Report: Sears to reorganize into units

Sears Holdings Corp. plans to reorganize into several companies in another bid to pull the ailing 121-year-old retailer out the doldrums, according to a report published Saturday.

The restructuring could create separate units to manage Sears real estate holdings and run brands such as Diehard and Craftsman, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Edward Lampert, the hedge fund kingpin and Sears Holdings chairman, sees the move as a way to revitalize the company in the face of tough competition from companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the newspaper said, citing unnamed people familiar with the situation.

Details, including which units might run the Hoffman Estates-based company's 3,800 Sears and Kmart stores in the United States and Canada, weren't clear.

Spokeswoman Kimberly Freely issued a short statement Saturday confirming Sears Holdings is "introducing an organizational structure that provides operating businesses with greater control, authority and autonomy." She declined to comment further.

Analysts say the changes contemplated by Lampert — who acquired Kmart in 2003 and Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 2005 — run against prevailing trends where retailers try to craft a single, cohesive business image.

"He's looking to turn it around by using a different approach," said retail consultant Walter Loeb. "I think it's risky."

On Monday, Sears Holdings told investors it would likely post fourth-quarter earnings well below Wall Street forecasts as eroding sales push its profit down as much as 57%.

It expects to earn between $350 million and $470 million, or $2.59 to $3.48 per share, for the quarter ending Feb. 2 — far less than the $4.43 per share sought by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Sears earned $820 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier.

Sears blamed growing competition, a slowdown in the housing market and consumers' credit fears for slumping sales figures.

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