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Sears at Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer closing in January

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Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Beaver County resident Jeff Stimmel, who works at RIDC Park in O'Hara, looks over items in his bag after stopping at the Sears Grand at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
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Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Barbara Pollick of Allegheny Township looks to her husband, John, as they learn that the Sears Grand at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer will be closing in mid-January as a 'Sears Now Hiring' sign hangs in the background. Photographed on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.
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Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Karen Polliard of Washington Township learns of the planned closure in mid-January of the Sears Grand at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014.

The Sears Grand store and Auto Center at the Pittsburgh Mills is the latest casualty in a string of closures across the country.

The store in Frazer will close in mid-January, said Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs.

The closing is part of the company’s strategy to reduce expenses and speed up the transformation of their business model, he said.

The store has 97 employees. Eligible employees will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for positions at other Sears or Kmart stores.

Zamias Services, which owns the Mills mall, did not return calls seeking comment.

This is the second store in the Pittsburgh region to be slated for closure in recent months. Sears announced in September the closure of the Century III Mall store in West Mifflin.

Sears has several stores remaining in Western Pennsylvania. They are located in Allison Park, Bethel Park, Butler, Greensburg, Indiana, Robinson, Ross, and Washington. There is a Sears Hometown Store that sells electronics and appliances in East Franklin.

Customers visiting the Mills store on Thursday said they’re disappointed the store will close. Several said they hadn’t heard the news yet.

“I’m surprised. I thought Sears would be here for a while,” said John Pollick, of Allegheny Township, who was shopping with his wife, Barbara. “I’m going to miss Sears. We buy a lot of stuff here.”

Karen Polliard of Washington Township said she started shopping at the Mills location after the Monroeville store closed in 2012.

“What am I going to do now?” she asked.

Sears Holdings has been financially struggling for years. The company lost $573 million in the second quarter of 2014, compared to a $194 million loss in the prior year’s second quarter.

Retail analyst Burt Flickinger blamed Sears’ downturn at least in part on its management, saying the company has been run for the past decade by financial-minded executives, rather than marketing specialists.

“During most of the decade, from 2000 to 2009, they had financial people running the company, not merchants and not the best store operations leaders,” Flickinger said.

Sears has hired better leadership, he said, but it still needs to overcome the hurdles of an aging customer base and slumping sales in both the appliance and apparel sides.

And, he said, the acquisition of Kmart in 2004 did nothing to help the company.

“Often times, when you combine one sick company with one moderately healthy company you end up getting two sick companies,” Flickinger said. “That’s what happened with Sears.”

Jeff Stimmel, who works in the area and was visiting the Mills mall Sears Thursday to exchange a screwdriver, said he isn’t all that surprised that the store is closing.

“There’s not enough people — it takes forever to get help,” he said. “I like that they have life-time warranties on their tools, but so do Lowe’s and Harbor Freight.”

A liquidation sale at the Mills store will begin Oct. 31.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or [email protected].

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