Canadian Sears stores spared in mass closure

People walk past the main Sears store in downtown Vancouver Feb. 23, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark

People walk past the main Sears store in downtown Vancouver Feb. 23, 2011. REUTERS/Andy Clark

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:25 PM ET

Sears Holdings Corp. announced Tuesday it plans to close between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores due to poor sales.

A list of stores affected will be available at searsmedia.com once the retailer decides on the locations, but a Sears Canada spokesman told QMI Agency no Canadian locations will be closed.

The Illinois-based retailer, which has 4,000 stores in Canada and the U.S., said in a statement that sales over the holiday season had been disappointing, and the loss will affect the company's overall performance.

"We will carefully evaluate store performance going forward and act opportunistically to recognize value from poor-performing stores as circumstances allow," Sears said in a statement. "While our past practice has been to keep marginally performing stores open while we worked to improve their performance, we no longer believe that to be the appropriate action in this environment."

The retail giant said sales fell 5.2% in the eight weeks ending at Christmas compared to the same time last year. Since the merger of Sears and Kmart in 2005, group sales have been steadily declining.

Last year, Sears recorded a small profit of $133 million on sales of $43.3 billion. The company is set to record a net loss for the year ending in late January.

In recent years, many Wall Street analysts have criticized Sears for not investing enough to make its stores more attractive.

In addition, some were surprised the company wanted to borrow money during the holidays — usually a period of liquidity for large stores. Once one of the leading U.S. retailers with a national reach through its popular catalogue along with hundreds of stores, Sears has been pressured in recent years by competitors ranging from Walmart to Amazon.com.

Under the stewardship of Chairman Edward Lampert, the company has let stores deteriorate, while analysts also cite poor locations and ho-hum merchandise for its ongoing decline.

"They've neglected this business for so long," independent retail analyst Brian Sozzi said, noting that he expects many more closures. "They are letting Kmart and Sears die on the vine."

The declines at Kmart were led by drops in electronics and clothing sales as the low-price chain faced stiff competition from Walmart, which resumed its layaway program this holiday season after five years.

Sears blamed poor consumer electronics sales in a tough economic environment "especially for big-ticket items" for much of its sales decline.


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