Tuesday January 22, 2013

BENNINGTON -- The local Sears Hometown Store is seeking a new owner.

The store is currently open and being managed by its corporate parent, Sears, Roebuck and Co., which has advertised that it is for sale. Mark Beck was its previous owner, and according to an employee at the store who did not give a name, Beck opted not to renew the lease, which expired Dec. 31.

Beck did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.

According to a statement released by the company the Bennington Sears, located on Northside Drive in Monument Plaza, is part of the company’s Authorized Retail Dealer Store program, which it has run since the 1990s.

"As part of its strategy to provide more convenient shopping for customers, Sears is looking for a local entrepreneur in Bennington to own and operate a Sears Dealer store," wrote Russ Bollhorst, district sales manager for Sears dealer stores in a statement.

"We are looking for a person who wants to take ownership of an existing operating store in Bennington," wrote Bollhorst. "This is an outstanding retail opportunity for a dedicated individual to participate in one of America’s hottest growth opportunities by continuing operations of an existing Sears store and leveraging its existing customer base."

Representatives from the company declined to discuss a price, but according to Bollhorst whoever buys the store will not be required to purchase inventory or pay a yearly licensing fee.

"The dealer is responsible for start-up and on-going operating expenses associated with the store including: Building or leasing a facility; providing in-store fixtures; hiring and training employees; payroll; and insurance," Bollhorst wrote. "The Sears Dealer Store program is not considered a franchise program because Sears does not require an individual to purchase inventory or pay an annual licensing fee. The stores are supported by the Sears retail network, which includes providing all inventory, advertising, point-of-sale computer systems, delivery support and training."

Last Black Friday, employees at the local Sears reported strong sales when they opened during the evening on Thanksgiving Day, and said many of their sales on the following day were people picking up things they ordered online.

In October, a former Sears employee pleaded guilty to embezzling from the store. According to police the store’s owners reported in February 2011 that the inventory was off upwards of $24,000. Police said the employee, Seth Coulter, 25, had taken numerous tools and appliances from the store. As part of his plea agreement he was given a two-year sentence on pre-approved furlough and ordered to enter a substance abuse treatment program. He was also ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution to cover and insurance deductible.