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More Sears stores closing as retailer on brink of liquidation

The fall of Sears

Sears is closing 80 more stores as it teeters on the brink of liquidation through a bankruptcy court. The 130-year old retailer had set a deadline of Friday for bids for its remaining stores to avert closing down completely. The only apparent bidder: Sears Holdings Corp.'s current chairman, the hedge fund investor Edward S. Lampert, CNBC reported, citing anonymous sources.

It's not clear if Lampert can save the day. The once-mighty retailer that began as a mail-order catalog in the 1880s has been in a slow death spiral, hobbled by the Great Recession and then overwhelmed by rivals both down the street and across the internet.

The 80 stores are due to close by March. That's in addition to 182 stores already slated for closure, including 142 by the end of 2108 and 40 by February. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October , saying at the time it would close more than 20 percent of all stores, keeping open only its 500 most profitable locations.

Sears Holdings, which also runs Kmart, joins the list of retail brands taken over by hedge funds that collapsed under the weight of debt forced upon them. Under Lampert, Sears Holdings has bought time by spinning off stores and putting on the block the brands that had grown synonymous with the company, such as Craftsman. 

The company's biggest shareholder, Lampert loaned out his own money and put together deals to keep the company afloat and to turn whatever profit he could for his ESL Investments hedge fund. Lampert and ESL have been trying to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock, a move ESL claimed could save 50,000 jobs. 

If the Lambert bid that CNBC cited Friday has been submitted, Sears' bankruptcy advisers would have until Jan. 4 to decide whether the new bid from Mr. Lampert qualifies. If they approve, Lampert could then participate in a scheduled Jan. 14 liquidation bid auction, according to Yahoo News and court filings. 

How Sears went from innovation to bankruptcy

Retail industry analyst Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, was highly pessimistic Friday about the chances for success. "It looks increasingly likely that Sears will fall into liquidation," Saunders stated. "In our view, the lack of bids and the difficulties Eddie Lampert i[appears to be] having in raising finance for his own offer reflects the fact that Sears is essentially worthless. Not only is the business deeply unprofitable, but it also suffers from a tarnished brand and the lack of a clear proposition. This means any purchaser would need to undertake both severe financial engineering as well as brand reinvention -- a costly and risky process with little guarantee of success."

The retail analyst was particularly dismissive of Lampert's attempts to turn around Sears when he was CEO of the company before the October bankruptcy filing: "Sears has attempted to shrink its way to success by closing stores. While closure sales have helped to temporarily boost [traffic] and revenue at some shops, they have done nothing to put the firm on a sound footing. Nor have the efforts improved perceptions. Our data from the holiday period show that overall customer usage of both Sears and Kmart has fallen, and perceptions of both brands are down on last year's low scores. In our opinion, this is a brand now at rock bottom."

Without Lampert's ESL buying the company as a whole, liquidators are likely to split up the company. More stores than previously planned could still be shut, sold or demolished.

Ultimately, Saunders observed, "we do not preclude the brand assets being purchased during liquidation, with the Sears name perhaps surviving as an online-only entity. Such an outcome would be a dispiriting end to a once iconic retailer. However, over many years, a string of incredibly poor management decisions put Sears on a path to failure, making liquidation the most likely outcome of the bankruptcy process which began back in October."

The company notified employees it plans to shut the 80 additional stores by March, according to the following statement: "As part of Sears Holdings' processes to accelerate its strategic transformation and facilitate its financial restructuring, on December 27, 2018, the company informed associates at 80 stores that we will be closing these Sears and Kmart stores in late March 2019. Liquidation sales at these stores are expected to begin in two weeks." 

Is my local Sears store closing?

Here is the list of the store closings announced Friday. Asterisks note Sears stores where the accompanying Sears Auto Center at the Sears store will also be closing:

FORMAT/STREET ADDRESS/CITY/STATE 

Kmart 7055 East Broadway Tucson AZ 

Kmart 2180 E Mariposa Rd Stockton CA 

Kmart 20777 Bear Valley Rd Apple Valley CA 

Kmart 1000 San Fernando Rd Burbank CA 

Kmart 2875 Santa Maria Way Santa Maria CA 

Kmart 2505 Bell Rd Auburn CA 

Kmart 295 Hartford Turnpike Vernon CT 

Kmart 200 Irwin Ne Fort Walton Beach FL 

Kmart 6126 Hwy 301 Ellenton FL 

Kmart 11 Sherwood Square Peru IN 

Kmart 2940 Veterans Blvd Metairie LA 

Kmart 8980 Waltham Woods Rd Baltimore MD 

Kmart 201 Ninth St S E Rochester MN 

Kmart 155 Twin City Mall Crystal City MO 

Kmart 12057 Highway 49 Delmar Plaza Gulfport MS 

Kmart 980 Brevard Rd Asheville NC 

Kmart 110 112 Bost Rd Morganton NC 

Kmart 4841 Arendell St Morehead City NC 

Kmart 1900 S Washington St Grand Forks ND 

Kmart 1515 W 3Rd Alliance NE 

Kmart 213 Highway 37 E Toms River NJ 

Kmart 1705 S Main St Roswell NM 

Kmart 308 Dix Avenue Queensbury NY 

Kmart 1020 Center Street Grand Central Plaza Horseheads NY 

Kmart 121 Bolivar Road Wellsville NY 

Kmart 1251 State Rte 29 Ste 1O Greenwich Plaza Greenwich NY 

Kmart 7701 Broadview Road Cleveland OH 

Kmart 620 Plaza Dr Fostoria OH 

Kmart 400 N East Circle Blvd Corvallis OR 

Kmart 996 West View Park Drive Pittsburgh PA 

Kmart 2873 W 26Th Street Erie PA 

Kmart 1143 Broad St Sumter SC 

Kmart 1111 E North St Rapid City SD 

Kmart 1805 E Stone Dr Kingsport TN 

Kmart 217 Forks Of River Pkwy Sevierville TN 

Kmart 4110 E Sprague Ave Spokane WA 

Kmart 1450 Summit Avenue Oconomowoc WI 

Sears* 2050 Southgate Rd Colorado Spgs CO 

Sears* 1650 Briargate Blvd Colorado Spgs CO 

Sears* 3201 Dillon Dr Pueblo CO 

Sears 1700 W Intl Speedway Blvd Daytona Beach FL 

Sears* 1500 Apalachee Pkwy Tallahassee FL 

Sears* 347 Westshore Plz Tampa FL 

Sears* 1441 Tamiami Trl Pt Charlotte FL 

Sears* 9409 Us Highway 19 N Ste 101 Port Richey FL 

Sears* 150 Pearl Nix Pkwy Gainesville GA 

Sears* 4480 Sergeant Rd Sioux City IA 

Sears 235 Saint Clair Sq Fairview Hts IL 

Sears* 7200 Harrison Ave Cherry Valley IL 

Sears* 7700 E Kellogg Dr Wichita KS 

Sears 4400 Veterans Mem Blvd Metairie LA 

Sears* 2306 N Salisbury Blvd Salisbury MD 

Sears* 5500 Harvey St Muskegon MI 

Sears 27600 Novi Rd Novi MI 

Sears 2000 N E Court Bloomington MN 

Sears* 1620 Guess Rd Durham NC 

Sears* The Streets Of Southpoint Durham NC 

Sears* 7424 Dodge St Omaha NE 

Sears* 6400 O St Lincoln NE 

Sears* 3450 S Maryland Pkwy Las Vegas NV 

Sears* 10 Miracle Mile Dr Rochester NY 

Sears 5053 Tuttle Crossing Blvd Columbus OH 

Sears* 1400 Polaris Pkwy Columbus OH 

Sears* 1475 Upper Valley Pike Springfield OH 

Sears* 501 Medford Ctr Medford OR 

Sears* 200 Park City Ctr Lancaster PA 

Sears* 5256 Route 30 Greensburg PA 

Sears* 5580 Goods Lane Ste 1005 Altoona PA 

Sears 1000 Rivergate Pkwy Goodlettsvlle TN 

Sears 2021 N Highland Ave Jackson TN 

Sears* 201 S Plano Rd Richardson TX 

Sears* 4310 Buffalo Gap Rd Abilene TX 

Sears* 851 N Central Expwy Plano TX 

Sears* 6001 W Waco Dr Waco TX 

Sears* 7701 1-40 W Ste 400 Amarillo TX 

Sears* 2100 S W S Young Dr Killeen TX 

Sears 3100 Highway 365 Port Arthur TX 

Sears* 1531 Rio Rd E Charlottesville VA 

Sears* 1321 N Columbia Center Blvd Suite 455 Kennewick WA 

Sears 4301 W Wisconsin Ave Appleton WI 

* Sears Auto Center closing, late January

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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