Sears to close its Brookfield Square store in mid-March
Retailer might reopen in the future, but details are murky

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Jan. 5, 2018

Sears at Brookfield Square Mall.
Freeman file photo

BROOKFIELD — Sears Holdings Corp. will close its namesake location at Brookfield Square in mid-March, company officials announced Thursday.

The closure is one of 103 Sears and Kmart stores shutting their doors this spring as the struggling retailer continues to grapple with red ink and changes in the retail marketplace.

“Sears Holdings continues its strategic assessment of the productivity of our Kmart and Sears store base and will continue to right-size our store footprint in number and size,” the company said in a news release announcing the closures.

Sears, an anchor tenant at Brookfield Square since the late 1960s, sold its store to CBL Properties, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based firm that owns the rest of the mall, aside from Boston Store and JCPenney.

Sears’ ancillary auto center ceased operations last May. City officials are working with CBL to redevelop the property and its sea of asphalt into a combined hotel and convention center. In recent months, CBL officials have unveiled a series of plans for the main Sears space as the retailer has continued operations through a leaseback agreement. Plans have included using a portion of the site for a Marcus Theatres BistroPlex and WhirlyBall, a bar and restaurant offering such amenities as bumper cars.

CBL representatives have gone before the Brookfield Common Council and Plan Commission in recent months to discuss plans for the main department store property.

In renderings, Sears has been part of the plans, albeit in a much smaller footprint — from its current 160,000 square feet to about 18,000 square feet. Images suggested the company could sell mattresses and appliances in its new, reduced-footprint format.

Stacey Keating, director of public relations and corporate communications with CBL Properties, said Sears Holdings’ announcement this week does not preclude the retailer from returning in the future.

“Final plans for the redevelopment are being finalized, including whether Sears will elect to maintain a presence as part of the project,” Keating said.

Sears Holdings representatives did not return calls and emails for comment by The Freeman’s deadline on Thursday.

What is set in stone now is Sears will have to close its entire store to make way for razing most of the existing building.

Last year’s leaseback agreement between Sears and CBL stipulated it could not be terminated during the holiday shopping season. With redevelopment plans on the horizon and the pivotal time for retailers having passed, Keating said CBL opted to invoke its rights at this time.

When asked about when the Sears space will be razed and new construction will sprout up, Keating declined to comment.

“We’re working on finalizing plans and should have more to share in the coming weeks,” Keating said.

Sears’ imminent closure in Brookfield also marks a watershed moment for the veteran retailer, which was a powerhouse throughout the 1980s and has long been synonymous with such brands as Craftsmen, Diehard and Kenmore.

The company will no longer have a full-line department store in the metro Milwaukee area. Other locations at Bayshore and Southridge malls have closed in recent years, as have locations in Racine and Kenosha.

Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc., which was spun off from Sears Holdings and is a separate company, operates a small handful of appliance, hardware and outlet stores in Southeastern Wisconsin, though none are in Waukesha County.

<<EARLIER: Officials reviewing plans for Brookfield Square BistroPlex theater


<<EARLIER: What’s next for Sears at Brookfield Square?