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Three Sears stores in Ottawa to liquidate, 323 out of jobs




More than 300 Ottawans will be out of jobs from three local Sears stores after the company announced all its Canadian locations would close shop.

Sears Canada is seeking approval to liquidate its roughly 130 remaining stores and put 12,000 employees out of work across the country, including retail and distribution jobs. 

The embattled department store retailer, which sought protection from its creditors in June, said Tuesday it had failed to find a buyer that would allow it to continue operating.

Ottawa’s locations include Sears at Carlingwood Mall, which has 133 employees, Sears Home Store at Pinecrest Mall, which has 36 employees, and a third location at St. Laurent Shopping Centre, which has 154 employees.

The liquidation sales would likely begin Oct. 19 and last 10 to 14 weeks, said a spokesman.

Outside the Carlingwood Sears on Wednesday, reaction to the store’s pending closure was mixed.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Maureen McCann, who was shopping at the store with her sister Peggy. “It was around for all our years growing up, and it was always a place where I shopped.”

“We had accounts with Sears since we were teenagers,” added Peggy, “and we bought everything here — furniture and appliances — and it is kind of sad. We’re kind of surprised that it’s Sears closing and not The Bay, which is a little more pricey. But in the last few years, the service (at Sears) did go down.

“They used to stand behind their products all the time, and then we started having trouble. That must have been a sign.”

Another customer, Veronica Sumeg-Ang, was also saddened by the news.

“I feel bad, number one, for the employees who are affected. And I love the products from Sears. And it’s close to where I live in Westboro, and there were always sales, for the clothes, for the shoes, and it was very affordable.”

Carleton Place resident Sandy Roesler, a housecleaner, was at Sears on Wednesday to scoop up bags for her Kenmore vacuum cleaners and to find out where she’d be able to purchase them in the future. Kenmore is Sears’s store brand for appliances.

“I grew up with this store and I really like their products,” she said. “It’s sad that so many people are losing their jobs, but also what Sears has done for the community, like the children’s hospital and other places they donate to in the city.”

Others were less disheartened by the news of Sears’s closing.

“I’m sorry to hear about the people losing their jobs,” said Matt Attinello, 24, “but I don’t shop here. I went with my parents when I was a kid, but I don’t see the appeal. Anything I need I’d find somewhere else, either online or in stores I know. I never think of going here.”

Heather Hopewell, who worked in the cosmetics department of the Carlingwood Sears for two years, after eight years at the Rideau Centre location until it closed in 2012, said she’s not surprised by the news. “As a (former) employee, I can tell you that the customer service was awful. As a customer, if you need help, you can’t find anybody.

“But it’s sad. My mother-in-law used to live up in Yellowknife and she’d order stuff out of the catalogue for us for Christmas. I have four kids between three and 10, and they’d go through the Sears catalogue. So how are they going to pick out their toys now, because Toys R Us is also closing?

“So, yes, it’s kind of sad, but it’s not unexpected, whatsoever.”

Barry Nabatian, a market research analyst, said the jobs lost in Ottawa will likely be absorbed by competing stores such as Marshalls, Walmart, and Loblaws.

“Those stores will do more business, so they will be hiring some (former Sears employees), but not all,” said Nabatian.

So why couldn’t Sears Canada stay afloat?

Nabatian argued the store was too slow to adapt to the modern demands of shoppers, who insist not just on an attractive retail space but a seamless online shopping experience.

“(Sears Canada) woke up to the reality of the changing retail environment too late and they were not able to do things fast enough to make the necessary changes,” said Nabatian.

“It was basically a store for your grandparents to go shopping, and the millennials — and even some older people — they like to go to places like H&M and Forever 21 and those kinds of stores … it (Sears) just didn’t have that ‘attractiveness factor’ that new places have.” 

The court overseeing Sears Canada’s operations is set to hear a motion Friday seeking approval for the liquidation and winding down of the business.

“The company deeply regrets this pending outcome and the resulting loss of jobs and store closures,” Sears Canada said in a statement on Tuesday.

— With files from Postmedia News


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Majority of Canadian workers willing to take less pay for a workplace pension plan: survey




A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians say they’re willing to forgo a higher salary in exchange for a workplace pension plan, according to a new survey for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan by Abacus Data.

The survey, which polled more than 2,000 Canadian adults in April, signals an opportunity for employers to build back the post-coronavirus pandemic working landscape better by expanding access to good retirement plans — whether they’re defined benefit, defined contribution or group registered retirement savings plans, says Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP.

According to the survey, a secure retirement remains of greater concern for Canadians than concerns about their health, debt load and job security. McCormick says this has been a consistent worry the HOOPP has seen in survey results over the past couple of years. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they’re very concerned about having enough money in retirement, while 31 per cent were highly concerned about their personal debt load and 26 per cent cited their job security. Close to half of respondents expressed high concerns for their physical (43 per cent) and mental (40 per cent) health.

In addition, the pandemic has harmed the finances of more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians’ surveyed and it’s had a particularly disproportionate affect on the finances of younger adults. Adults aged 44 and younger said they’re twice as likely (25 per cent) to have had their finances greatly harmed, compared to those over the age of 60 (12 per cent).

Generally, younger adults tend to work in roles that may have been impacted most by the pandemic, says McCormick, whether in service industries that were shut down or frontline health care that have been busy but don’t always come with access to a pension plan. “Affordability is an issue, so I think their worries increased during this time.”

And while almost half (46 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’ve saved more money than they would have since the onset of the pandemic, among these respondents, over half (52 per cent) didn’t put any of their savings toward their retirement. Overall, most (63 per cent) Canadians surveyed haven’t set aside or saved anything for retirement in the past year, a five-point increase since 2019.

McCormick says this may be due to uncertainty or hesitancy about whether people’s immediate needs outweigh longer-term needs. And with 55 per cent of respondents noting they were very concerned about the cost of day-to-day living, he adds that rising prices have fuelled insecurity and worries so people are creating their own emergency funds right now.

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