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City official speaks on Sears closure

(Source: KSWO) (Source: KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Another major retailer in Lawton announced Wednesday that it's closing its doors.

In a statement, Sears said it plans to close the store inside Central Mall at the end of March.  It is one of 26 locations that's being shut down across the nation.
In addition to the Sears stores, the company also announced today they're closing 78 Kmart stores. That followed an announcement just last week, that they were shutting down 30 other Kmart locations, as well as 16 Sears stores, including one in Tulsa.
The company said that many of the stores have struggled financially for years, and they've been kept open to maintain local jobs, with the hope of seeing a turnaround.
Sears is the fourth major retailer in a nine-month span to announce that they are closing a Lawton location, joining Kmart, Hastings, and Walgreens.

City of Lawton's community services director Richard Rogalski said stores the which are coming in and leaving are a sign of the times.

"You know, there was a time 30 years ago when we built the mall that malls were the thing and having a sears in town was the biggest thing you could possibly have," Richard Rogalski said. “And then the time's pass and things are just so different now. People's preferences are different and that sort of thing."

Rogalski said residents should not just focus on the businesses that closed. 

"We also have some new stores that are opening. It's just that ebb and flow,” Rogalski said. “Really, it is very unfortunate that we lost those places that Sears doesn't stay open for us but it's kinda the way that it is but we're going to keep going and keep moving forward."

Rogalski said with these larger buildings vacant or soon to be vacant they can become detrimental to the area. While he doesn't expect them to be filled overnight, he hopes the vacancies will be filled soon -- within the last year, the city hired the recruitment firm Retail Coach in hopes of attracting more businesses. 

"I don't know what they're looking for but these retail recruiters that actually, that's what they do for a living is understanding what the retailers are looking for what these big companies are looking for and what we have and they try to put those two together," Rogalski said.

He said one reason more stores are closing is because of online shopping. Bigger stores are hurting locally because of their online sales. 

"They can do that from large centers like one in per a state and, it does, you know, things like online sales and shopping out of town hurts our local businesses and there's no way around that," Rogalski said.
He believes shopping local can help more stores stay open. One way Lawton is trying to keep people shopping locally is by hosting events downtown to re-introduce them to the area. 

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