News Column

Sears Sales Continue to Slide

May 23, 2013
Sears store

Sears Holdings Corp. said it lost $279 million, or $2.63 per diluted share, in the first quarter compared to $189 million or $1.78 per share a year earlier.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer said sales slid to $8.4 billion from $9.2 billion last year, in line with analysts' estimates. The company attributed the sales decline primarily to having fewer Kmart and Sears stores in operation, lower sales in stores open at least a year and the spinoff of the Sears Hometown and Outlet business late last year.

On an adjusted basis, Sears lost $1.29 per share. Wall Street predicted a loss of 59 cents per diluted share.

Sales in stores open at least a year slid 3.6 percent, the company reported.

Sears officials have said they plan to free up $500 million in cash this year, raising speculation as to how they'll do it.

Credit Suisse's Gary Balter predicted in a note last week that the company would sell more stores, or spinoff or sell more of its Canadian unit or its Lands' End unit. But Sears Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert impled to Women's Wear Daily in a Thursday interview that the Sears brand and Lands' End work well together, explaining that it was "about Lands' End-izing Sears, not Sears-izing Lands' End."

Lampert, who owns about 55 percent of the company, stepped into the CEO role earlier this year.

Like other department stores, including Target Corp. and Kohl's, the bad weather hurt sales in the first quarter. Cold weather has made it tough for retailers to sell spring and summer merchandise.

"Our recent financial performance has not been acceptable, although we have seen some positive momentum as sales per member increased and our online business grew 20 percent in the quarter," said Eddie Lampert, Sears Holdings' Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in a statement. Lampert added that during the quarter, the company "accelerated" activity to "transform" Sears into a retailer that offers shoppers choices on how and where they consume, through its loyalty rewards program, Shop Your Way.

"We launched new mobile capabilities, like Member Assist, which allows our members to communicate directly with our consultative store sales staff remotely in a manner most convenient for our members. We believe that if we leverage technology to provide our members with the easiest, most seamless shopping experience possible, we will be successful."

Sears shares closed down three-tenths of a percent on Thursday, at $58.17. Shares dropped nearly 10 percent in after hours trading.

crshropshire@tribune.com

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