SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Six Sears department stores were closed Friday in Brazil and six others in the state of Sao Paulo were sold to the Brazilian chain Mappin Department Stores.
The sales and closures, by the joint Brazilian-Dutch company Susa, comes amid a severe economic recession and government-instituted price freezes that have cut profits to the chain, which appeals to the upper middle class of Brazil.
It has been several years since the U.S.-based chain has had operational control of the stores, leasing only the name to Susa. Mappin said plans had not been made on whether to retain the Sears name, but sources said the names were expected to be replaced with those of Mappin within a year, and that the merchandise was expected to be changed to reflect Mappin's wider appeal.
No money changed hands in the deal, which gave Susa 1 percent of sales over a 15-year period and an option for a 17-percent minority ownership of Mappin, officials for both companies said.
Three of the six stores that were shutdown were in Rio de Janeiro. The closures leave 10 Sears stores in Brazil under the control of Susa, and officials said they were examining the future of those stores as well.
Susa, a joint operation of Brazilian businessman Victor Malzoni and the Dutch group Vendex, blamed its problems on administrative difficulties and the recession.
The first Sears store in Brazil opened in 1949, in Sao Paulo.