Liquidation sale underway at Boise’s Sears. But beware: Not everything may be a bargain

Customers walk Tuesday toward the Sears store in the Boise Towne Square. Signs in the doors advertise the store’s liquidation sale.
Customers walk Tuesday toward the Sears store in the Boise Towne Square. Signs in the doors advertise the store’s liquidation sale.

As retailers across the Treasure Valley gear up for the year’s busiest shopping day on Friday, one Boise store is instead preparing for its last hurrah.

Sears, one of four anchor tenants when the Boise Towne Square opened in October 1988, says it will close Jan. 13. Its auto center won’t even make it to Christmas. It will close Dec. 1.

The closure (but not the dates) was announced last month, when Sears declared bankruptcy and said it would shut 142 unprofitable stores, including Boise’s. Earlier this month, the company announced 40 additional closures, including its store in Idaho Falls.

It’s unclear how many employees will lose their jobs when the store closes. The state of Idaho requires businesses with more than 100 employees to notify the Idaho Department of Labor within 60 days of a major layoff. Georgia Smith, deputy director of the department, said it had not received a notice from Sears about either Idaho store.

A Sears manager declined to comment, referring a reporter to a corporate spokesman in the company’s headquarters outside Chicago, who did not return a call.

Inside the Boise store, the message is impossible to miss. Every few feet, signs hanging from the ceiling announce the liquidation sale, offering prices 10 to 50 percent off. Nothing held back. All sales final. No returns allowed.

Signs in the Sears store at the Boise Towne Square announce the store’s pending closure. Prices are advertised as 10 to 50 percent off. John Sowell

Sears, which typically has a number of sales associates walking the floor and offering assistance, looked more like a ghost town Tuesday afternoon.

In the clothing department, there were no clerks in either the men’s or women’s sections. Two salespeople were helping customers in the large appliance section, and two people were working the jewelry counter.

Not all liquidation prices may be bargains. Minneapolis television station WCCO reported over the summer that a Craftsman riding mower was listed for $1,889 after a 10 percent liquidation discount was applied at a store set for closure. A week earlier, before the liquidation sale began, it was selling for $1,499.

When Sears closed the Minnesota store, and now as it prepares to close the Boise Towne Square store and the others, it’s using a liquidation company to manage sales. Abacus Advisors Group, rather than Sears itself, is responsible for setting prices. The company earns a percentage of sales, so it has an incentive to keep prices as high as possible.

Liquidators typically raise prices to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, then set discounts from there, according to Business Insider. Thus, prices can be higher than before the liquidation started.

Still, as the Jan. 13 closure date nears, the discounts on unsold goods are expected to get larger.

One of four anchor tenants when Boise Towne Square opened in October 1988, Sears is conducting a liquidation sale ahead of its Jan. 13 closure. It’s one of about 180 stores the Illinois company plans to close. The company faces a December deadline to find a bidder for its remaining 500 stores. John Sowell

Under a Sears bankruptcy court order approving the company’s store-closing plans, Abacus has the right to bring in new merchandise to sell. The only stipulation is that the items must be similar to items sold by Sears, be at least the same quality and in categories “designed to enhance the store-closing sales.”

The liquidation sales come as Sears Holding Corp. seeks to pay 18 top executives millions of dollars in bonuses, the Wall Street Journal reported. The company wants to provide $8.5 million during the next two quarters to 18 top executives. Sears has also asked the bankruptcy court permission to pay 322 other executives $16.9 million in bonuses.

A hearing on the plan is scheduled for Dec. 20.

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Reporter John Sowell has worked for the Statesman since 2013. He covers business and growth issues. He grew up in Emmett and graduated from the University of Oregon.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.