Sears CEO: Retail is struggling

Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) reported another quarter and year-end sales loss. In his annual letter to shareholders, chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert equated his company's problems to those now affecting much of the industry.

"2015 has proven to be the year where the impact of the changes I have described to you in the past, has spread more broadly to retailers that had previously proven to be relatively immune to such shifts," wrote Lampert. "Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy's, Staples, Whole Foods and many others have felt the impact of disruptive changes from online competition and new business models.

Sales and comparable store sales declined for both the fourth quarter and full year at Sears and Kmart stores.

Kmart and Sears Domestic comparable store sales declined 7.2 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2015. This was an improvement from the trend in the first three quarters of 2015. Full year same-store sales declined 7.3 percent at Kmart and 11.1 percent at Sears Domestic stores.

Sears Holdings isn't alone in a disappointing year. Walmart, Kohls and Macy's all had a difficult year, announcing they would close stores and cut jobs. Sears will lay off roughly 250 employees and accelerate the closure of underperforming stores this year.

Sears' year in review has some bright spots, including the creation of a real estate investment trust (REIT), the return of Bluelight Specials, improved mobile experience and rate of use, and an expanded Shop Your Way membership program and partners.

   Full infographic from Sears Holdings

There were sales increases in a few product categories including mattresses and a new line of appliances under the Kenmore label. Still, underperforming departments, including apparel and consumer electronics, continue to weigh down results.

"Our transformation efforts continue, albeit impacted by our poor operating results," wrote Lampert. "Our ability to accelerate this change is constrained by our diminished cash flow and requires us to generate cash from asset sales, raise capital and improve our operating performance."

Lampert has long taken issue with critics, claiming that Sears and Kmart face harsher operational environments than other retailers based on size and cultural importance. That other retailers are now experiencing similar financial results is referenced to reinforce that position.

For more:
-See this letter to shareholders
-See this Sears Holdings financial release

Related stories:
Sears to accelerate store closings
Sears to shutter some Kmart stores
Sears' sales plunge 20%
Kmart rewards night owls, adds Black Wednesday and Freebie Saturday 
Kmart introduces pharmacy rewards program

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