This could finally be Sears’ and Kmart’s last holiday shopping season

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Originally Published: 25 NOV 21 13:13 ET
By Chris Isidore, CNN Business

(CNN) — This Black Friday could very likely be the start of the final holiday shopping season for Sears and Kmart, two brands that once proudly dominated the US retail landscape.

The two chains are only a shell of what they were when the holding company that owns both emerged from bankruptcy less than three years ago.

At the time, the holding company — given the overly optimistic name Transformco — still had 223 Sears and 202 Kmart stores nationwide. That was already down 87% from the 3,500 stores between the two brands when they merged together in 2005 to form Sears Holdings. But the percentage drop in stores since the company emerged from bankruptcy in February of 2019 has been even steeper.

Today there are only 21 full-line Sears stores left in the mainland United States, and two more in Puerto Rico, according to the store locator on the Sears website, once recent closings are eliminated. Another seven stores listed on the site are limited to selling appliances, and in some cases, mattresses, rather than the full range of offerings that once was a hallmark of both chains.

And by the end of the year there will be only six Kmarts left in the mainland United States, along with six more in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

“To me it always felt like a liquidation. This has been going on for years,” said Reshmi Basu, an expert in retail bankruptcies at Debtwire.

Many retail experts blame Eddie Lampert, the primary owner of Transformco and Sears Holdings, for the demise of two chains.

“He’s letting leases expire, he’s abandoning stores. He keeps them open if it’s expedient to stay open,” said Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University. “Obviously, they are all going to be gone shortly. You can count on that.”

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Sears and Kmart are not the only retailers to struggle with the shift of shopping habits to big box retailers such as Walmart and Target, and to online retailers such as Amazon. JCPenney and Neiman Marcus both filed for bankruptcy when the pandemic hit in 2020, and Lord & Taylor went out of business.

But critics of Lampert say he’s to blame for the steep decline at both companies, as he invested little in the stores themselves, and sold off much of the more attractive real estate and brands that Sears once had, such as Craftsman tools, Diehard auto parts and Lands End.

“It’s been in terminal decline for quite sometime,” said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst at research firm GlobalData.

There’s little chance of saving either chain in the current retail environment. Vendors are having problem supplying much stronger retailers with the inventory they need, given current supply chain problems. That makes it more difficult for Sears or Kmart to have the products that …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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