Mark Cohen, an American who ran the department store operations north of the border between 2001 and 2004, lambasted the CEO and majority owner of the U.S. operation during a Tuesday interview with Bloomberg News.
â€œSears is slowly and steadily failing at the hands of a ruthless, methodical asset-stripper,â€ Cohen said of Eddie Lampert, who has been widely lambasted for his management style, including restructuring moves likened to a losing game of Jenga.
â€œLampert will come up with some cash every quarter or two to make sure the balance sheet is still viable,â€ added Cohen. â€œItâ€™s a tragedy because Sears is a legacy brand that needed to be and couldâ€™ve been repositioned.â€
The retail operations in Canada â€” a public company with 51 per cent of shares owned by Sears Holdings â€” were in a relatively unflattering spotlight last week as northern CEO Calvin McDonald confirmed that it would sell back its leases for anchor locations in Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto and Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga and close them by next spring.
An option for a similar deal was signed with Torontoâ€™s Scarborough Town Centre.
The arrangement promised a cash infusion for the company and has also boosted its stock. But the prevailing assumption was that Sears was no longer the kind of big-box tenant that these malls were looking for when other retailers are eager to take the space.
Nordstrom, the higher-end U.S. department store which will move into former Sears spaces at the Pacific Centre in Vancouver, Chinook Centre in Calgary and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, was expected to make a bid to take over at least part of the vacated Yorkdale and Square One locations.
A couple of years ago we were in Sears 10 days before Christmas. Â We were the only ones on the second floor and all of these staff were chatting with our kids. Â I was looking for something and there was not another shopper in the store. Â The sales looked like Boxing Day with big 75% off signs everywhere. Â
I walked back to Wendy and said, “we need to leave before the creditors lock all of the doors”. Â
I can’t see the chain lasting much longer.