As Sales Continue To Drop, Sears Borrows $300 Million From Its Own CEO

Image courtesy of Scott Miller

As more shoppers go online — or turn to retailers that don’t feel like they’ve just given up — same-store sales at Sears and its corporate kin Kmart have continued to sink, leading the once-great department store chain to borrow $300 million from the hedge fund owned by none other than Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert.

When Sears announced its disappointing quarterly earnings this morning, it also revealed that Lampert’s ESL Investments had offered — and it had accepted — the $300 million in financing, backed by a junior lien against Sears Holdings’ inventory, receivables and other working capital.

The deal would also allow Sears to seek out up to an additional $200 million in debt-financing from other parties. It comes on the heels of the company securing $500 million in financing in April via loans backed by mortgages on more than a dozen Sears properties.

Lampert isn’t just the chief executive for Sears; his fund is also the majority shareholder for the company. He’s promised the company’s investors that he would operate a leaner, more efficient Sears but sales have continued to drag and the company has made no apparent effort to inject itself into the e-commerce fray.

In fact, Sears makes virtually no mention of online retail in its entire 37-page investor presentation from this morning.

In an effort to reduce losses, Sears has been closing dozens of underperforming stores, and spinning off Lands’ End into its own business. Of course, fewer outlets means less gross revenue for the company, to the tune of $199 million compared to this time last year. Meanwhile, same-store sales at Kmart were down more than 3% this quarter and 7% at Sears’ U.S. stores, resulting in $240 million in year-over-year revenue declines.

Of interest is that Sears blames some of the lost sales on retail categories that had long been associated with the company, including home appliances, consumer electronics, lawn & garden and tools.

If it’s having trouble moving items that were once considered prime reasons to go to Sears, it may not bode well for the company’s vague plans to cash in on house brands like Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances.

Apparel was also listed as a money-loser for Sears, which tried to chic up its clothing offerings this week when it announced “fashion-forward” Showcase boutiques within a handful of stores.

“Right now, they’re in a bit of a Catch-22 situation,” Matt McGinley, an analyst at Evercore ISI, tells Bloomberg about the state of Sears, “they need to reduce the inventory to generate cash, but the less inventory they have, the less likely they are to make a sale, which further reduces the cash.”

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