By  on December 7, 2005

NEW YORK — Edward Lampert is hitting back at his critics.

In his letter to shareholders on Tuesday, the chairman of Sears Holdings Corp. blasted naysayers of his strategy for the parent of Sears, Roebuck and Kmart as the company posted third-quarter results that were lower than a year ago but still managed to beat earnings expectations.

Apparel sales at Sears, Roebuck hurt same-store sales results, while Kmart saw lower demand for electronics and home products. Kmart also saw lower transaction volumes across most businesses, although its apparel sales outperformed other categories and posted positive comps during the period, the company said.

"I will simply say that I am pleased with the progress we are making at Sears Holdings," Lampert wrote to shareholders. "We are hiring great people, creating a winning culture and focusing relentlessly on profitability. We have accomplished much in eight months and have a long way to go. We will continue to get better, which also entails recognizing the mistakes we make and correcting them."

The chairman said he's observed in the past year a significant degree of interest in the press about Sears Holdings. "This is not surprising: As a well-known, high-profile American company, Sears will always attract considerable attention. There is no shortage of commentators who are eager to make known their perspectives on our company and its prospects. Some of these do so ‘on the record'; others cloak themselves in anonymity or do not disclose the true motives that are driving their comments," he wrote.

Calling the attention flattering, Lampert cautioned investors who read what is written about the company to do so with an "appropriate amount of healthy skepticism." He noted that the success of critics and so-called experts is in some cases based more on the controversy generated by their articles and not by the accuracy of their predictions.

He pointed out, "Most observers and financial pundits missed the turnaround at IBM, missed the turnaround at American Express, missed the turnaround at J.C. Penney, missed the emergence of Google and missed the resurrection of Kmart — until it was abundantly clear that those companies had succeeded. In all those cases and in many others, imposing the right disciplines; adjusting the cost structure; creating an atmosphere of teamwork and collaboration, and being willing to learn while having the confidence to stay the course in the face of skepticism — were the necessary preconditions of success. We are not yet even one year into the merger, and we have plenty of work ahead of us, but that is the culture that we are committed to building at Sears Holdings."

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