Santa Barbara residents react to the closing of Sears
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Once the dominant retailer in the United States, Sears department store is saying goodbye after 52 years in Santa Barbara. The company’s fiscal per year dropped from $36.2 billion in 2013 to just $16.7 billion in 2017. Santa Barbara residents have been aware of the closing of 120 Sears and Kmart stores since the beginning of December. However, it came as a surprise that Santa Barbara’s very own location was on the list. From its opening in 1967 to its close just a week ago, the residents of Santa Barbara have relied heavily on the Sears department store. For many residents, Sears served as an easy way to enjoy mail-order shopping. Many local customers viewed the store as the Amazon of its time. But American consumerism continues to shift toward the convenience of online shopping. Others wonder if Target’s estimated open on April 7th has played a part in Sears closing.
The Santa Barbara community continues to question how this new gap in the retail world will be filled. The community responded to the Sears closure by placing blame on the online competitors and drastic changes in the world of consumerism and desire. In the past year there has been citywide buzz about Target moving to Santa Barbara. The Independent describes the new store to “be apart of its ‘next generation’ design.” The Target will come with new enhancements, such as pick-up orders, nursing rooms, and “drive-thrus.” Although it is moving into a 34,000 square foot space on the corner of La Cumbre Plaza and State Street, largely smaller than the other Targets along the coast, some think that it will be a popular competitor in the retail world. Santa Barbara residents question if Target will close the new gap in retail following Sears closure.
During the process, Sears employees were offered the opportunity to transfer to other Sears locations in Santa Paula, Santa Maria, and Ventura or the option of a severance package, according to the Independent.
Even as sale prices began rising as high as 90 percent and the store’s first floor began to increase in vacancy, the reality of the shutdown shocked eager customers on the morning of January 27th. The Independent released details regarding the day of its closure that customers crowded around the store, rattling building doors only to find them locked. Sears released a statement on their website accompanied with a detailed list of the forty stores joining the shutdown. The statement explains their closure as a way “to accelerate its strategic transformation and facilitate its financial restructuring.” Regarding the drastic decline in sales at Sears, spectators are surprised the 123-year-old company did not file bankruptcy sooner. After Sears filed chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall, some customers claim that they saw this coming for a long time. Other contributing factors discussed by analysts were its poor appearance and lack of quality service.
Amazon is also spreading the word opening a store on State Street in the Saks on Fifth Avenue space. Amazon seems fit to be a strong competitor since many Sears executives and customers speculate the increase in popularity of Amazon as a rising reason for final Sears shutdown, writes the Independent. Sears closing its stores is causing consumers in the West to question how their spending habits and economy affect the retail world. Santa Barbara is one example of a city questioning the changes in Western consumerism and the rise of online shopping. That being said, residents are realizing the impact of online shopping following the shutdown of an iconic department store in Santa Barbara.