April 11, 2011

Case Study: Recent Sears Holdings Headlines

  Here's some of Sears Holdings most recent headlines along with my take on them.

Sears Interim CEO 2010 pay more than triples

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Sears Holdings Corp.'s interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson, who gave up the top role in February, received compensation worth $5.3 million in 2010, more than triple the prior year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.

Johnson, 59, received a salary of $979,487, up 15 percent from the previous year, which ended Jan. 29, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

The company, controlled by billionaire financier Edward Lampert, operates Sears and Kmart stores. It has struggled for more than a decade with declining sales and customer defections. Analysts say it desperately needs to renovate its stores to lure shoppers back.

The bulk of Johnson's compensation came in the form of stock awards valued at $4.3 million, up from $663,400 in the previous year. Johnson also received other compensation worth $24,983 as part of Sears' perks program.

His total compensation the year before was valued at $1.5 million.

Johnson served as interim CEO and president from February 2008 until the company named Louis J. D'Ambrosio, 46, permanent CEO in February. Johnson now serves as executive vice president of the company's off-mall businesses and supply chain.

Johnson's base salary was restored to $900,000 in fiscal 2010 following a voluntary temporary reduction of his base salary to $850,000 in fiscal 2009 as the company aimed to cut costs. In April 2010, Johnson's base salary was increased from $900,000 to $1 million. In addition, Johnson received 40,000 shares of restricted stock last year to be paid in equal installments over four years.

Sears is being squeezed by retailers from all sides. At Kmart, whose business has strengthened somewhat, it faces challenges in food as Target Corp. expands into groceries. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has stumbled with falling sales but is still a formidable competitor.

Sears' stores' strength has long been appliances and home goods, including the Kenmore and Craftsman brands, but those sales have weakened. Home-improvement chains Home Depot and Lowe's Cos. have been specifically targeting that category.

For the year ended in January, Sears earned $133 million, or $1.19 per share. This was off 43 percent from $235 million, or $1.99 per share, in the prior year. Adjusted earnings fell to $2.07 per share from $3.19 per share.

Annual revenue declined 2 percent to $43.33 billion.

Full-year revenue at stores open at least a year fell 1.6 percent, with Kmart posting a 0.7 percent increase and Sears reporting a 3.6 percent decline. The measure is a key indicator of a retailer's health. Copyright 2011 Associated Press

My Take-
Can Sears Holdings really afford to pay their CEO's that much money while their sales shrink? Why Eddie Lampert would want to reward his CEO for declining sales is beyond me. This is just another reason why Eddie is slowly destroying Kmart and Sears. He should be using that money to renovate stores and not overpaying executives. One thing to point out that the article stated is Kmart's business has somewhat strengthened. That's been reinforced by Kmart's small increases in sales, while Sears stores have been reporting larger declines.

Sears Holdings Continues Commitment to the Military With Launch of Permanent Change of Station Promise

In Support of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces Initiative, Sears Holdings Offers Continued Employment to Service Members and Families

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. April 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ - As a longstanding supporter of the military and military families, Sears Holdings has announced the launch of its Permanent Change of Duty Station (PCS) Promise. The PCS Promise was created to support Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces initiative, which raises awareness around the challenges that military personnel and their spouses endure when moving from one community to another. The PCS Promise, which helps military associates and spouses employed by Sears Holdings secure job transfers, is aligned with the Joining Forces initiative, which asks the nation to support our brave service members.

"The Sears Holdings PCS Promise for our military associates and their spouses was specifically created to identify new opportunities for our heroes to continue leading successful careers, regardless of their location," said Lou D'Ambrosio, chief executive officer of Sears Holdings. "And it is an honor to offer this promise at the same time that Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden are leading the charge in the Joining Forces initiative, which is committed to providing heroes the support and opportunity they deserve."

In many cases, military spouses move from one community to another when their spouses are reassigned. On top of the stress of uprooting children and relocating to a new community, military spouses are often faced with the difficulty of continuing their careers or finding a new job in their new location. With the PCS Promise, Sears Holdings will do everything in its power to give military associates who are employed by the retailer a job at a Sears, Kmart or Lands' End store convenient to their new location.

Sears Holdings will also conduct a virtual career fair for military spouses this summer that will enable them to connect online with other military spouses currently employed with the company and get information on employment opportunities at nearly 4,000 store locations.

"From our experience, we know that military associates are driven, motivated and have leadership skills that can only help our company grow. We win by keeping talented, experienced employees working in our stores," D'Ambrosio added.

In addition to the promise, Sears will continue to offer additional opportunities through its existing Heroes at Home program. The Heroes at Home program has provided the means for hundreds of military families to shop for in-demand items and necessities during the holidays through its Wish Registry, and the program will continue to provide support to service members, veterans and their families through joint efforts with various nonprofit organizations, including Rebuilding Together and the USO. The program has already helped hundreds of deserving military families by raising more than $21 million to support the rebuilding of more than 1,000 homes by the end of 2011.

My take-
This is one thing that Sears Holdings has done well with- helping people out in need. Kmart stores have the Smart Assist card that gives discounts for unemployed people. And now they are assisting military families who need help relocating their jobs. Not to mention they've done other things like providing items for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I would hope that they are doing this things to be sincerely helpful, but I'm sure a lot of it is for positive publicity.

Sears and Kmart Join Forces With TV Star Sandra Lee on Exclusive Home Products Line

The Debut Sandra by Sandra Lee Collection Will Be Available at Sears and Kmart Stores in Spring 2012

NEW YORK, April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ - TV star, entrepreneur and bestselling author Sandra Lee has entered into a direct-to-retail license agreement with Sears Holdings for home products. The exclusive collection of home products, Sandra by Sandra Lee, will be available in Sears and Kmart stores in spring 2012. The initial launch of the collection will include cookware, utensils, gadgets, bakeware, small kitchen appliances and tabletop items.

"The new Sandra by Sandra Lee collection is a welcome and timely addition to the value we offer our customers in the home category and underscores our commitment to making everyday special," said John Goodman, executive vice president of Apparel and Home for Sears Holdings. "Both Sandra's down-to-earth style and sense of practicality shine through this collection, which is both aspirational yet still attainable."

Acclaimed for her warmth and approachability, as well as her talent for offering simple solutions to everyday living, Sandra Lee anticipates a product line and a collaborative effort with Sears and Kmart that will help customers focus most on what's important to them.

"Launching my first ever, complete collection of home products with Sears and Kmart is a wonderful opportunity to help their customers live their lives beautifully and simply. I have waited a long time to find the right retail partner—one that would be able to execute my vision for the brand," said TV star Sandra Lee. "What is equally exciting is that the 'Sandra by Sandra Lee' collection will be affordable and accessible to everyone, while still maintaining the fun flair and simple sophistication my brand is known for."

"We're thrilled to welcome Sandra Lee to our Sears and Kmart family and to add her line to our portfolio of trusted brands," stated Chris Capuano, president of Home Fashions, Sears Holdings. Ms. Capuano added, "Sandra's philosophy of implementing simple ideas that create dramatic results will resonate with our customers and we are happy to be able to offer the collection exclusively to them."

My take-
This could definitely be a good thing for Kmart and Sears by filling the void left by the Martha Stewart Everyday collection that was removed a couple years ago. I'm not that familiar with Sandra Lee, but I'm sure plenty of others are and they might go to Kmart just because they carry her collection. Which can result in positive sales gains for Kmart and Sears stores. We will find out in a year when it hits the stores.

Post a comment below to add your takes on these stories and if you agree with my take on them.

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