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Comps Make Gains Toward Sears Holdings Q4 Finale

Sears Holdings Corp. has provided an update on its quarter-to-date performance indicating that its namesake stores have made sales progress. For the fourth quarter’s first nine weeks, Sears domestic locations delivered a 0.5% comparable store sales increase, the company announced.

In the year to date as of December 29, though, comps for Sears stores in the United States were down 1.6%. Kmart comps slipped 3.8% in the nine weeks and 3.7% in the stated year-to-date period. Overall, the company’s comps in the United States slipped 1.8% in the nine-week and 2.6% in the year-to-date periods. Weak consumer electronics sales hurt comps in the nine-week period at both Sears and Kmart stores, Sears Holdings noted. Excluding the consumer electronics category, the company asserted, total comps decreased 0.2%, with the figure for Sears domestic increasing about 2.4% and for Kmart decreasing about 2.4%. Apparel and appliance category performance drove comparable store gains at Sears Domestic, the company said. Kmart’s quarter-to-date decline reflects poor performance from the pharmacy, grocery & household and drug categories. The decline in pharmacy reflects the introduction of generic drugs, Sears Holdings said.

The company added that online sales at its namesake and Kmart operations increased about 20% with the largest growth occurring in multi-channel transactions: buy online, pick-up in store and order in store, ship to home. Such multi-channel transactions now make up approximately half of the Sears Holdings online business, the company said.

For the quarter, Sears Holdings said it currently expects that the reported net loss attributable to shareholders will be between $280 million and $360 million, or between $2.64 and $3.40 loss per diluted share. The total includes an estimated non-cash charge of approximately $450 million related to pension settlements from a voluntary offer to term-vested employees and $42 million of pension expense.  Adjusted for those items, net income would come in between $132 million and $212 million, or between $1.25 and $2 per diluted share. The range excludes the potential impact, if any, related to store closings and impairment charges and restructuring activities such as severance, Sears said. In the fourth quarter of the past year, Sears Holdings reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of $2.4 billion, or $22.63 loss per diluted share, that included a non-cash impairment charge of $551 million, a non-cash charge of $1.7 billion relating to a valuation allowance against deferred tax assets and other adjustments. With one-time items taken into consideration, net income was $58 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, the company said.