Financial Performance

Sears Narrows Loss But Comp Sales Drop 15%

While store closures helped Sears cut its third-quarter loss by nearly $200 million, "the fundamental economics of the business do not add up."
Matthew HellerNovember 30, 2017
Sears Narrows Loss But Comp Sales Drop 15%

Sears Holdings on Thursday reported a narrower net loss as its cost-cutting drive continued but same-store sales declined for a 24th straight quarter.

The retailer has slashed its operating costs by closing roughly 330 stores this year, with 100 more closures scheduled over the fourth quarter. It has also been trying to turn itself around by making brand licensing deals and promoting its Shop Your Way loyalty program.

In the third quarter, Sears lost $558 million, or $5.19 a share — in line with its earlier forecast of $525 to $595 million but down from $748 million or $6.99 per share, a year earlier. The adjusted earnings loss shrank to $275 million from $375 million.

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But same-store sales dropped 15.3%, with comp sales down 13% at Kmart locations and 17% at Sears stores.

“With the challenging retail landscape continuing to pressure sales, the improvement in adjusted EBITDA is reflective of the success of the strategic priorities we outlined earlier this year to streamline our operations, reduce inventory and minimize operating expenses, as well as our commitment to our goal of restoring positive adjusted EBITDA in 2018,” CEO Eddie Lampert said in a news release.

The company also cited its recent agreement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which will reduce its pension obligations, and said it would “maintain extreme cost discipline focus in light of continued headwinds across the retail sector.”

Sales of real estate and other assets generated more than $270 million in the third quarter.

“We will build on the momentum of our actions to date and be better equipped to support our continued transformation,” CFO Rob Riecker said in prepared comments to investors. “We are increasingly confident in our future.”

But investors apparently continue to be skeptical as Sears shares fell 3% to $4.08 in trading Thursday, bringing the year-to-date loss to more than 55%.

“Whichever way you cut them, the fundamental economics of the business do not add up,” GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders wrote in a client note. “Nothing in this latest set of results changes our view.”