Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) kicked off another fiscal year with declining sales from a dwindling number of stores, and more closings are on the way.
The operator of Sears and Kmart stores posted a first-quarter loss of $3.93 a diluted share. Revenue fell due to fewer stores and a 12% drop in comparable-store sales. The Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based retailer said Thursday that it has identified 100 unprofitable stores, and 72 of them will begin store-closing sales in the near future. It will announce the locations to close by midday.
Shares fell as much as 13% before the start of regular trading. The shares have lost 10% this year through Wednesday’s close.
The decline in comparable-store sales, a key metric in retail, should be “alarming” to investors, said Noel Hebert, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.
“You’ve basically closed half the store base over the last few years and your ‘best’ stores are still negative 12%,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert has been striving to revive the company by closing unprofitable stores and selling or spinning off assets like its Lands’ End clothing unit. But Sears has lost about $11 billion since 2012. Now it’s hired a second set of advisers to re-shop its Kenmore appliance brand along with some home-services businesses. In April, Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc., said it was willing to purchase those assets itself.
“Our top priority is successfully executing our transformation to return to profitability and remain a competitive retailer for years to come,” Chief Financial Officer Rob Riecker said in a prerecorded call.
The retailer said in a statement that it plans to take further action “with respect to certain near-term maturities of our debt, including through repayments, refinancings and extensions.” First quarter sales were $2.9 billion, compared with $4.2 billion a year earlier, Sears said.
A rally in Sears bonds triggered by the company’s search for asset buyers is casting doubt on plans for reducing the retailer’s debt, Lampert said earlier this week. He’s the retailer’s biggest shareholder and has been using his own money for years to keep the 125-year-old chain open.