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Sears


Wall Street rewarded Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ:SHLDD) Thursday with a boost in stock prices on the strength of narrower-than-expected Q1 losses. This despite revenue and same-store sales declines in the double digits.

The company said it would ramp up cost-cutting efforts to $1.25 billion from its previous target of $1 billion. Sears said it would continue to review it store operations as cost-cutting continues.

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Not As Bad As Expected

Analysts expected an EPS loss of $3.05. Instead the company reported an adjusted loss of $2.15. Thomson Reuters forecast revenue of $4.05 billion. Sears reported $4.3 billion.

Same-stores sales declined 11.9% compared to FactSet’s estimate of a 12% decline. All this resulted in the company reporting its first quarterly profit in nearly 2 years. Net income attributable to Sears’ shareholders was $244 million or $2.28 per share. A year earlier the company showed a loss of $471 million or $4.41 per share.

Pluses And Minuses

Profit saw a boost via the sale of Sears’ Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. (NYSE:SWKC) in March. Overall revenue suffered due to lower grocery sales in Kmart stores. Also down were sales of household items, pharmacy and apparel.

Fewer home appliances went out the door at Sears and the company also saw weak sales in Sears store apparel and lawn and garden categories.

CEO Eddie Lampert said in a statement, "While this was certainly a challenging quarter for our Company, it was also one that clearly demonstrated our commitment to return Sears Holdings to solid financial footing. We recognize that we need to accelerate our efforts to improve our operational performance and are moving decisively with our $1.25 billion restructuring program."

Hold On There

Despite Wall Street’s optimism, some are also pointing out that the profit shown was the result of selling of the Craftsman brand, not of increased sales in the core business. In fact, as Business Insider noted, Sears Chief Financial Officer Robert Rieckert said the $244 million income reported for the quarter was directly related to the sale of Craftsman.

It was noted that Sears reached a deal earlier this week with lenders to give the store more time to pay off debt. Some suppliers, however, have attempted to cancel contracts or cut back orders based on fears the retailer could go bankrupt soon.

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The Real Problem

The one thing that can’t be ignored is that fewer customers are coming into both Sears and Kmart stores. This simple fact was behind Sears’ regulatory filing earlier this year stating it had substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. Despite improved numbers that doubt has not gone away.

On the plus side, two major Sears shareholders have been buying up shares – creating hope that the chain may be able to hang on after all.



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