business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Friday, we took note of a Fox Business story saying that "Sears Holdings has emerged from bankruptcy after more than 10,000 court filings and a four-year stay that saw the department store chain shrink from almost 700 stores to less than two dozen.  The bankruptcy estate’s reorganization plan took effect on Oct. 29, signaling an end to Chapter 11 and the start of a liquidation process for its remaining assets."

MNB reader Greg Pellegrino wrote:

Can someone do a financial post-mortem on Sears…

How did Eddie Lampert end up fairing after all the assets were sold in pieces, distributions, etc…

Who made money and who didn’t?

It would be very interesting to understand.

It would be.  Might take a forensic accountant.  Maybe someone like the Charles Martin Smith character in The Untouchables.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Talk about a business case and life lesson on how to kill an iconic brand,  this is it.  Until this story, I hadn’t thought about Sears for a long time.  What is Eddie Lampert doing? 

These days, Lampert would appear to be giving Elon Musk advice about how to save Twitter.

Another MNB reader connected the Sears story to another one about Target's new store format that includes space devoted to the fulfillment of online orders:

First off, Sears, we have that rare animal known as a Sears store in the Dallas area.  A few months ago, I went in there out of curiosity.  You see, like you, I remember when Sears sold nearly anything you could want, it was very hard to compete with the stranglehold they had on tools and appliances.with Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances.

But, they got lax, comfortable, they let the quality of their tools and their appliances slip, you could get better buys elsewhere and a new, younger customer didn't have the loyalty to Sears their parents may have had.  Plus, they didn't see the future correctly, if they had seen the e-commerce boom coming, they might have kept their catalogue department, with it's infrastructure, they could have been Amazon before Amazon.  But, they lost their way, they stopped being the value proposition they had been for decades, so people stopped shopping there, they had no reason to anymore.

When I went into that lone Sears store, it was largely empty, no Craftsman tools, they'd sold off that brand, almost no Kenmore appliances, nothing really to bring in a shopper, I'm surprised it was still open.

Target, their new emphasis on order filling may be smart.  However, it would be even smarter to stock their stores properly.  They have beautiful stores, neatly laid out, neat shelves, a lot of neat, empty shelf space.

I'm a sales / merchandising rep for a large broker, I won't say who.  I represent a large well known food company, again, which I won't name here.  Suffice it to say most of you should have at least some of our products in your pantries.  Well maybe not you Kevin since you're such a well known food snob, (I'm joking Kevin).  I walk into one of their stores and many of my basic products are out of stock.  In my other accounts, it's in stock, on the shelf ready to sell, not in Target.

So, I have ask myself, is the buyer not doing their job in keeping them in stock on staple items, , is the company not giving the buyers enough open to buy to keep them in stock.  Is the product sitting in the back room and they haven't stocked it.  If it is it may go out of date waiting to be stocked, because I've seen these items be empty for some time.

As you may have realized over the years, I'm a huge believer in the basics, getting the basics done right, keep your store clean, keep it stocked, have some knowledgeable employees running  your departments.

A store doesn't need to be a carnival ride to be successful, the carnival ride atmosphere may help, the sense of adventure may help.  But, it won't cover the fact that  you're out of basic everyday items that others are in stock on.

So, this new emphasis on e-commerce and filling orders at stores may be a very good thing, if they have the stock to fill the orders.