to avoid its stores. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)

Sears, founded in 1893 as a mail-order business, has faced a number of hurdles in recent years as consumers increasingly shop online. Sales at Sears stores open at least one year, a closely watched industry metric, fell 13.4 percent during the most recent quarter. Same-store sales at Kmart, meanwhile, declined 9.5 percent.

The company's stock fell 11 percent to $2.86 Thursday morning. Shares are down more than 90 percent from five years ago, when they were trading at $36.83.

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