"It's a shame", the 72-year-old president told reporters Monday morning as he departed the White House on his way to inspect damage in Florida and Georgia from Hurricane Michael.
Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses.
The last man standing while storied Chicago competitors like Wieboldt's, Montgomery Ward and Carson Pirie Scott fell by the wayside, Sears survived the Great Depression, adapted as its shoppers traded catalogs for downtown department stores, and followed customers to suburban shopping malls.
"While we have made progress, the plan has yet to deliver the results we have desired, and addressing the company's immediate liquidity needs has impacted our efforts to become a profitable and more competitive retailer". Once a symbol of the American lifestyle that prided itself on selling everything to everyone, it has been losing out to rival retailers Walmart and Amazon. In the last two years alone, the company has closed more than 725 Sears and Kmart stores.
The Sears workforce has dwindled to about 68,000 from 302,000 a decade ago.
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Over the summer, a special board committee Sears created was resisting a rescue offer from Lampert to acquire assets from it, including its Kenmore appliance name.
For generations, Sears served working-class homeowners hoping to buy high-quality products by offering them monthly instalment programmes. He done so through deals and infusions from his hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc., which is the retailer's biggest equity holder and a major debt holder. Lampert bought Sears in 2004 and merged it with Kmart, in which he had a controlling stake, the next year. That could boost same-store sales at many chains. With Sears heading toward bankruptcy, any potential for liquidation could mean an end to the lease agreements with Seritage.
One of the lingering questions for investors has revolved around the value of Sears' assets, which include prime real estate. Its management tried to compete by closing stores and cutting costs.
Analysts have speculated for years that Sears was a sinking ship. Once the dominant appliance retailer in the country, Sears accounted for only 3% of Whirlpool's sales worldwide in 2017. The bankruptcy court must greenlight this financing. Sears moved to Chicago in 1887, and he hired watchmaker Alvah Roebuck as his partner.
The bleak figures are an outlier to chains like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Macy's, which have been enjoying stronger sales as they benefit from a robust economy and efforts to make the shopping experience more inviting by investing heavily on remodeling and de-cluttering their stores. It was not immediately clear where those stores are located or how many jobs would be affected. At the time, they had 3,500 United States stores between them. Many large suppliers are getting paid in advance, while some smaller ones have cut payment terms to a few weeks, instead of months, according to people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named because the dealings are private. But in recent years, she's been disappointed by the lack of customer service and outdated stores.