Sears appears to be taking some decisive steps after announcing fourth-quarter losses from the end of last year. In a call with investors, Sears Holding Group admitted to weakening sales at both the department store chains that it owns, Sears and Kmart.
Sears and Kmart stores have been struggling for quite some time now. Right after Christmas, after suffering through a sales-poor holiday season, they announced that they would be closing over a hundred stores.
The fourth-quarter loss was expected, and it was beginning to look like Sears and Kmart were on a slow death spiral. Closing stores, tarnished image, struggling finances, low morale… leading to poorly maintained and stocked stores, which leads to even fewer customers.
But Sears CEO Lou D’Ambrosio came out swinging yesterday. “Our fourth quarter was unacceptable. We know that and we are taking immediate action to address that,” he told investors.
The new plan to bring Sears and Kmart back to prominence includes spinning off its Sears Hometown and Outlet stores, along with some of its hardware stores. That is expected to raise some cash that Sears can use elsewhere. Sears will also be selling 11 of its stores to General Growth Properties for $270 million. They also said they have 81 stores in the process of closing, and plans to shut down 40 more.
But besides all the spinoffs and store closings, little was said about what Sears and Kmart will do to get the thing they need most. Us, the shoppers, to come to their stores and buy things.
One of the reasons analysts say that we are not shopping there, is that the stores are rundown and outdated. While more modern stores like Walmart generally spend $6 to $8 per square foot on maintenance and upgrades, Sears spends approximately $1.50 to $2 per square foot on their Sears and Kmart stores.
Apparently D’Ambrosio doesn’t totally agree with that assesment. “Looking at just (capital expenditures) belies our investment in the customer experience. We are going to win our game,” he said.
Sears does say they are training staff, providing iPads to sales staff so they can better help customers research products, improving displays and store layout, and upgrading inventories.
But as their fourth quarter loss shows, they have a lot of work ahead if they are going to convince shoppers to flock to their stores again.