Kmart to close its West Ashley store, Hendrick Auto buys property

Big Kmart on Savannah Highway will close in late April. Hendrick Automotive Group acquired the 13-acre site last week for a potential expansion along Charleston's so-called Auto Mile. Buy this photo

Kmart is closing its West Ashley store in April after 40 years on Savannah Highway, and a high-profile auto dealer is taking over the property.

The 13-acre site at 1535 Savannah Highway was purchased Thursday for $10 million by an agent acting on behalf of Hendrick Automotive Group, according to property records.

The deed then was transferred Friday to an affiliate of Charlotte-based Hendrick, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment about its plans for the U.S. Highway 17 property.

It's expected that the Kmart site will be redeveloped as an automotive business, which would join the string of dealerships that include several Hendrick stores along the so-called Auto Mile.

"It's safe to say that this is part of Hendrick's plan for expansion in the Charleston market," said Sears Sauls, owner of Hendrick Hyundai at 1940 Savannah Highway.

The Kmart will close in late April on the heels of the Mount Pleasant location, which closed in January. The discount retailer that once operated a fleet of nine local stores will be left with one in North Charleston and another in Summerville.

The West Ashley location has 69 employees, many of whom are part-time and hourly associates, said Howard Riefs, a spokesman for Sears Holdings Corp., parent company of Kmart and Sears.

Some employees will be eligible for severance payments, while others may apply for positions at remaining Sears and Kmart stores in the area, Riefs added.

A liquidation sale will begin Saturday and will continue until the store closes in late April.

Built in 1974, the 94,605-square-foot discount outlet was renovated in 1992 and transformed into a Big Kmart to better compete with Walmart superstores.

Since then, the store hasn't seen many new updates, which reflects the company's struggle to keep up with retail giants such as Walmart and Target.

Sears Holdings has reported disappointing sales for the past few years. The company started shedding hundreds of Kmart stores across the country in 2011 in an effort to reduce expenses.



Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail

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