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Sears will close stores at Hunt Valley Towne Centre and in Hagerstown

Sears will shutter stores at Hunt Valley Towne Center in Baltimore County and Hagerstown in a new round of closings announced Friday, part of cost-cutting measures the struggling retailer is taking to shore up its business.

The two Maryland locations are among 20 unprofitable stores where Sears Holdings Corp. will terminate leases with landlord Seritage Growth Properties. The locations represent about 3.8 million square feet, Seritage said Friday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"We are making the difficult, but necessary decision to close" the Sears and Sears Auto Center on Shawan Road, and Sears in Hagerstown, said Howard Riefs, a Sears spokesman, in an email Friday.

Both stores will close in mid-September while the auto center in Hunt Valley will close in late July, he said. Liquidation sales will start June 30.

"We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced," Riefs said.

Sears was an original anchor tenant of the former enclosed Hunt Valley Mall, which opened in September 1981 and was redeveloped as an outdoor, "lifestyle" center in 2000.

A spokeswoman for Greenberg Gibbons, developer of Hunt Valley Towne Centre, referred questions about the potential future of the Sears space to Seritage. Officials with Seritage could not be reached for comment.

Cash-strapped Sears sold the many of the stores it owned to Seritage in 2015 and leased them back.

Riefs said he could not disclose the number of employees at the Maryland stores slated for closure, but he said eligible workers will be paid severance and have opportunities to apply at other Sears or Kmart stores.

Sears is paying base rent of $11.2 million on the 20 locations and will pay rent until it vacates the space by October, Seritage said in the SEC filing. The retailer also will pay a termination fee.

Reports surfaced earlier this month that the department store chain would close 66 Sears and Kmart stores across the country. That round included a Kmart in Elkton.

Last week, Sears said it will cut 400 jobs at its corporate office outside Chicago.

In April, Seritage, a developer that controls about 250 Sears Holdings properties across the United States, said it was seeking new tenants to take over some of the space at five Sears and Kmart stores in Maryland. New tenants were announced for one floor of the Sears at The Mall in Columbia, including Barnes & Noble and Main Event entertainment complex.

At the time, the five Sears or Kmart stores were expected to remain open, according to a Sears spokesman, including those at Hunt Valley, Valley Mall, Bowie Town Center and the Kmart at South River Colony in Edgweater.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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