Sears CEO: Retiree Pensions Are Killing Us, Not Online Shopping

E-commerce is often blamed for the woes of brick-and-mortar retailers. But on Thursday, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert cast blame on the company’s retirees—specifically, pension plan payouts—for draining company coffers.

The statements came in a blog post by Lampert in which he outlined that since 2005, Sears has contributed over $4.5 billion to its pension fund. That amount would be significantly lower—and crucially, could go toward funding the company’s operations—if federal interest rates had been higher since the 2008 financial crisis.

“Had the Company been able to employ those billions of dollars in its operations, we would have been in a better position to compete with other large retail companies, many of which don’t have large pension plans, and thus have not been required to allocate billions of dollars to these liabilities,” he wrote. Filings show that Sears pays roughly $300 million annually in retiree pensions, according to CNN.

One way Sears has stayed buoyant in recent years: partnerships with Amazon. At the end of August, Sears announced it would expand the pilot program that enables Sears to install and balance automobile tires that consumers purchase through Amazon. The deal seems like is a win-win for both retailers, as well as customers. Amazon shoppers who buy tires, including Sears’ Die-Hard brand, can ship the tires to a nearby Sears Auto Center for installation.

In August, Sears announced it would close 46 more stores, including 12 Kmart locations. The news came after the company announced it would close over 100 locations in January, and that followed another 300 Sears and Kmart closures in 2017.

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