Sears Announces Major Layoffs At Corporate Office

(Corilyn Shropshire)  The parent of struggling retailers Sears and Kmart said Thursday it eliminated 250 positions after posting fourth-quarter losses following a dismal holiday shopping season.

The layoffs at Sears Holdings represent a “mix of positions in various units and roles across the organization,” spokesman Chris Brathwaite told the Tribune. Brathwaite also said 151 open corporate office positions will not be filled.

While the company has several administrative outposts, including locations in New York, Seattle and a call center in Troy, Mich., the bulk of the layoffs and the open positions that will not be filled will come from its Hoffman Estates headquarters.

For years, Sears has struggled to stem its losses and transform into a profitable retailer. Despite belt-tightening and forming a real estate investment trust to try to extract more revenue from its vast real estate holdings, the retailer has continued to sputter. Greg Melich, an Evercore ISI analyst covering Sears, warned in a report earlier this month that the company is no longer “viable as a retailer in its current form.”

Earlier this month, the company warned in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was considering staff cuts and planned to accelerate the closing of 50 stores in 2016.

Early results of holiday sales in stores open at least a year indicated that fourth-quarter sales dropped 7.2 percent in Kmart stores and 6.9 percent in Sears stores despite heavy promotions. Sears also said it planned to raise at least $300 million by selling unspecified assets during the first half of the year but declined to provide more details.

Then, early Thursday, the bad picture became even more clear when the retailer said it lost $580 million, or $5.44 per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $159 million, or $1.50 per share, a year ago. Revenue fell to $7.3 billion from $8.1 billion. The retailer missed Wall Street’s expectations by 34 cents.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert blamed the holiday season’s “unseasonably warm weather and competitive, markdown-heavy retail environment.” He added the company would keep its eye on the prize, which is transforming Sears into a “member-centric, integrated retailer.”

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