CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing a Friday deadline for potential buyers to submit bids for its remaining assets, Sears has announced it is closing 80 more stores by March, including two in Illinois.
Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings announced Friday it would close 80 Sears and Kmart stores in late March. Liquidation sales at those stores will begin in two weeks.
The closing locations include two Illinois stores — the Sears in Cherry Valley, near Rockford; and the Sears in Fairview Heights, near St. Louis.
Sears had previously announced plans to close 188 stores by the end of 2018, and another 40 stores by February 2019.
The bankrupt company also had previously set Friday as the deadline for potential buyers to bid for Sears’ assets. The retail chain is looking for a buyer for about 500 of its stores and the Kenmore appliance brand in an effort to keep Sears and Kmart open.
In bankruptcy court filings, Sears has said there is interest from multiple parties, but the only public bidder for those assets as of Thursday was a hedge fund controlled by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, the company’s largest creditor.
He is offering $4.6 billion for those operating assets. Lampert says his plan would let 50,000 Sears employees keep their jobs. The company had 68,000 workers at the time of its bankruptcy filing. Lampert is not offering to put up much new cash. Instead, he wants to forgive about $1.8 billion of the debt he holds from Sears.
Lampert has until Friday to make that bid official. If he doesn’t — and if no other bidders arise, Sears will have a critical decision to make. It could extend the deadline — or it could decide to accept defeat and begin a plan to close all of its stores and liquidate its assets. A liquidation would probably take months to complete.
Some Sears creditors, including landlords and vendors, believe shutting down the company is the best way to retrieve the greatest portion of the money Sears owes them. They question the legitimacy of Lampert’s bid to keep it open.
In a bankruptcy court hearing last week, Sears’ attorneys said it is considering bidders for its assets who would shut down the company.
Sears had limited success selling its assets. Last week, US Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain gave initial approval for the $60 million sale of Sears’ home improvement business to Service.com.
The company also has a lot riding on its holiday season sales, which Sears indicated are not going as well as it had hoped.
At the end of November, Sears offered grim projections for holiday sales, expecting to burn through cash most weeks. But it hoped for a strong week leading up to Christmas to net $50 million in cash for the entire holiday shopping period. The company has not yet stated its holiday season performance.
If it missed its targets, its chances of survival will be significantly reduced.