A Victorian Kmart store is set to shut down, potentially leaving 93 workers without a job amid tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kmart Bairnsdale in East Gippsland, three hours east of Melbourne, will shut its doors after 15 years on September 27 and be replaced with a Woolworths supermarket.
The affordable retail store was unable to renegotiate a lease with the landlord and was informed on Thursday that it would be kicked out.
After Kmart closes down this month, Target in Bairnsdale will also close down early next year, leaving many more without jobs and locals with few retail options.
East Gippsland candidate Mark Ellis (pictured) said it was ‘devastating’ that Kmart Bairnsdale (pictured behind) will be closed down. The retail store will shut its doors after 15 years on September 27 and be replaced with a Woolworths supermarket
One man raised the issue on Kmart’s Facebook page on Sunday.
‘I’ve heard that the Bairnsdale Kmart store is closing on the 27th of this month… It’s going to make it difficult considering our Targets are closing,’ he wrote.
Kmart replied, confirming that the store would shut at the end of the month.
‘Late Thursday afternoon we were informed that the lease for our Bairnsdale store will not be renewed and we were given 30 days to vacate the site,’ the reply read.
‘We’ve been trying to renegotiate an extended lease for some time and are sad that the landlord has signed a new tenant to take over this space, as it means we will have to close our Kmart Bairnsdale store on 27 September.’
A Change.org petition called ‘Save Kmart Bairnsdale’ has since been started and garnered more than 1,300 signatures.
A Change.org petition called ‘Save Kmart Bairnsdale’ (pictured) has since been started and garnered more than 1,300 signatures
‘Woolworths should be ashamed of themselves, taking the easy way out instead of getting their own building. Taking 100 plus jobs – gone to this greedy company and making our town a ghost town,’ the petition read.
‘This will not only hurt jobs but our tourism, I will never shop there again and I hope this town makes a stand with me.’
Woolworths already has a store in Bairnsdale but will be relocating to Kmart’s old premises, which is expected to be open by late next year after renovations.
A spokesman clarified that Woolworths was only offered the ‘opportunity’ after the landlord’s negotiations with Kmart fell through.
‘This move will allow us to invest in a new state-of-the-art neighbourhood food store with a strong emphasis on fresh and convenient options for customers and improved parking,’ he said.
People in the petition comments said they would now have to travel up to three hours to reach their closest Kmart.
Woolworths already has a store in Bairnsdale (pictured) but will be relocating to Kmart’s old premises, which is expected to be open by late next year after renovations
‘I love Kmart and always go there when in Bairnsdale. I live in Omeo and would not be able to drive to Traralgon to go to Kmart it would be over six hours round trip. Please save our Bairnsdale store,’ one person wrote.
‘I heavily rely on shopping at Kmart for a lot of things, especially Christmas shopping. I already have to drive an hour to get to Kmart as there isn’t much of a range of shops for toys, appliances, clothes etc. where I live,’ another person said.
‘Losing Kmart will not only impact Bairnsdale but surrounding towns also.’
East Gippsland candidate Mark Ellis said the store’s closure is ‘devastating news’.
In a statement, Kmart said it would try to relocate to a nearby spot to not inconvenience people.
‘We have been part of the community for many years and are would like to be part of its future,’ the statement read.
‘We will be exploring potential site locations immediately and would like to sincerely thank our team members and customers for their ongoing support over the past 15 years.’
Target in Bairnsdale (pictured) will shut down early next year, leaving locals with few retail options for kilometres