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Sears Canada is, soon to be was, a department store famous for its catalogues which were fun for the whole family after the mailman drops it in the mailbox. Both Sears Canada and its US counterpart have suffered considerably from failing to react to the rise of the internet and e-tailers like Amazon and other traditional retailers like Walmart recently adopting a bricks-and-clicks hybrid model. Many believed that Sears would be less likely to go away in Canada as a result of it being deeper entrenched in the country's culture and that it would be more likely to go away in the US first, but recent events have proven that not even generational cultural icons are safe.
Problems became apparent at the start of the 2010s as Sears was facing declining foot traffic and revenues. Early in the morning of June 22nd, 2017, trading of Sears Canada shares were halted amidst reports that it would be seeking creditor protection. Just after the Toronto Stock Exchange opened, Sears Canada filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure in what would eventually be a final attempt to stop bleeding cash. This prompted scattered store closures throughout Canada, but to the ordinary shopper that was living under a rock in any of the other locations that remained open, it was still business as usual...for the most part.
Headquarters staff were divvied up into two groups based on whether their employment would continue or not, with the first group being taken to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the second being taken to a hotel. The first group was informed that they were laid off effective immediately, while the second group was involved in a planning meeting, with reports that breakfast was being provided for group #2. Those in group #1 noticed that their company cell phones were disabled before the meeting kicked off. A video of the meeting of group #1 surfaced later in the day on June 22 depicting how the ~300 staff were told they would lose their jobs.
Employee morale suffered a major hit after the announcement took place, as the writing on the wall became clear as day. Reports came out that in typical corporate fashion, severance payments and retirement pensions to lower-level employees were being cut off, while senior managers were given bonuses. Public opinion of Sears soured, as people called for what would admittedly be the easiest boycott they've ever done of Sears Canada, using #BoycottSearsCanada. This boycott sparked a raid on Sears' Facebook page, which led them to shut down public comments as a result. Also in typical corporate fashion, Sears denied claims that people posting boycott comments were what prompted a shift to private messages only. One man was forced on antidepressant medication as a result of Sears closing down Hometown stores (owned and operated by independent dealers) without any plan for compensation, and the loss of commissions.
An additional 11 stores, including the Sears location in Winnipeg's biggest mall complex, Polo Park, were next on the chopping block as announced on October 3rd. With the closure of the Polo Park location, which existed as long as the mall itself, many people realized that Sears' death was appearing certain. Cadillac Fairview, the owner of the mall and many others throughout Canada, was preparing for the possibility of the whole company going under in an interview with the mall's general manager published in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Ultimately, after an attempt to salvage the company through a potential sale led by executive chairman Brandon Stranzl failed, Sears announced on October 10th that it was going to be going out of business, with all stores commencing liquidations pending court approval. Approval was obtained at the end of the week on October 13th. Warranties sold by Sears won't be honored after the 18th.
Sears took down their online storefront when liquidation sales began on October 19th, replacing it with a list of remaining locations and the below statement:
Sears Canada has a long and well-documented history of being a great place to shop and work. Sears thanks its customers for their loyalty and support since 1953, when it began serving Canadians coast to coast under its then corporate name, Simpsons-Sears Ltd. Sears also extends heartfelt thanks to its associates, both current and former, who helped build the Company into what was, for much of its existence, Canada’s largest retailer, providing great value through quality products and exceptional services and outstanding prices. Sears earned a reputation of trust and goodwill by how its associates interacted with Canadians, including the Company’s significant financial and moral support of community groups and charitable organizations that reflected the interests of Sears customers.
Over the past 18 months, Sears Canada had embarked on a reinvention plan that had begun to gain traction with customers. Unfortunately, despite the outstanding efforts of dedicated associates across the Company, Sears Canada does not have the financial resources to provide it with the time necessary to complete its reinvention. As a result, Sears Canada is winding down its operations and shopping is no longer available online. Please see below the list of stores currently open for liquidation. We appreciate having had you as a customer, and hope you find some great bargains for you and your family.
Your friends at Sears Canada.
Ultimately, Sears will cease to exist in Canada by early 2018.