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Lampert Explains Sears Closures; Loses Top Exec

HOFFMAN ESTATES, ILL. — Sears Holdings chairman/CEO Eddie Lampert explained his rationale for shutting some 235 stores last year in a recent corporate blog.

His essay, which re-emphasized the company’s multi-channel focus, was followed by the resignation of Sears’ online president Imran Jooma.

Lampert said that despite efforts to improve their performance through various investments, formats and processes, most of the targeted stores were losing money, and had done so for a long time.

In the past the company sustained the losses to serve customers and preserve jobs, Lampert wrote, but “given changing circumstances, both in the retail industry and in our company, we can no longer afford, nor justify keeping these stores open.”

The new circumstances include the shift to online and mobile shopping, which has rendered some stores and stockrooms too large for Sears’ needs; the spread of new housing and shopping developments, which have bypassed older locations; and widening financial losses, which hit $548 million in the third quarter ended Nov. 1.

The closings left Sears with thousands of fewer employees and about 1,700 Sears and Kmart big-box stores, encompassing approximately 200 million square feet.

Jooma, a corporate executive VP who joined Sears in 2007 from Circuit City, gave notice last month and will stay on through Feb. 6, a federal filing showed. Besides omnichannel, he oversaw marketing, pricing and financial services for the company. No successor was named.