By Staff and wire report
Struggling Kmart Corp. will close 284 stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico, but the store in Havre won't be among them.
The only Montana store on the list released by Kmart this morning is the Billings Heights store.
The fact that the Havre store wasn't on the list produced a collective sigh of relief in the local business community.
"Of course it's wonderful," said Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. "We can't always trust corporate decisions, so knowing they made a good decision is good news for our community."
Vandeberg noted that JC Penney and Maurice's closed their Havre stores, which had been profitable.
"You can't always trust corporate decisions because they're not always rational," Vandeberg said.
Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said the commissioners were fairly confident Havre could maintain some kind of major retail outlet.
"We knew (the Havre Kmart) was profitable, so we were reasonably confident it would stay open," he said. "I guess we always had concerns but we were always hopeful."
Kaercher said that even if it had closed, another retailer would have come in to fill the gap fairly quickly.
Losing its major retail outlet would have been devastating, Vandeberg said. Outside of the shopping opportunity and jobs lost, she said, it would have become more difficult to recruit other businesses to come to Havre.
"The fact that we have Kmart makes it easier to attract other stores," she said.
The Havre Kmart employs about 90 to 100 people.
The stores to be closed include 271 Kmart discount stores and 12 Kmart Supercenters in cities across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, Nashville and Phoenix.
Kmart, the nation's third biggest discount retailer after Wal-Mart and Target, currently operates more than 2,100 stores nationwide. The job cuts amount to just under 9 percent of its work force of about 250,000.
"The decision to close these underperforming stores, which do not meet our financial requirements going forward, is an integral part of the company's reorganization effort," Chuck Conaway, chief executive, said in a statement.
The Troy, Mich.-based retailer released the number of closings as it notified affected employees. The stores will remain open pending bankruptcy court approval.
Kmart said it anticipates that the sales generated from store closings and related cost savings will be about $550 million in 2002 and about $45 million annually after that.
Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 22, following lower-than-expected holiday sales, downgrades by several credit rating agencies and a stock dive.
At the time of the filing, Kmart said it would close a number of unprofitable stores. Analysts predicted anywhere from 250 to 700 stores could close.