Earnings Preview: Sears Holdings Corp.

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 3:27 PM

Sears Holdings Corp. reports its results for the third quarter on Thursday. The following is a summary of key developments and analyst opinion related to the period.

OVERVIEW: Sears Holdings has struggled for years as customers slip away from its Sears and Kmart stores. And it is expected to report that it lost only slightly less than it did a year earlier as its sales sagged further, despite efforts to drum up new business during the quarter, which ended Oct. 31.

Led by financier Edward Lampert, the company has launched a major campaign to win over holiday shoppers _ with measures like its new Christmas Club cash savings card good at Sears and Kmart stores _ and capitalize on last year's successful holiday layaway program. And it has indicated it's trying to compete with heavyweights Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

During the third quarter, Sears announced a plan to allow outside retailers to sell products on its Web site. The move, similar to one recently made by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., allows the chains to provide a greater assortment of products to its online shoppers. In August, Sears beefed up its in-store offerings _ adding toy shops to 20 locations and more than a dozen beauty and cosmetic departments. And the chain became the only retailer to sell Jenn-Air's newest line of high-end kitchen appliances.

Also during the quarter, William C. Kunkler, 52, executive vice president of the private equity firm CC Industries Inc., joined the retailer's board of directors.

Lampert acquired Kmart out of bankruptcy in 2003 and added Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 2005 to create Sears Holdings, which is based in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates.

BY THE NUMBERS: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predict a loss of $1.09 per share on revenue of $9.92 billion for the quarter. Last year the retailer lost $149 million, or $1.16 per share. Revenue fell 8 percent in the third quarter last year to $10.66 billion.

ANALYST TAKE: Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Dreher Jr. told investors that the sales declines at Sears and Kmart likely will continue into next fiscal year. And both probably will continue ceding customers to rivals, even though Sears could remain an important player in the holiday shopping scene this year.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Sears Holdings hasn't had a permanent chief executive for nearly two years, since Aylwin Lewis abruptly departed in early 2008. Interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson has held the post since then, and analysts will want to know whether his appointment will become permanent or a new CEO will be hired.

STOCK PERFORMANCE: During the quarter, shares rose about 2 percent to end the period at $67.86. They closed Tuesday at $76.32 near the high end of their 52-week range from $26.80 to $79.75.