Sears posts $548 mln loss, doubles planned 2014 store closures

Shoppers browse sale merchandise at a Sears store in Peoria, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Shoppers browse sale merchandise at a Sears store in Peoria, Illinois.

Sears Holdings reported a quarterly net loss of $548 million, slightly less than it had estimated last month, and the struggling retailer said it had nearly doubled its planned store closures to cut costs.

Shares of Sears were down 1.2 percent at $33.85 in early trading on the Nasdaq.

Sears, which has been selling off assets and closing stores in an attempt to return to profitability, said last month it was expecting a net loss attributable to shareholders of between $590 million and $630 million for the fiscal third quarter ending Nov. 1. Sears recorded a net loss of $534 million in the same period last year.

Quarterly sales fell 13 percent to $7.21 billion, a reflection in part of its shrinking store count.

The company reported an adjusted loss before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) of $296 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $310 million a year earlier.

The figures pointed to an "improving trend" that was expected to continue in the fourth quarter, Chief Executive Eddie Lampert said on a pre-recorded conference call.

Sears also disclosed that it planned to close a total of 235 underperforming stores in 2014, nearly double the projection of 130 made in August, although it had said at the time it may decide to shutter more beyond that target. Sears said eliminating those stores should boost EBITDA by $50 million.

The company, once the largest U.S. retailer by revenue, has seen sales drop due to stiff competition from Target Corp , Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Home Depot Inc. Online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc have also eaten into its business.

Sears, owned 48.5 percent by Lampert and his hedge fund, has raised $2.2 billion this year to cover losses and build inventory for the year-end holiday season. Asset sales have included cutting its stake in its loss-making Canadian unit and spinning off the Land's End clothing chain.

In its latest move Sears said last month it might sell up to 300 stores to a real estate investment trust (REIT), which would then lease the properties back to Sears. If completed, the move would leave it with 400 to 500 owned stores and 1,300 to 1,400 leased stores.

Sears said its U.S. same-store sales fell 0.1 percent in the third quarter. Same-store sales rose 0.5 percent at Kmart stores, but fell 0.7 percent at Sears stores.