The company on Wednesday morning disclosed a new liquidity plan that includes plans for a $300 million raise in new financing. The troubled retailer, which includes the Sears and Kmart nameplates, has raised $100 million and is seeking to raise another $200 million. The plan also includes cost reductions of $200 million on an annualized basis in 2018 that does not include savings from store closures. The company last week said it plans to shutter 103 locations between February and March. It also intends to continue its evaluation of store productivity, which means Sears Holdings would probably close additional doors where necessary.
While Lampert was quick to note in his blog that financial maneuvers last year — the sale of its Craftsman brand, the deal with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to pre-fund pension plan contributions and other steps to achieve $1.25 billion in cost savings — were enough to help Sears “survive the so-called ‘Retail Apocalypse,’” he also said “many observers are not persuaded that Sears Holdings can be a viable competitor in the long term.” Lampert concluded it was “obvious” the company needed to do more to “overcome the skepticism and obtain the support of outside lenders and our vendor community.” Hence, the new liquidity plan for fiscal-year 2018, the latest in series of financial maneuvers and initiatives over the last few years to stay afloat.
Lampert didn’t address the lack of merchandising in the stores, or the fact that many retail locations are in need of refurbishment. He chose instead to reiterate the right-sizing of the company’s store base as a necessary element of its transformation to its membership-focused Shop Your Way program.
Lampert also noted that certain choices had to be made for the best interest of the company, even though they ran “counter to my philosophy of building businesses.” He also reiterated a long-standing complaint of his that some vendors made decisions that have had a “major impact on our operations and liquidity.”
The ceo insisted “Sears Holdings has valuable assets that can be harnessed to create value in the future, but it requires a more stable environment and more cooperative partners.” Yet even Lampert couldn’t avoid the question that keeps recurring when there’s talk about Sears’ future, which is whether the company can turn around its fortunes.
Lampert insisted that if the company can successfully conclude the financing transactions it is contemplating, “[W]e will materially improve the financial strength and operating focus of Sears Holdings and provide meaningful reassurance of our viability to our vendors and business partners.” But he also cautioned that “should our efforts to complete the financing not be fully successful, the company’s board will consider all other options to maximize the value of Sears Holdings’ assets.”
Sears said holiday wasn’t so great at its two nameplates. Comparable-store sales were down 16 to 17 percent for the first two months of the fourth quarter of 2017, or down 14 to 15 percent after adjusting for the closure of pharmacies in select locations and the reduction in its consumer electronics assortment.
Christina Boni, a credit analyst at ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service, said, “Sears is taking additional steps to address its upcoming maturities in fiscal 2018 and improve its liquidity as its unencumbered asset base continues to decline and its business turnaround remains elusive.”
Boni said while the department store sector had “brighter sales” this holiday, Sears’ comps decline shows it has continued to “significantly underperform” its peers.
Shares of Sears Holdings rose 5.1 percent to close at $3.29 in Nasdaq trading Wednesday.