What’s the Future at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. made big news yesterday, with management announcing that CEO Aylwin Lewis is leaving the company early next month. Lewis’ interim replacement is W. Bruce Johnson, executive vice president of supply chain and operations.

The move comes just a few days after a company announcement saying that it was switching up its “internal management and organizational structure.” Part of that change includes focusing more on individual business units, including “operating businesses, support, brands, online and real estate,” according to the statement.

“By creating smaller focused teams that are clearly responsible for their units, we increase autonomy and accountability, create greater ownership and enable faster, better decisions,” said Chairman Edward S. Lampert.

Since Kmart and Sears merged in 2005, the marriage has been one of the biggest question marks in the retail real estate industry. Can the two survive as a successful ongoing business, or was this simply a real estate play?

Sales have not been rosy of late. Over the holiday season, same-store sales fell 2.8% at Sears stores and 4.2% at Kmart, year over year.

Whenever we go to an ICSC conference or any other retail-related real estate event, Sears is more often than not a hot topic. Kenneth Wong, Westfield’s president of US operations, told us in the fall: “We have 40-plus Sears stores. What’s going to happen in the boxes? We want them to be a great retailer. If that’s not what they intend to be, then we want them to explore other options with us, such as working on how to recycle their real estate.”

So are they making the correct steps to become a great retailer with these organizational moves, or will the industry see more of the same?


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