Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD), which owns Sears and Kmart, made two announcements recently. It has a new chief financial officer and it will close yet more locations. So what does Sears have left in terms of locations, to either operate or close? Nearly 1,300 between the Sears and Kmart locations.
The appointment of Rob Riecker, who is currently controller and head of Capital Market Activities for Sears, is an aside. He is in no better position to turn around the retailer, or be part of its serial restructuring, than any of his predecessors or people who have been chief executive officer. Controlling shareholder Eddie Lampert holds the strings on both those things.
Sears also announced it had done as it said it would, closing 150 non-profitable stores, which include 108 Kmart and 42 Sears locations. In addition, it shuttered "92 underperforming pharmacy operations in certain Kmart stores and 50 Sears Auto Center locations." All in all, the company expects to save $1.25 billion a year.
As of January 28, Sears had 670 stores and Kmart 755. In addition, Kmart had 451 in-store pharmacies. Sears had 588 auto centers that operated as part of its stores. Based on information about what has closed, there are now 647 full-line Kmart locations and 628 for Sears, for a total of 1,275.
The number is probably not a line in the sand. Lampert has to reason that the retailers have enough revenue to support the new store count profitably. However, in the past, he has been unable to do that with higher store counts, and thus the repeated retrenching. More stores could go this year, if the math does not go his way.
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Sears Holdings is repeatedly mentioned as a candidate for bankruptcy. There is some chance that is true. However, the company still has 1,275 stores to play with. That is enough for Lampert to beat a strategic retreat again. That is, until it is entirely clear that the falling store count cannot save Sears from oblivion.