Time runs out for Sears Canada

TORONTO — It’s the end of the road for Sears Canada. The retailer has asked for court approval to liquidate all its remaining stores and assets. The court is expected to hear the motion Oct. 13. Pending approval, liquidation sales at retail locations would begin Oct. 19 and continue for 10 to 14 weeks. The struggling company filed for protection from its creditors in June. It subsequently received the court's approval of a sale and investment solicitation process, but no viable solutions emerged.

Sears Canada’s demise — which some experts say was inevitable — was precipitated by the retailer’s inability to draw younger shoppers.

The retailer certainly tried to shed its stuffy image in an effort that began in 2016 and was more fully realized at the beginning of this year. As part of its reinvention plan, the company soft launched in the second half of 2016 an off-price business with a dedicated merchandising team to deliver deals on designer products to customers. In early 2017, the company formally launched the business as The Cut @ Sears, with structured online and in-store experiences and marketing support. In March 2017, the company also began rebranding its private label businesses with the introduction of a new line of everyday items on the Sears Label — key essentials for women, men, kids and the home.

It was a huge effort that even showed signs of promise. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Sears Canada’s same-store sales rose 1.3% from the prior-year quarter, and core retail same-store sales increased by 0.9%. Although the increases weren’t remarkably high, the retailer seemed to be coming out of its slump. Brandon G. Stranzl, Sears Canada’s executive chairman, was hopeful. Although acknowledging that the company still faced significant challenges, Stranzl struck a hopeful note about its ability to drive sustainable growth and profitability over time. But the amount of time required to see the payoff Sears Canada needed simply wasn’t there anymore. The company was hemorrhaging money, and its turnaround effort, however great, was ultimately not enough. The move to transform its image and offering came too late, after too many consecutive years of decline.

“The company deeply regrets this pending outcome and the resulting loss of jobs and store closures,” Sears Canada said in a statement. According to Bloomberg, store closures will result in the loss of at least 12,000 jobs.


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