Commentary: Without Lampert, Sears would have long since gone under
Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail
There can be no doubt that Eddie Lampert has made an enormous effort to keep Sears afloat over the past few years; indeed, had Sears been owned by anyone else it would have likely long since gone under.
These latest plans represent a stepping up of the mission to resolve the company's financial woes. The proposed asset sales are significant as is the offloading of real estate. Should both plans succeed, they would indeed help Sears pay down some of its enormous debt burdens and provide it with a buffer of liquidity.
That said, while we view these measures as necessary, we do not believe they represent a sustainable solution. As usual, Sears is focusing on financial maneuvers and missing the wider point that sales remain on a downward trajectory. In our view, this is because both Sears and Kmart are suffering from chronic underinvestment and a lack of clarity in terms of their proposition. Even in a strong consumer economy, customers are still drifting away to other brands and retailers.
Without revenue growth, Sears will remain a company at risk. Arguably, the various disposals will actually weaken the balance sheet and will result in an even higher deficit between assets and liabilities. In our view, this is simply storing up trouble for the future.