CHICAGO — Sears says it will accelerate plans to close unprofitable stores and will consider additional staff cuts as it tries to stem the red ink after what it called a “challenging” holiday selling season.
Sears Holdings on Tuesday said fourth-quarter sales in stores open at least a year fell 7.2 percent in Kmart stores and 6.9 percent at Sears stores, despite the company entering the holiday period “with key product offerings and promotions intended to build engagement with our members and provide them with the best experience possible,” the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
For the full year, that measurement of sales fell 7.3 percent at Kmart and 11.1 percent at Sears.
Spokesman Chris Brathwaite noted Sears wasn’t the only company that struggled during the holidays, but it fared worse than some competitors.
Macy’s saw a 4.7 percent drop in November and December sales compared with 2014 in stores open at least a year. J.C. Penney reported a 3.9 percent increase in sales over that time period, while Kohl’s reported a 0.4 percent increase over 2014 for the full fourth quarter.
Sears already had said it would close 50 stores this year, with most shutting down between March and April, said spokesman Howard Reifs. Most of those are Kmart stores where the company opted not renew leases, he said.
Tuesday, it said the shutdown of unprofitable stores would include — but not be limited to — those locations.
The company said it also would seek to raise at least $300 million by selling other unspecified assets during the first half of the year, but declined to comment further on what assets might eventually be sold.
This year, Sears said it plans to take actions that would cut its costs by between $550 million and $650 million, following cuts of between $765 million and $790 million in 2015.
“The most important thing is that there are further actions being taken,” said Brathwaite.
Although the company’s appliances business is still a bright spot, the outlook for other goods is dismal, said Pam Goodfellow, an analyst with Prosper Insights & Analytics.
The share of customers who say they most often choose Sears when shopping for clothing, shoes and electronics has dropped more than 40 percent in each category over the last 10 years, according to a Prosper Analytics survey of about 7,000 U.S. shoppers over 18.
Sears used to rank in the top group of national retailers like Kohl’s, Wal-Mart and Macy’s where surveyed customers said they most often shopped for women’s clothing, Goodfellow said. But it now ranks in the middle of the pack, slightly behind Goodwill, she said.