Sears loss narrows; sales keep falling

Consumer confidence surged throughout December, declining sales are forcing Sears to close more than 100 Kmart and Sears stores, and Mark Zuckerberg vacations in Vietnam. Alison Harmelin reports.

(AP) HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. - Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD) cut expenses and reduced inventory in its second quarter, helping the struggling retailer post a narrower loss than last year.

The company's adjusted results met Wall Street's expectations, but revenue fell short because of weaker sales at both Sears and Kmart stores.

Sears is trying to turn around its business and spruce up its image. Three days ago the Hoffman Estates, Ill. company said that it is moving forward with plans to spin off its Hometown and Outlet stores along with some hardware stores into a separate company. The transaction is targeted to close in the third quarter.

The retailer has looked at spinoffs and real estate sales to restore profitability and boost shareholder confidence. Aside from the separation of the Hometown, Outlet and some hardware stores, the company announced in May that it would spin off a stake in its Canada division so that it could focus on turning around its U.S. business. This spinoff is expected to close during the second half of the year.

Sears has also paired with the Kardashian family on clothing and accessories, hoping to draw in younger customers.

For the period ended July 28, Sears lost $132 million, or $1.25 per share, for the period ended July 28. That compares with a loss of $146 million, or $1.37 per share, a year ago.

Excluding costs tied to store closings, a pension expense and other items, the company lost 86 cents per share.

Sears managed to trim its selling and administrative expenses in the quarter by reducing payroll and advertising costs.

Merchandise inventories fell to $8.7 billion from $9.3 billion. Domestic inventory was reduced thanks to store closings and improved productivity.

Sears, which has more than 3,900 stores in the U.S. and Canada, also reduced its total debt to $3.3 billion from $3.5 billion.

Revenue dropped 7 percent to $9.47 billion, missing Wall Street's $9.68 billion estimate.

Revenue from Sears stores in the U.S. open at least a year fell 2.9 percent. The figure declined 4.7 percent for Kmart locations. Sales of consumer electronics softened as the company dealt with competitive pricing. Lawn and garden sales also fell, with drought conditions across the country hindering purchases.

Fewer clearance items dragged down revenue, with tighter inventory levels limiting the amount of seasonal merchandise markdowns. Pharmacy sales fell as popular drugs such as cholesterol fighter Lipitor started coming out in cheaper generic versions.

Sears Canada reported a 7.1 percent drop in revenue at stores open at least a year on Thursday, hurt by unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. It also experienced lower sales of women's and men's clothing, tools, home decor and lawn and garden items.

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