'Sad to see that close': Sears soon will end its 50-year run at Woodfield

The Sears anchor store at Woodfield Mall was such an instrumental part of the shopping center's creation and early success that part of the mall's name - the "Wood" is for legendary former Sears Chairman Robert E. Wood - pays tribute to the iconic retailer.

But now just a week after the suburban shopping mecca celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening, Woodfield's Sears store is preparing to close its doors for the last time.

Officials from Sears's Hoffman Estates-based parent company Transformco announced Thursday it will close the Woodfield store, its last remaining location in Illinois, on Nov. 14, as part of a corporate plan to "redevelop and reinvigorate the property."

"This is part of the company's strategy to unlock the value of the real estate and pursue the highest and best use for the benefit of the local community," the announcement states.

Transformco did not provide details of the planned redevelopment but said the company is negotiating with best-of-class retailers to fill the space.

"With redevelopment of this location focused primarily on retail use, we intend to reinvigorate and maximize the value of the real estate while enhancing the consumer experience with popular retailers that fit the regional draw of Woodfield Mall," Scott Carr, president of real estate for Transformco, said in the announcement.

Santa has been a staple of Sears as much as he has in Woodfield iself, like here in 2009 at the Hot Wheels Super Jump Raceway during the unveiling of The Toy Shop at Sears. Daily Herald File Photo, 2009

Thursday's announcement follows a string of Sears closings at other suburban malls in recent years, including at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee and Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills.

Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said Thursday was a day to mourn the passing of a local icon.

"For me personally, and for the village and its residents, Sears has been such a presence in the Chicago area and the nation," Dailly said. "It's going to be sad to see that close. I grew up with Sears. I have Sears appliances. All my tools are Sears."

A thorough conversation between village, Woodfield and Transformco officials in the near future is appropriate, given the variety of possibilities for the large space, Dailly said.

Representatives of Simon Property Group, the parent company of Woodfield Mall, referred all questions about the closing back to Sears.

Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal signed autographs and met with fans at the Woodfield Mall Sears store in 2014. Daily Herald file photo, 2014

Although the village recently opened the door to residential development in that part of the village, with the consideration of a proposed 208-unit apartment building on the north side of the Hyatt Regency Schaumburg, Dailly said it's premature to discuss homes on the Woodfield property.

Schaumburg Economic Director Matt Frank agreed. While residential use may not be off the table, there are many other possibilities closer to Woodfield's existing identity, he said.

"Obviously this is a unique opportunity with a great location," Frank said.

Options could include dividing the space into smaller stores, or some kind of sports or recreational venue.

The closing is the second of a Woodfield anchor store in as many years. The mall's Lord & Taylor closed in 2020.

Jason Derulo gave a free concert at Sears in Woodfield Mall to kids who auditioned in 2010 to become one of the 20 Rock the Scene VIP style reporters. Daily Herald File Photo, 2010

While the store closing is yet another sign of Sears' demise as a brick-and-mortar retailer, officials in neighboring Hoffman Estates said Thursday they're aware of no significant changes at Transformco's headquarters 11 miles west of Woodfield.

According to the company's statement, Transformco's strategy for Sears and Kmart is to operate a diversified portfolio consisting of a small number of larger, premier stores and a larger number of small-format stores. Transformco will continue to expand both Hometown Stores and Home & Life stores in cities and towns that previously had larger format stores, the company said.

Sears at Woodfield and in the suburbs

Aug. 4, 1971: Sears at Woodfield opens.

Sept. 9, 1971: Woodfield itself — with the “Wood” named after former Sears Chairman Robert E. Wood — has its official grand opening. Marshall Field’s, which supplied the “field” in the mall’s name, is the other anchor.

Oct. 6, 1971: JCPenney becomes the third department store.

Oct. 3, 1973: Woodfield expands, with Lord & Taylor becoming the fourth department store.

1992: Sears moves headquarters to Prairie Stone Business Park in Hoffman Estates after more than a century in Chicago.

1993: Sears begins selling off its financial services companies, including Allstate Insurance, based in Northbrook.

1995: Woodfield expands again as retail demand reaches a peak. Nordstrom joins the department stores, while Lord & Taylor is relocated.

2005: Kmart buys Sears to form Sears Holdings Corp.

2006: Marshall Field’s is rebranded as Macy’s.

2011: Sears considers leaving Illinois, gets tax benefits to stay in Hoffman Estates.

2018-2020: Sears stores close at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Golf Mill in Niles, Gurnee Mills, Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Randhurst Village in Mount Prospect, Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee and Stratford Square in Bloomingdale.

August 2020: Lord & Taylor announces it’s closing its Woodfield store.

Sept. 16, 2021: Disclosure that Sears at Woodfield Mall, Illinois’ last store, will close Nov. 14.

Source: News reports

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