Paducah Sears closing soon; Penney expected to stay
By Joshua Roberts
The Paducah Sun-via Kentucky Press News Service
Sears and J.C. Penney, two anchor tenants at Kentucky Oaks Mall, opened a day apart in 1983 -- July 19 and 20, respectively.
But the two national retail giants, slated to close hundreds of stores nationwide in response to slumping sales from online competition, will go in different directions locally by the end of the month.
Cafaro Company, the mall's developer and owner since it opened in 1982, reports the tentative closing date for the local Sears is March 31.
But it looks like the local J.C. Penney will be safe from a similar fate, Cafaro spokesman Joe Bell said.
"As far as we know it is not (closing)," Bell said. "J.C. Penney has not yet produced a list of any kind, a comprehensive list indicating which stores are going to close, but we have absolutely no reason to believe they could be looking at the store in Paducah, which does very well.
"We have not heard a peep. Not a single word's been uttered about closing the Paducah store."
Sears encompasses 113,000 square feet and J.C. Penney 86,000 at Kentucky Oaks.
Bell said Cafaro is pursuing a new tenant, or tenants, to fill the Sears space, but no agreement has been reached.
"Our leasing experts saw the trouble with Sears coming quite a while ago," he said. "Knowing their situation, our people were quietly and then actively involved in talking with any number of national retailers and some regional retailers, looking for the best fit for that kind of space.
"Those discussions are still going on. Very often for a space that size it can take months before anyone negotiates a lease agreement."
He said no timeline has been set for getting a new tenant in the Sears space.
"Certainly we would like it to be filled and it be productive and income-generating," Bell said. "We're not going to rush into something that's not the right fit for the community. We're very deliberate. We've been at this a long time."
Bell said he couldn't comment on whether discussions have taken place with a national retailer long coveted by Paducah and McCracken County residents, and one Cafaro has a well-established relationship with -- Target.
"We speak with them all the time," he said. "There may be discussions about whether that would be a good fit at Kentucky Oaks Mall â ¦ but I really can't comment either way.
"This is really a hard-and-fast rule in our industry: No one will comment on who a new tenant might be until that entity signs a lease agreement. Everyone abides by the code of silence until the deal is done."
Bell said Cafaro isn't overly concerned about market pressures brick-and-mortar stores are facing from online sellers and niche retailers. Changes in the market happen, and the stores that stay in business are the ones that adapt to the times, he said.
"The industry is going through one of its cycles, and we've seen this convulsion inside the retail industry before," Bell said.
"Even with the challenges, we have every reason to believe the cycle will swing back upward. And, quite honestly, the best retailers have embraced online sales. They've made that another channel of revenue."