Though investors realized early this year that the 2017 holiday season would be its last as a functioning company, Sears’ bankruptcy filing has kicked off a wave of nostalgia for the company that, more than any other, pioneered the department store as a concept. During the American post-war golden age, Sears’ dominance of the retail landscape was symbolized by Chicago’s Sears Tower, which was once the tallest building in the world.
Sears Chairman (and formerly CEO) Eddie Lampert
Asked to comment on the bankruptcy filing Monday morning, President Trump said the demise of Sears was “very, very sad,” adding that, when he was young, Sears Roebuck (as the company was once known) “was a big deal.”
The president added that some of the company’s “great sites” would be “put to good use” (though Sears’ most valuable real-estate holdings were spun off into a REIT called Seritage back in 2015). In a press release issued Monday morning, Seritage affirmed that it wouldn’t endure much of a hit to revenues from the Sears bankruptcy as “70% of its revenue” comes from “diversified, non-Sears tenants.”
“All of our capital investment, leasing and development activity over the last three years is unlocking substantial value, and has significantly diversified our income stream with approximately 70% of our signed leased income now coming from diversified, non-Sears tenants,” said Benjamin Schall, President and Chief Executive Officer.
“We have $1 billion of cash and committed capital under our Term Loan facility, which provides us the funds to complete all of our on-going redevelopment projects and cover reductions in cash flow that may result from the potential disruption in Sears income. The completion of our redevelopment projects brings our signed leased income on-line and will replace any potential lost income from Sears Holdings.”
Though he could easily have seized on the failure of Sears as an opportunity to attack China or Amazon for helping to undercut its business model and destroy American jobs (there are still 90,000 Sears employees whose future employment is now in jeopardy thanks to the bankruptcy filing), Trump said the company had been declining “for years” and that it had been “improperly run” for years.
“Sears has been dying for many years, it has obviously been improperly run for many years, and it’s a shame.”
It’s worth noting that (now former) Sears CEO Eddie Lampert, who will stay on as chairman of Sears Holdings, is a former Yale roommate of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Beyond Trump, Sears bankruptcy filing has prompted a wave of Sears nostalgia, as news organizations like the New York Times publish timelines of the company’s 125-year history, replete with old-timey photographs from Sears stores and catalogues:
The Sears Roebuck Building in 1933 at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago.
Women’s hats in a 1907 Sears Roebuck catalog.
The Entry Department at Sears headquarters where orders were entered on tickets for the company’s merchandise department.
Sears opened its first retail store in 1925 in Chicago.
A view of the Chicago skyline.
Customers gathered outside a store in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
If you’re looking for a detailed history on the rise and fall of Sears, the New York Times published one that can be viewed here.
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