SEARS TO TAKE OVER SITE OF YONKERS WANAMAKER
Byline: Carol Emert
WASHINGTON — Continuing its expansion into the New York metro area, Sears Roebuck & Co. will take over the underperforming and costly John Wanamaker store in Yonkers, which will close on Feb. 26.
The announcement came Tuesday from Woodward & Lothrop Inc., the parent of Wanamaker. W&L, based here, has been operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since January 1994.
W&L said the closing reflected efforts to cut costs and concentrate on its four primary markets: Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Wilmington. The Yonkers unit is the only store operated by W&L in New York.
The lease on the 223,000-square-foot unit will be sold to Sears for $12.5 million, subject to approval by federal bankruptcy court in New York. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
The unit has 280 employees. Those with the store for more than two years will be eligible to receive one week’s pay for every two years of service.
Sears currently operates 31 stores in New York and New Jersey. Last week, the company said it would take over two Federated Department Store units, an Abraham & Straus store in Woodbridge, N.J., and a Stern’s department store in the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, N.Y. The units are expected to reopen as Sears stores in about six months. Sears also said last week that it is continuing discussions with Federated on some other purchases.
A W&L spokeswoman would not disclose whether the Yonkers store is profitable, but she said, “Anytime you have a store that’s a loner … the costs to support it are going to be higher than they will be for some of the other stores.”
The store is supplied by a new central distribution facility in Baltimore, the spokeswoman added. A going-out-of-business???? will begin later this month.
The closing will leave the company with 15 W&L department stores, concentrated in the D.C. area, 14 John Wanamaker stores, four home furnishings stores and three clearance centers.
W&L has held the Yonkers lease since 1954, but selling it is an option “that the company has considered at various times in the past few years,” said Robert B. Mang, chairman and ceo, in a statement.
“We can make more effective use of the resources that had been accorded to the Yonkers store by deploying them to our other stores in the mid-Atlantic states,” Mang said.
A Sears spokeswoman would not say how many more stores the company plans to locate in the New York metro area, but noted that “discussions with developers continue.”
The W&L spokeswoman said she has no knowledge of any more planned closings. W&L has closed only one other location since filing for bankruptcy — a small W&L store in the Pentagon that the company said did not fit into its growth plans.
Last month, W&L said it would revise long-range business plans to reflect disappointing preliminary results for the Christmas season.
“The less-than-expected sales and earnings results require the debtor to revise their projections and reevaluate marketing and sales strategies contained in the business plan,” attorneys for W&L said in a bankruptcy court motion to extend its exclusivity period 60 days to March 10.
W&L did not reveal financial results or the business plan.
“Until the results of the debtor’s 1994 Christmas season and full fiscal year can be evaluated,” W&L’s attorneys said in court papers, no party to the case can be assured that any business plan “sets forth a reliable forecast of the debtor’s future performance.”
W&L also said it would use the extended exclusivity to settle a potentially explosive dispute between its majority owner, Alfred Taubman, and unsecured creditors. Taubman, who injected $262 million into W&L prior to its filing, contends the cash infusion should be considered a general unsecured claim. Unsecured creditors say the claim should be considered an equity investment, which would be subordinate to general unsecured claims.. — Fairchild News Service