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Sears to shutter Chicago store

– Sears Holdings Corp. plans to close its money-losing namesake location in downtown Chicago, reducing its physical presence in the city as it shrinks its store network and divests assets amid a decline in sales.

Sears will shutter the store at 2 N. State St. in Chicago’s Loop business district in April, Howard Riefs, a spokesman, said last week in an email. The store employs about 160 mainly part-time staff. Those eligible will receive severance and be able to apply for positions in the company’s other stores in the Chicago area, he said.

“The store has lost millions of dollars since opening and we can no longer continue to support the store’s operating losses,” Riefs said.

The closing will end Sears’ presence in Chicago’s prominent shopping and business district as the retailer moves to cut expenses and raise cash. Sears’ stock dropped the most in more than a year on Jan. 10, after it forecast a fourth-quarter loss and said sales during the holiday period dropped.

The company’s departure from State Street contrasts with its once-dominant presence downtown. The Sears Tower, the city’s tallest building, changed its name to Willis Tower in 2009 after insurance broker Willis Group Holdings moved in.

The 40-year-old tower once housed the retailer’s headquarters before it moved to its current location in Hoffman Estates.

CEO Edward Lampert, who is also Sears’ largest shareholder, has been selling assets to shore up the company’s balance sheet while focusing investments on its digital operations and Shop Your Way rewards program. Last year, Sears announced plans to separate the Lands’ End clothing unit and its auto-service centers.

The company forecast a loss in the fourth quarter of $250 million to $360 million, or $2.35 to $3.39 a share, Sears said Jan. 9. That compares with a net loss a year earlier of $489 million, or $4.61 a share.

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