Former Sears marketing chief and Sears Canada CEO Mark Cohen recently sat down with TheStreet for a wide-ranging discussion that touched on his former boss, chairman Eddie Lampert, and the current state of U.S. retail.
(The corner office in Canada seemingly carries a hex: Cohen was fired by Lampert in 2004 over “strategic differences” after three years on the job; former Sony, Best Buy, Toys“R”Us and Barnes & Noble exec Ron Boire lasted 11 months; and his predecessor Dene Rogers would later go on to wind down RadioShack.)
Today Cohen is the director of retail studies and an adjunct professor of business at Columbia Business School. In the excerpts below he offers an unvarnished assessment of Lampert, Sears and retail at large. A more complete version of the interview is available at TheStreet.com.
On Sears: “This is the ongoing seemingly endless tortuous liquidation of Sears … They have sold off almost all of their best stores, they have no cash flow, they have ruined their market share. They have no viability on a forward basis.”
On Lampert: “Lampert has no strategy to make the company profitable … Sears is like an ATM machine for Lampert; he has his hands on it. Eddie Lambert is either dishonest, delusional and disingenuous or some combination of the three.”
On Walmart: “Some of Walmart’s latest moves smack of desperation, such as having employees deliver orders to customers. A lot of things can go wrong in that situation: packages may not get delivered and the employee could have a car accident on the way to a delivery.”
On the state of retail: “It’s the bricks-and-mortar retailers that are struggling. Shoppers have been migrating from stores for some time, but they do browse and transact on the Internet. Retail is alive.”