Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert now holds a majority stake in spun-off Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made on Thursday.
Miami-based Lampert, his hedge fund ESL Investments and related companies’ recent purchases now put the total number of shares they own at about 11.5 million, or 50.7 percent of Sears Hometown and Outlet shares. Before he began buying up Sears Hometown and Outlet shares in January, Lampert owned 46.2 percent of the company’s shares, according to an SEC filing from April 2015.
The move could be a sign Sears Holdings, based in suburban Chicago, and Sears Hometown and Outlet will be working together more closely, said Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillanDoolittle. The Hometown and Outlet stores have struggled since being spun off from Sears in 2012, Stern said.
Hometown stores, often in suburban or rural areas, specialize in Sears-brand products and other appliances, tools and lawn and garden equipment. Outlet stores offer similar goods – some discontinued, overstocked or reconditioned – at discounted prices. As of May 2015, Sears Hometown and Outlet and its franchisees had 1,248 stores.
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Earlier this week, Sears announced it would accelerate plans to close unprofitable stores and will consider additional staff cuts as it tries to stem the red ink after what it called a “challenging” holiday selling season.
For the full year, that measurement of sales fell 7.3 percent at Kmart and 11.1 percent at Sears.
While Sears wasn’t the only company that struggled during the holiday season, it fared worse than some competitors.
Macy’s saw a 4.7 percent drop in November and December sales compared with 2014 in stores open at least a year. J.C. Penney reported a 3.9 percent increase in sales over that time period, while Kohl’s reported a 0.4 percent increase over 2014 for the full fourth quarter.
The Chicago-area company already had said it would close 50 stores this year, with most shutting down between March and April, said spokesman Howard Reifs. Most of those are Kmart stores where the company opted not renew leases, he said.