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Sears 3Q loss widens as retailer reshapes itself

HOFFMAN ESTATES — Sears’s third-quarter loss widened as the retailer continues to raise cash by closing stores and through loans from Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert.

Sears had a $159 million income tax expense, compared with a $2 million income tax gain last year.

The quarter mark the retailer’s eighth straight year of sales declines and its fourth straight year of losses, according to data from FactSet.

Sears, was once a staple of American shopping, is facing pressure from nimbler rivals such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc., not to mention The country’s slow economic recovery from a terrible recession is his hitting middle and low-income Americans, its core clientele, especially hard.

For the period ended Nov. 1, the company, which also owns Kmart, lost $548 million, or $5.15 per share. A year earlier it lost $534 million, or $5.03 per share.

Revenue dropped 13 percent to $7.21 billion.

Online sales climbed about 9 percent from a year ago.

Sales at Kmart locations open at least a year rose 0.5 percent in the third quarter. Comparable-store sales at Sears stores dipped 0.7 percent.

This figure is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results volatility from stores recently opened or closed.

Those are not healthy numbers and Sears has been raising cash as it tries to reshape itself.

In addition to a $400 million short-term loan from a hedge fund run by Lampert in September, the chain has undergone a dramatic contraction, from 3,523 stores five years ago to less than 2,000 today.

“Our stores are often in the wrong place and are often too large for our needs,” Lampert said in a prerecorded conference call for investors early Thursday.

Lampert combined Sears and Kmart in 2005 about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy protection.

Last month Sears announced that it is might sell 200 to 300 of its buildings to boost its liquidity. The maneuver would entail forming a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that would hold the stores. Sears would continue to operate the stores by leasing them back.

Sears said Thursday that its long-term debt has declined slightly to $2.8 billion from $2.9 billion a year earlier. To date, the company has $2.2 billion in liquidity for fiscal 2014. It had approximately $1.5 billion available under its credit facility as of Wednesday.