Sears files for bankruptcy; will close another 142 stores

The once-dominant retailer shuttered more than 700 locations in the last 2 years

An illustration of Edward Lampert at a failing Sears store (Credit: ValueWalk via Flickr and iStock)
An illustration of Edward Lampert at a failing Sears store (Credit: ValueWalk via Flickr and iStock)

Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection early Monday, with immediate plans to close 142 stores near the end of this year.

The closings are in addition to 46 locations the once-mighty retailer already planned to shutter, though it did not specify how many of the new closures would be Sears or Kmart stores, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Despite efforts to cut costs by closing hundreds of stores, Chicago-based Sears lost more than $11 billion since 2011. In the last two years alone, it closed more than 725 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide.

Coinciding with the filing, Edward Lampert, who engineered Kmart’s $11 billion acquisition of Sears, is stepping down as CEO.

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Lampert’s efforts to keep Sears out of bankruptcy have included shedding hundreds of unprofitable stores. Sears and Kmart had some 3,500 locations when they merged under Lampert in 2005; now there are about 900 nationwide.

The company, which started out as a mail-order catalog in the late 1800s and expanded to locations around the country, has been unable to compete with retailers like Walmart and Target, along with the continued growth of e-commerce sites.

Lampert last month proposed a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy by shaving more than $1 billion from Sears’ $5.5 billion debt load, in part by selling another $1.5 billion in real estate.

A bankruptcy could lead to liquidation, meaning Sears would join Carson’s and Toys “R” Us among the bix-box retailers forced to shutter thanks to changing consumer habits.

The vacancy rate at malls nationwide — Sears locations often serve as mall anchor stores — hit a seven-year-high in the third quarter, and average mall rents slid for the first time since 2011. The closing of certain Sears stores was cited as one of the reasons for the high vacancy rate. [Chicago Tribune] — John O’Brien