September 24, 2020

Sears Reduces Losses, and Gap Has Banner Quarter

But investors were not pleased, sending shares down $2.47 a share, or 5.2 percent, to close at $45.

The results came after the company, which operates Sears and Kmart stores, announced last month that its chairman, the hedge fund billionaire Edward Lampert, would become chief executive as well. Investors had been queasy about the move as they worried whether Mr. Lampert would continue the investment that his predecessor, Louis D’Ambrosio, made to improve the shopping experience.

In his annual letter to investors, Mr. Lampert sought to ease worries on Wall Street by promising that the company would continue to invest in technology, bolster its online operations and make other changes. But he also blamed Sears’s difficulties on the seismic changes in buying behavior in the digital era.

“We are living in a hyper-connected world,” he wrote. Customers “want to get what they want when they want it and where they want it — on their own terms,”‘ he said. “To win the game, we have to change the game.”

Mr. Lampert engineered the combination of Sears and Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy.

Sears Holdings has posted six straight years of declines in revenue at stores opened at least a year.

The company reported it lost $489 million, or $4.61 a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 2. That compares with a loss of $2.4 billion, or $22.47 a share, a year earlier.

Excluding onetime items, earnings from continuing operations were $1.12 a share. That was below the company’s forecast made last month for a profit of $1.25 to $2 a share.

Revenue fell 2 percent to $12.26 billion from $12.48 billion. Sears said this was mostly a result of the separation of its Sears Hometown and Outlet businesses, the impact of having fewer Kmart and Sears stores in operation and lower revenue from stores open at least a year. This was somewhat offset by having an extra week in the period.

Revenue at stores open at least a year dropped 1.6 percent in the quarter.

Separately, Gap Inc., which operates stores under its namesake, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, reported a 61 percent increase in fourth-quarter profits, capping a strong year in which the company’s turnaround took hold.

Gap said late Thursday that it earned $351 million, or 73 cents a share, in the quarter ended Feb. 2. That compares with $218 million, or 44 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 11 percent to $4.73 billion in the period.

Analysts had expected 71 cents a share on revenue of $4.69 billion, on average.

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