Sears to close 62 stores in first half to reduce costs

CHICAGO — Sears Holdings Corp., the department-store chain controlled by hedge fund executive Edward Lampert, plans to close 62 retail stores in the first half of this year to reduce expenses.

The closings include 43 Sears Hometown stores, 10 Sears Hardware stores and 9 The Great Indoors stores, the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. The company, which also owns the Kmart chain, had 4,010 stores as of Jan. 28.

A Sears spokesman, Chris Brathwaite, declined to provide a list of the 62 stores to be closed. Brathwaite said in an email that he didn't know how many jobs may be affected because most of the closing stores are independently owned and operated.

Lampert, who is Sears's chairman and controls about 60 percent of its shares, is spinning off units to generate cash and closing stores after the company posted its largest quarterly loss in at least nine years. Sears said last month it planned to raise as much as $770 million by selling 11 store sites and separating some smaller-format businesses.

Sears shares have more than doubled this year after plunging 56 percent in 2011.

Sears also disclosed in the filing that Lampert's ESL Investments Inc. agreed with an undisclosed financial institution to buy a stake in contracts that pay suppliers for their accounts receivable with Sears should the company seek protection from creditors.

The retailer last year announced a plan to close 120 Kmart and Sears full-line stores that would generate as much as $170 million in cash from sales of inventory and leasing or sales of the locations. The Kmart stores in Winchester and Hazard and a Sears hard-lines store in Middlesboro were among those included on that list of closings.

The company had $747 million in cash and near-cash items at the end of the fourth quarter, about 45 percent less than a year earlier.