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Merrillville K-Mart to close

K-Mart will close its Merrillville location on U.S. 30.

Kmart opened in Merrillville in 1974, a year after the company that now owns it finished building the largest office tower in the world on South Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago.

Sears was then the largest retailer in the world, the Sears Tower was a testament to its prominence, and Kmart was riding high with its Blue Light Special sales. Thirty-one years later the two merged under the Sears Holding banner.

Lately, both historic retailers have been declining amid increased competition from rivals like Wal-Mart and Target. They've closed hundreds of locations and laid off thousands of workers after failing to adapt to changing consumer preferences. 

Kmart's ongoing contraction will now result in the closure of its Merrillville location at 101 Lincoln Hwy. A store employee said the big-box store was slated to close on Dec. 11.

Business Insider reported 64 stores would close nationwide, but a company spokesman declined to comment.

Kmart spokesman Howard Riefs did, however, confirm the Merrillville store would be shuttered.

"We can confirm that we are making the difficult, but necessary decision to close the Kmart store at 101 W. Lincoln, Merrillville," Riefs said. "The store will close to the public in mid-December. It’s important for you to know that until then, the store will remain open for customers."

Riefs declined to comment on how many employees would be laid off, but said they would get severance and have the chance to apply to open positions at other Sears or Kmart stores. Kmart still has locations in Griffith, Chesterton, Valparaiso and LaPorte, and Sears still has locations in Merrillville, Michigan City, Portage, Schererville and Valparaiso.

Most of the affected workers were part-time or hourly.

The Merrillville Kmart had been underperforming, Riefs said.

"We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced," he said. 

A liquidation sale will begin Thursday.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.