(Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp on
Thursday reported a deep loss and sales decline in a "tough-to-terrible"
holiday quarter, but said it was making progress in generating more of
its sales through a loyalty program it was betting its future on.
Comparable sales fell 7.8 percent at its namesake U.S. department
stores, and 5.1 percent at its Kmart discount stores, while gross
profit margins at both chains shrank as it offered deep markdowns,
particularly on electronics and clothing.
It said U.S. comparable sales were positive so far in February at
Sears and Kmart.
Sears has been trying in recent years to transform itself from a
traditional retailer focused on stores, into one based on membership
through its Shop Your Way program that also integrates online
The retailer made progress on that front last year, when some 69
percent of sales were generated through the Shop You Way program,
compared to 59 percent a year earlier. Online sales rose 10 percent
for the year.
Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert, a hedge fund manager who is
also Sears' largest shareholder, acknowledged it was a
"tough-to-terrible" holiday season.
However, he said the season underscored the importance of his
transformation plan to reflect changing shopping behavior.
"We build relationships with our members, anticipate their needs and
serve them in the manner most convenient for them," Lampert wrote in
a letter on Thursday to investors, employees and customers.
Despite those efforts, sales continued to deteriorate quickly,
leading to another quarter of deep losses.