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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 06:45 PM

Sears' future is still in doubt a year after bankruptcy filing

Sears filed for bankruptcy a year ago today. And while the company used the process to shed debt, get out of store leases it didn't want and dodge liquidation, the last 12 months have hardly been a success.

And there are signs that the store's future may be in greater doubt than when it emerged from Chapter 11 in February.

One of them is a rash of store closings that was not in the company's plans.

At the time it exited bankruptcy there were more than 400 Sears and Kmart stores, down from about 1,000 a year earlier. Company plans called for modest additional closings of 30 of 191 remaining Kmarts by the end of this year. The store count for Sears locations was expected to remain at 231.

But the additional store closings have gone much deeper than expected. In August it announced plans to shutter another 21 Sears stores and five Kmarts. Since then there have been numerous reports, unchallenged by company spokespeople, that it would close more than 100 additional stores.

That could be a sign of weaker-than-expected sales, the difficulty of reaching deals with vendors to provide inventory, or some combination of both. Sears would not comment on specific reasons for the closings.

But the starkest sign of doubt about the company's future is that it has been without a CEO for the last 12 months.

Eddie Lampert, Sears' majority owner, gave up his CEO title on the day of the bankruptcy filing, retaining the chairman position. He planned to buy the remaining viable assets of the company in a bankruptcy auction, but he couldn't be CEO during that auction process.


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