Shoppers find deals at Sears Canada liquidation sales underwhelming

Sears
Merchandise on display at the Sears store in the St. Laurent Centre on Thursday, the first day of liquidation sales. (OBJ photo)

Sears Canada began its liquidation sales at its remaining stores across the country Thursday, but many shoppers found the deals to be underwhelming.

While signs suggested discounts of 20 to 50 per cent off – with a note that exceptions apply – relatively few items at a Toronto store appeared to be offered at half off. Some big ticket items such as snowblowers and treadmills were only 10 per cent off.

"For a close-out deal, I would have thought the sale would be a bit higher. And maybe it will be, as closing time approaches. And maybe by that time everything will be gone!" said 86-year-old Madeline Cameron, who said she had been shopping at Sears for 60 or 70 years.

After looking at the dozens of shoppers braving long, slow check-out lines she decided to leave without buying anything.

"I can't stand in lineups for a long time ... I might come early tomorrow morning. I'd say the lineups are maybe half an hour, an hour long."

A joint-venture group – which includes Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers Canada, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group – is running the liquidation sales at 74 remaining department stores and eight Home stores, a step towards Sears Canada closing its doors for good after 65 years in business.

Sears Canada gift cards will be honoured throughout the sale, but the company stopped honouring extended warranties as of Wednesday.

"It's rather sad. Sears could always be counted on to be a good competitor, and certainly I think the Kenmore brand is very reliable, and has been a staple in the Canadian market. It's going to be a loss," said shopper Karen Ottmann.

At the Toronto Fairview Mall location, the appliance department was among the busiest, with many shoppers picking up vaccuums, microwaves, blenders and other kitchen equipment.

Some shoppers, like stay-at-home mom Elana Iordan, were happy to get a head start on Christmas shopping. But many, Iordan included, expressed regret about the company's imminent closure.

"We always came at Christmas. It was affordable," Iordan said, noting there aren't any similar stores in locations convenient for her. "We don't have anything around us anymore."

Another shopper, Joan Challis, said she was angry at the way the closure has been handled by the company's management.

"It's nasty, what happened here ... I'm not happy about it. Neighbours of mine have extended warranties on appliances, so that's going to hurt them," she said.

"The employees and the public, they're all going to lose out. But head office, management, they're not going to lose out, I don't think. I think they'll end out coming out fairly clean."

Liquidation sales at 49 Sears Hometown stores were expected to start Thursday, or sometime soon, but discounts there will vary, according to Sears Canada spokesman Joel Shaffer.

Some items are also listed for clearance on the Sears Canada website, including a four-piece outdoor furniture set discounted from $499.99 to $299.95. However, not everything online has been marked down just yet.

The sales are expected to last between 10 to 14 weeks. Sears Canada timed its liquidation sales to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season to maximize the value it could attain for the inventory.

The retailer has been in creditor protection since June, but was unable to find a buyer which would allow it to keep operating.

Sears Canada received court approval to proceed with its liquidation sales last week. A group led by its executive chairman Brandon Stranzl had been in weeks-long discussions with Sears Canada to purchase the retailer and continue to operate it. However, no deal was reached.

Stranzl resigned from Sears Canada's board of directors on Monday.