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Sears Posts Q2 Loss On Flat Sales

Hoffman Estates, Ill. – Sears Holdings reported a net loss of $39 million
on essentially flat sales of $10.5 billion for the second quarter ended July

The corporate parent of Sears and Kmart attributed the $93 million sales
decline to a 2.2 percent decrease in U.S. comparable-store sales and the effect
of fewer full-line locations. Sales were partially buoyed by an increase of $96
million due to changes in the Canadian foreign exchange rate.

The comp-store sales decline reflects a 1.4 percent decrease at Kmart and
2.8 percent decrease at Sears, with the latter primarily driven by consumer
electronics, lawn and garden, and tools. In contrast, Sears’ major appliance business
registered a low single-digit comp sales increase due to gains in the refrigeration
and home comfort categories.

   In a statement, president and
interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson said total revenues “declined only slightly
despite the uncertain economic environment faced by our customers,” and that
the company continued to cut costs while investing $43 million in its
multi-channel capabilities and Shop Your Way rewards program to help improve
the customer experience.

Johnson said Kmart “continued to improve its performance during the
second quarter, as an improvement in its gross margin rate led to increased
profitability.” Specifically, Kmart’s gross margin rate increased 230 basis
points due to fewer apparel markdowns, while Sears’ gross margin rate slipped
40 basis points due to reduced margins in home services and a decrease in gross
margin rate of 150 basis points at Sears Canada.

Operating income was $5 million for the quarter compared to an operating
loss of $58 million for the prior-year period, due to a 50-basis point increase
in the company’s gross margin rate; “slightly better” selling and
administrative expenses; and an increase of $22 million due to favorable
exchange rate fluctuations. Operating income also included $37 million in
expenses related to pension plans, store closings and severance.

Gross margin was up $28 million from the year-ago quarter to $2.8
billion, reflecting an increase of $31 million related to the currency fluctuations
and last year’s $17 million

in markdown charges related to store closings.