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Why Did Sears Holdings Corporation Shares Drop 11% in September?

By Daniel B. Kline - Oct 2, 2017 at 1:06PM

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The company keeps moving in the wrong direction, and there's little reason to believe that will change.

Like a rock rolling downhill, Sears Holdings (SHLDQ) has moved steadily toward the bottom. Sure, there are occasional bumps that slow that progress, but nothing looks likely to stop the company's negative momentum.

What happened

Sears reported Q2 results on Aug. 24, and the numbers were as lousy as you might expect, given the chain's direction in recent years. The company, which owns Sears and Kmart, saw total revenue drop from $5.7 billion a year ago to $4.4 billion this year. Sears blamed that mostly on store closings and the closing of pharmacies in some stores, but comparable-store sales did drop by 11.5%. Kmart actually fared better, with comp sales dropping by 9.4%, while Sears stores fell by 13.2%.

The exterior of a Sears store

Sears has been closing stores. Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors have steadily lost faith in Sears and its CEO, Eddie Lampert. Shares in the company closed August at $8.21 and then dropped to $7.30 to close September. That's an 11% drop, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Lampert, however, remains convinced that his plans remain on track, or at least that's the face he presents to the public. The CEO has been relentless when it comes to defending his moves and has been critical of any suggestions that Sears may not survive: "The comprehensive restructuring of our operations is delivering cost efficiencies and helping drive improvements to our operating performance. While the third quarter has historically been our most difficult quarter over the past several years, we are working toward making meaningful improvement in our performance this year as a result of the restructuring actions we have put in place, and our continued focus on the expansion of our Shop Your Way ecosystem."

That's hard to see in the chain's numbers, but the CEO also said he believes the company is well on its way back toward profitability. 

Now what

Sears has been closing stores and selling assets to fund its continued operations. If it hopes to survive, it needs to find a bottom for its decline where it can operate profitably.

Lampert believes that balance exists. For that to happen, Sears would need to reverse it sales losses and stop the decline in comparable sales at its stores. In both cases, there has been little reason to believe that stability will occur. The chain seems likely to keep rolling downhill, eventually reaching its inevitable conclusion.

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