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Local Sears, Kmarts all but gone as bankruptcy papers reveal firm's precarious position

The remaining Sears and Kmart stores in the Western New York market could be closing soon, according to papers filed in bankruptcy court.

The area's last Sears store, in the McKinley Mall, is listed among more than 200 stores under consideration for closure. Kmart locations in Jamestown, Wellsville and on Hertel Avenue are also on the chopping block.

Kmart store closures in West Seneca, Niagara Falls and Batavia were previously announced, as were Sears at the Eastern Hills and Chautauqua Malls.

Store closure sales would begin at many stores within two weeks of bankruptcy court approval.

Sears is asking for more time to make a final decision on which of the more than 200 stores it will close but, until then, all Western New York stores remain in jeopardy. The long-struggling company has already closed what it has called "underperforming" stores at the Walden Galleria, Boulevard Mall and Summit mall.

Some of Sears' biggest suppliers, including GE Appliances, Electrolux, Whirlpool and Serta Simmons Bedding, have demanded the store immediately return their merchandise. They said anything shipped to Kmart or Sears stores within 45 days of the company's filing for bankruptcy should be returned, because Sears would have known it couldn't pay for the merchandise, the companies said in court papers.

Sears had vowed to fight during the all-important holiday shopping season, saying it would stock its shelves deeper than in years past. It also experienced a bump in sales after announcing store closures, company representatives said.

But phrasing in the latest court papers appears to show Sears in an increasingly precarious position. Sears said its "challenging financial condition" means "it cannot be overemphasized that time is of the essence."

Sears' bankruptcy is an attempt to cut debts and keep stores in operation at least through the busy holiday shopping season.

Eddie Lampert, Sears' CEO, has stepped down but will remain chairman, replaced by three other Sears executives working together in a new role called "office of the CEO."

Incorporated in 1892, Sears was once one of the country's biggest retailers. The store began struggling in earnest during the 1990s, as big-box stores such as Walmart and Home Depot hit the scene, then faced new struggles in the internet age, competing with the likes of online retailers such as Amazon.

Many critics have blamed Lampert, the company's largest shareholder, for Sears' worsening woes. To raise cash, he sold off its iconic Craftsman tool brand and began selling its DieHard and Kenmore products on Amazon, but failed to give customers new reasons to return to Sears' stores or website.

Lampert's hedge fund also owns nearly half of Sears' debt, according to numbers from Thomson Reuters, including $1.1 billion in loans backed by Sears and Kmart properties. His hedge fund is in negotiations to buy Sears' Kenmore household appliance brand for $400 million.

Sears, the original everything store, nears a bankruptcy filing

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