Sears (copy)

Associated Press file photo of Sears

Sears Holdings said it plans to auction off three Sears and Kmart stores in Metairie and Baton Rouge as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy effort to sell or auction 505 of its most profitable stores and keep them operating.

The Sears stores at the Mall of Louisiana in Baton Rouge and Clearview Mall in Metairie, along with a Kmart at 2940 Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Metairie, were listed in a federal bankruptcy court filing last week.

However, it's unclear whether the Clearview store may have been incorrectly included in the list of sale properties. In August, it was announced that the Richards family, which owns Clearview, had reached a deal to acquire the 13.9-acre Sears site. Sears agreed to take up a smaller footprint in the shopping center and the property will be a key part of a planned redevelopment of Clearview.

Thomas Richards said Tuesday he owns the Sears property outright and his family acquired the property because of concerns over what could happen if the store went bankrupt and a new owner moved in.

Sears hopes to find a new owner to continue operating the stores on its list.

The company has until Dec. 15 to find an initial bidder for the locations it wants to keep open. Seeking Alpha has said that Eddie Lampert, the company’s largest shareholder and former chief executive officer who has invested heavily in Sears, is expected to make a bid for the properties.

Other potential buyers for the stores have until Dec. 28 to submit bids. An auction will be held Jan. 14.

Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and incurred huge losses over the years.

The company has struggled with outdated stores and complaints about customer service even for its once crown jewels: major appliances like washers and dryers. That's in contrast with chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy's, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily in remodeling and decluttering their stores.

Sears has just 17 Sears stores remaining in Louisiana. Most are smaller "hometown" stores, franchised locations that concentrate on selling appliance and hardware brands such as Kenmore, Craftsman and Die Hard. Locally, hometown stores are in Baker, Luling, Opelousas, Bogalusa and Bayou Vista.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.