By Dray Clark
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) — Between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores will be closed, the retailer said Tuesday, after terrible holiday sales during what is the most crucial time of the year for retailers.
Sears has yet to determine which stores will be closed, but there has been a clear shift in where the retailer will devote its resources.
The company is moving away from its practice of propping up “marginally performing” stores in hopes of improving their performance. Sears said it will now concentrate on cash-generating stores.
“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” said CEO Louis D’Ambrosio. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers.”
Sears would not discuss how many, if any, jobs would be cut.
Sears Holdings Corp., based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., said that the store closings will generate $140 to $170 million in cash from inventory sales. The retailer anticipates additional proceeds from the sale or sublease of real estate holdings.
The company, which operates Kmart stores, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Land’s End, has seen rival department stores like Macy’s Inc. and discounters like Target Corp. steal customers away. But the economy is put a sustained financial squeeze on its most loyal customers, those in the middle-income bracket.
The retailer had announced numerous closings this year, but this is the largest group of closings to date by far. Hoped for holiday sales to not materialize.
Same-store revenue fell 5.2 percent to date for the quarter at both Sears and Kmart, the company said Tuesday. That includes the critical holiday shopping period, a time that most retailers depend on for a sales surge that will put them in the black.
Kmart’s 6 percent decline in revenue at stores open at least a year was blamed on diminished layaways and a drop in clothing and consumer electronics sales. Sears’ cited lackluster consumer electronics and home appliance sales for its 4.4 percent drop off. Sears’ clothing sales were flat, while sales of Lands’ End products at Sears stores rose mid-single digits.
Sears Holdings said that the declining sales, ongoing margin pressure and rising expenses pulled its adjusted earnings lower. The company predicts fourth-quarter consolidated adjusted earnings will be less than half the prior-year period’s $933 million. It also anticipates a non-cash charge of $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in the quarter for a valuation allowance on some deferred tax assets.
This figure is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.
Sears Holdings said it also plans to lower its fixed costs by $100 million to $200 million and trim its 2012 peak domestic inventory by $300 million from 2011’s $10.2 billion at the third quarter’s end.
Sears Holdings has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
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