Sears Holdings Corp. posted a second-quarter profit — its first since 2012 — but that was a reflection of its real estate maneuvers and not about its core retail operation.
For the three months ended Aug. 1, net income was $208 million, or $1.84 a diluted share, against a net loss of $573 million, or $5.39, a year ago. On an adjusted basis for certain items, the net loss would have been $256 million, or $2.40 a diluted share, versus a net loss of $293 million, or $2.76, in the same year-ago quarter.
During the quarter, the company on July 7 completed its rights offering and sale-and-leaseback in connection with the independently traded real estate investment trust, Seritage Growth Properties. The aggregate real estate transactions that were done in connection with the formation of the REIT gave Sears $2.7 billion in gross proceeds.
Total revenues in the quarter dropped 22.5 percent to $6.21 billion from $8.01 billion. And comparable-store sales for stores open at least a year saw declines of 7.3 percent at Kmart and 14 percent at Sears’ domestic business. The company said comps were driven in part by “highly targeted promotional and marketing spend to better align with member needs” and the shift away from low-margin categories such as consumer electronics. There was a slight improvement as Kmart’s gross margin improved 80 basis points and Sears saw gross margin gain 210 basis points.
Many analysts on the credit side question how much time, and retail life, Sears had left given its cash burn rate. That in part likely contributed to the decision by chairman and chief executive officer Edward S. Lampert to “transform” the company “from a store-network retail business model to a more asset-light, member-centric integrated retailer leveraging” its Shop Your Way platform.
The transformation so far has taken several years, and still isn’t yet completed.
Lampert said second-quarter results marked the “fourth consecutive quarter of improved results.” With gross margins gains at both nameplates and a narrowing of the year-ago loss on an adjusted basis, Lampert isn’t wrong. With the financial maneuvers from leveraging its real estate assets, Lampert has bought himself time to work further on the planned transformation. The problem is there’s no guarantee that the retail business restructuring will take hold, and the only thing down the road that could be of any value left just might be the former Sears real estate holdings that were placed into Seritage.