Sears, One-Time Face of American Retail, Files for Bankruptcy

Sears bankruptcy seen imminent as once-dominant retailer keeps shrinking

Sears, the venerable chain that once dominated the American retail sector but had been in decline since the advent of the Amazon era, filed for bankruptcy Monday and announced it was closing nearly 150 stores. Sears opened its first store in 1925 in Chicago, and the Sears Tower in that city, now known as the Willis Tower, was the world's tallest building when it opened in 1973.

Will appliances purchased at Sears still be serviced by Sears Homes Service technicians? . The company will remain in business during the proceedings.

Sears, the one-time titan of American retail, filed for bankruptcy ahead of a $134 million debt payment due Monday and announced that it will close 142 stores.

Yes. Sears and Sears.com remain open and loyalty programs, including the Shop Your Way membership program, warranties, protection agreements, layaways, and the Sears and private label credit card and credit rewards programs continue as normal.

United States retailer Sears, a brand that once dominated shopping malls in the country, has filed for bankruptcy. But it faltered as discounters, specialty chains and online merchants wooed consumers away in recent decades, and it never seemed to find the niche that would keep them coming back.

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The S&P 500 traded slightly lower, but Simon Property shares rose 0.27 percent in early trading and the S&P 500 real estate sector gained 0.92 percent.

A new revival plan put in place by billionaire chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert has not convinced investors and the store's many creditors, and as a result, the retailer made a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in NY on the same day a loan for $134 million was due and apparently unable to be repaid.

With the bankruptcy, about 150 of the company's department stores could be closed, Reuters said late last week. Sears said ESL is negotiating a $300 million debtor-in-possession loan to support it through bankruptcy. The company will now be run by three of the company's top executives. With Sears heading toward bankruptcy, any potential for liquidation could mean an end to the lease agreements with Seritage. Lampert partially spun off the company from its parent in 2012 and was Sears Canada's biggest shareholder. The company once dominated the American landscape, but whether a smaller Sears can be viable remains in question. Lampert bought Sears in 2004 and merged it with Kmart, in which he had a controlling stake, the next year. Its debt to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, a US government agency overseeing the retirement benefits of former Sears workers, was not disclosed in the bankruptcy filing. In its last fiscal year, it generated $16.7 billion in sales, down from more than $50 billion in 2008.

Sears was built on two brilliant observations. While other traditional retailers enjoyed strong holiday sales, Sears and Kmart both reported sharp drops.

Meanwhile, Sears workers are nervous about what kind of severance they'll receive if their stores close. Instead of dwindling through its last handful of stores in Alaska, Blockbuster could have become the DVDs-by-mail giant, and then the streaming giant, and then the content production giant that Netflix is today.

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