Despite the mounting list of retailers forced into bankruptcy this year, Sears Holdings, which has been burning cash and drowning in red ink, managed to hold on—even as countless analysts and onlookers attempted to predict its time of death.
It even managed to outlast Sears Canada, the company it spun off, which buckled under a litany of issues midyear. Unfortunately, Sears Holdings’ billionaire benefactor was unwilling to throw the Canadian company a lifeline as he has done for the U.S. operations on multiple occasions.
Through his hedge fund, ESL Investments, Sears Holdings CEO Edward Lampert loaned the retail group $600 million this year—$500 million plus more $100 million more after an initial $100 million had been repaid.
In addition, the company succeeded in achieving $1.25 billion in cost savings under its Transformation plan, primarily through real estate sales, store closures and layoffs.
The year was also studded by public dust ups as Lampert defended the retailer against what he deemed to be unfair reporting and opportunistic vendors. There were also repeated reports of suppliers at a crossroads as they tried to determine how and if they should continue forward.
Sears’ troubles played out against a backdrop of widespread turmoil in apparel retail, as the entire industry grappled with how to retrench in the face of falling foot traffic and online competition.
Sears, which launched in 1869 as a catalog business, was once a powerhouse extended beyond retail with AllState Insurance, Dean Witter Financial Services Group and the Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group. The stores though began losing ground in the late 80s as rising upstarts like Walmart came into favor. By the time Lampert brought Sears and Kmart under the same corporate umbrella in 2004, the luster had already warn off the retail brand. In 2010, Lampert announced Sears would revamp its assortment and services, reportedly saying the retailer would be “unrecognizable” in five years. Sadly, that prediction came true.
Click through the timeline below to see how the year played out for one of the country’s oldest—and once most revered—retailers.