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More Sears Closures Afoot: Report

UPDATED! Hoffman Estates, Ill. – Sears Holdings is reportedly in the process of closing more than 100 locations and pink-slipping almost 5,500 employees.

The figures were compiled by Seeking Alpha contributor Mitch Nolen from local liquidation sale notices sent to local media since mid-September and by a survey of reporters and store and mall managers.

By his reckoning, at least 46 Kmart stores, 30 Sears stores and 31 Sears Auto Centers are marked for closure this quarter and at least 5,457 workers are being laid off. The hardest hit regions include Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The action follows the shutdowns of 96 locations during the first half of the current fiscal year and reflects a stepped-up pace from the 93 closures in all of 2013, Nolen reported.

A Sears spokesman has since called the information inaccurate but didn’t provide corrected figures, noting only that store-counts totals will be released, as usual, with the next quarterly earnings report.

The local media advisories indicated that the closures are part of an effort to “reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” Nolen reported.

The targeted properties include Sears’ King of Prussia, Pa., store, located in the country’s largest indoor shopping mall, which was sublet to Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Primark discount apparel chain. Sears closed its flagship State Street Chicago store last April.

At the company’s annual shareholders meeting in May, chairman/CEO Edward Lampert reiterated plans to continue shutting or subleasing underperforming Sears and Kmart stores, noting that “the world has shifted” and “closing stores is going to be a part of our future. … We think you don’t need 2,000 stores to relevant in the United States.”

More recently Lampert loaned the company $400 million through his privately-held hedge fund, ESL Investments, and is looking to raise another $625 million through an offering of unsecured notes and stock warrants in what analysts believe is an effort to calm anxious suppliers.