Sears appears to be culling from the top

Oct. 9, 2013 at 2:48 PM
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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill., Oct. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. retail giant Sears Holdings Corp. has been raising cash by selling some of its more profitable locations, persons following the company said.

Industry analysts and former employees have said that a deal in February 2012 in which Sears sold 11 stores to General Growth Properties included one of the company's most profitable stores, which was at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu.

That was a deal valued at $270 million, and $200 million of that was for the Hawaii location, former employees told The Wall Street Journal.

The strategy of selling the stores making a profit is contrary to most retail strategies, which involve cutting loose the least profitable stores each year and putting that capital into new locations.

Outlets in Woodlands, Texas, Murray, Utah, and Rochester, Minn., that were part of the February 2012 deal, however, were also highly profitable, former Sears employees said.

A spokesmen for Sears would not comment on individual store performances. However, only 2 percent of the stores Sears sells are considered solid performers, said Sears U.S. spokesman Howard Riefs.

Two stores in a sale in July to CBL & Associate Properties -- one in Nashville and one in Lexington, Ky. -- were also making a profit, the Journal said Wednesday.

Gary Balter, a retail analyst at Credit Suisse estimated that the Nashville location earned $1.4 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization with sales at $37.3 million. The Kentucky location earned $3.1 million on sales of $62.6 million, Balter said.

Sears has said it aims to raise $500 million in asset sales this year, following two years in which the company lost more than $4 billion.

Location, location, location. In September, Baker Street Capital, an investor, released a report that said the top 350 Sears locations -- out of a total of more than 2,000 -- were worth about $7.3 billion.

The report sent stock higher, but Balter called that, essentially, wishful thinking. You can't sell the best locations and maintain a viable business, he said in response to the report.

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