Chicago Tribune
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — Sears shares were up more than 4 percent Thursday morning as the flailing retailer reported fourth-quarter and year-end earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations.

However, that doesn't mean that revenues and income at the company aren't continuing to slide.

Sears, headquartered in suburban Chicago, said it lost $607 million, or $5.67 per share, in the quarter that ended Jan. 28, compared with $580 million, or $5.44 per share, during the same period a year ago. Sales dropped more than 17 percent, to $6.05 billion, compared with $7.3 billion the prior year.

Adjusted to exclude things like an unexpected decline in rent costs, Sears' loss was smaller than last year at $1.28 per share, 42 cents better than last year.

Still, sales at Sears and Kmart stores open at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer's health, plunged 10.3 percent. Both chains saw declines in sales in consumer electronics and apparel, among other categories.

Chairman Edward Lampert said in a statement that the company is taking "decisive actions to become a more agile and competitive retailer with a clear path toward profitability."

"Regardless, as a result of the strategic actions we have taken, we delivered adjusted (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) improvements in the fourth quarter, increased our financial flexibility, and are moving forward with positive momentum," he wrote in a note to employees.

In the memo, Lampert listed several moves the retailer made in the last year to boost its numbers, including its sale of its popular Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker, launching the Sears Mastercard, and continuing to tighten its belt by selling off more real estate, with the aim of raising $1 billion in the coming months.

Lampert also pointed to the company's new partnership with Uber to offer members of the retailer's Shop Your Way rewards program "rider reward" points in 25 markets, including Chicago and New York.

For the year, Sears said it lost $2.2 billion, compared with $1.1 billion the previous year. Revenues were down to $22.1 billion, compared with $25.1 billion the year before.

Sears has sold off multiple assets to try to turn itself from a traditional department store chain with a big brick-and-mortar footprint to a nimbler retailer focused on membership and online sales.

The company previously spun off its Sears Hometown & Outlet and Lands' End businesses. In 2015, it sold 235 stores to a real estate investment trust spinoff, Seritage Growth Properties, and raised $2.72 billion.