Sears to shutter five Kmarts in N.C.

Department stores report a gloomy holiday sales season as more shoppers turn to online and gifting experiences rather than apparel

Source: Sears Holding Corp.—Source: Sears Holding Corp.
On Thursday

RALEIGH — Sears Holding Corp announced a second round of Sears and Kmart retail store closings Thursday and this time N.C. has five Kmart stores on the list. The retailer says that closing non-profitable stores is part of a strategy to boost the company’s liquidity. The stores shutting down in N.C. are the one in Concord on Concord Parkway, in Fayetteville on Skibo Road, in Madison on New Market, in Goldsboro on Berkley Boulevard, and in Wilmington on College Road. The new list brings the total closings to 150 stores, 107 Kmarts and 42 Sears retail locations. The figure is about ten percent of the Sear’s total number of stores. The company says they plan to shutter the stores by April.The struggling retailer also said on Thursday its comparable sales for November and December fell by 12-13 percent, the latest department store operator to report disappointing sales during the holiday shopping season.”We are taking strong, decisive actions today to stabilize the company and improve our financial flexibility in what remains a challenging retail environment,” said Edward S. Lampert, Chairman & CEO of Sears Holdings. “We are committed to improving short-term operating performance in order to achieve our long-term transformation.”The company’s shares rose 6.1 percent, however, after its earlier announcement that it would sell its Craftsman tools business to Stanley Black & Decker Inc for $900 million. Sears said it had set up a special committee to market real estate properties with the goal of raising more than $1 billion.”Going forward, Sears will be more focused on our Shop Your Way membership platform, a network with tens of millions of active members, and our Integrated Retail strategy in order to be a more nimble, innovative and relevant retailer that is better able to provide value and convenience to our customers. We are confident that concentrating on these key initiatives will lay the foundation for growth over the long-term,” Mr. Lampert continued.Sears is the latest announcement in what was a disappointing holiday season at department store retailers trying to win back shoppers who are increasingly turning to online retailers and spending less on apparel.Macy’s shares were down 9.6 percent in premarket trading on Thursday and Kohl’s 15.2 percent after both reported lower-than-expected sales for November and December and cut their full-year profit forecasts.Shares of other department store operators, including J.C. Penney Co Inc, also fell as the dismal showing came as a shock to investors, given heightened expectations of a bump in holiday spending this year.”The strength around Thanksgiving and Christmas was insufficient to offset the sales weakness in the balance of the quarter,” Stifel, Nicolaus & Co analyst Richard Jaffe wrote. “In addition, these peak selling periods were characterized by greater promotions which contributed to weaker than anticipated gross margin as well.”Department stores have been hit severely by changing customer habits – people are preferring to shop at online stores such as Amazon.Com rather than at brick-and-mortar stores.Shoppers are also spending more on experiences such as dining out and traveling, and big-ticket items such as homes than on apparel – a key sales driver for department Inc said last week it had its “best ever” holiday season, shipping more than 1 billion items worldwide.