Kmart Closing 28 More Stores, Cites Ongoing ‘Transformation’

Image courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart

The news in Sears Holdings’ report to investors isn’t as bad as it could be, but it’s devastating if you’re one of the employees or customers of the 28 Kmart stores that are part of a new round of closures that the company announced today.

The company dropped that news, its first list of store closings in a month and a half, while claiming that more store closures are all part of an ongoing “transformation” into a 21st-century retailer. You can find that list of 28 stores that will be closing here.

The bad news

That cost-cutting includes layoffs at headquarters as well as store closures, and closing stores means that there’s less money coming in.

Comparable-store sales, the only fair measure of performance when a retailer has been closing as many stores as Sears Holdings, are not good. Kmart stores had a 9.4% decline in comparable-store sales. Even when you account for the pharmacies closing in some Kmart stores and dramatic cutbacks in consumer electronics, sales are down 6.8%.

Sears stores are in a similar leaking boat: Their sales are down 13.2%, and 12.1% when excluding the consumer electronics that the chain has dropped.

“The company’s sales dropped from “softness in store traffic and elevated price competition in the retail industry,” chief financial officer Rob Riecker explained in the retailer’s scripted and pre-recorded quarterly conference call [PDF].

It’s true that retail overall isn’t doing great right now, but the big-box stores and department stores that compete with Sears have mostly stopped the bleeding this quarter. Still, relentless cutting is not necessarily a path to profitability in the retail business. That’s called a death spiral,

The good news

We’ve shared a lot of the good news in the quarterly report here before. The company is working toward its goal of selling $1 billion in real estate to the Seritage Growth Properties real estate investment trust and other interested buyers, and either leasing back or closing affected stores.

It’s experimenting with new formats, which include rebranding Auto Centers as DieHard Auto Centers, which exist independently of Sears stores. The company is also experimenting with a new format, a smaller store that sells only appliances and mattresses.

If you like Kenmore appliances but no longer have a Sears or Sears Outlet store nearby, you can now buy those products on Amazon.

The company’s long-term debt is down to $3.5 billion from $4.2 billion at the beginning of the year, and the company has cut down its losses due to continued aggressive cost-cutting.

Sears has been touting its “transformation” for years now. The company’s chairman, CEO, and major investor and lender Eddie Lampert has been using that term to describe what the company is doing since at least 2009, though that may have been referring to a different transformation eight years ago.


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