Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) has been on a long and slow turnaround path but seems unable to be turned around. We have questioned this company’s long-term viability if it stays on its current path on more than once occasion, and we are far from alone. Questions remain over just what Eddie Lampert is really aiming for, particularly since outside shareholders have money at stake here. Steady sales declines seem to have become the norm, and losses are mounting.
It has been pointed out that e-commerce sales are inconsequential for Sears. Sears is also behind peers on capital spending plans to revamp its stores. An analyst at Credit Suisse previously questioned the membership model, saying that people question whether Sears is where they want to shop.
Since Eddie Lampert’s merger of Sears and Kmart, it was pointed out by Dow Jones in late May, some $13 billion in sales and $9 billion in profits have disappeared, with the latest year having about $40 billion in sales and a loss of $930 million.
Sears has closed stores and eliminated brand-stores like Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp. (NASDAQ: OSH), which has pursued bankruptcy protection to pursue a sale. But the real underlying issue highlighting the persistent internal sales figures is the decline in same-store sales. The company’s total sales have fallen for six years straight. It also has been pointed out after the last earnings (or loss) report that the company had only about six months of raw cash available, although the retail giant does have access to capital via credit lines and other assets.
Now just on Tuesday comes a new prediction from a former Sears insider. Bloomberg TV hosted Mark Cohen, who teaches at Columbia University’ s business school on retail in New York. He is a former chairman and chief executive officer of Sears, and he has predicted that Sears will not exist in the same manner it exists now in four or five years. Lampert was called an asset stripper who sells assets every quarter or two to raise cash.
The Blue-Light Special seems to be alive and well, on the pain aisle. Sears is losing money. Wall Street refuses to even really cover this company as a real stock. Eddie Lampert is in control of the company via ESL Investments, and his strategy is being proven to have ended up likely turning out better if he would have put his stake in a blind trust for someone else to manage.
Even after a seven cent gain on Tuesday morning at $46.91, Yahoo! Finance represents that Sears has a market cap of only $4.99 billion. When you consider that the combination of Sears and Kmart is only about $5 billion, it seems almost mind-boggling that the value can be that low when it has more than 2,000 retail stores. In short, each Sears-owned store is worth less than $2.5 million on average.
Sears’s equity is worth only about 12% of sales, while Walmart, Target, Macy’s and many other large retailers are worth more than half of their annual sales figures. Sears also keeps losing money. Maybe the real question should not be if Sears is headed for bankruptcy. Perhaps the real question is when.