As other retailers have poured money into their businesses, Sears has arguably been on the sidelines. A report from Susquehanna Financial Group had said Sears in 2017 was spending roughly 91 cents per square foot to make upgrades both online and in stores, while J.C. Penney spent $4.13, Kohl’s was paying $8.12, and Best Buy was forking out $15.36 per square foot to make enhancements.
The trend started under Martinez. Under his tenure as CEO, from 1995 to 2000, Sears closed more than 100 stores, laid off more than 50,000 workers and discontinued Sears’ famous catalog. He was trying to slash costs as sales started to fall, but the troubles only mounted.
When Lampert took the helm as CEO in 2013, he continued to cut some of its marquee brands and assets. The company has since sold off its credit card portfolio to Citibank, the Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker, spun off Lands’ End and shuttered hundreds of stores. It also has failed to invest back in its remaining stores.
“I think if it was any other retailer they probably would’ve already filed for bankruptcy,” Retail Metrics founder Ken Perkins told CNBC. “But in Sears’ case, someone with deep pockets is able to influx cash, extract real estate and sell off assets … the cupboard is running very bare and there isn’t a lot left.”