Saturday, June 10, 2017 by Frances Bloomfield
Sears Holding Corp. hasn’t made a profit in six years, and Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert says the media is to blame. Lampert has called the media coverage of the iconic American retailer “deliberately unfair” and “irresponsible.” Reuters.com reported that Lampert aired his grievances against the media during an annual shareholders’ meeting at Sears’ headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. “It’s irresponsible and it’s been irresponsible for too damn long. We’re just looking for a fair chance. Excuse my rant but a lot of what we’re doing deserves a chance to see the light of day,” Lampert said, while also accusing the media of scaring away potential vendors.
Of the 90-minute appearance by the hedge fund investor, the majority of it was spent on news coverage. “You’d think it was from a month ago, but it’s literally been going on for a decade,” said Lampert while presenting a slideshow that consisted of nearly a decades’ worth of headlines about the company’s financial distress. To illustrate, Sears reported that their year-over-year revenues fell by 12 percent. Out of the 70 people in attendance, five were journalists who were not allowed to ask questions or to speak to Lampert.
The Sears CEO made a comment of a similar nature in an interview by the ChicagoTribune.com. When asked about the “Shop Your Way” rewards program, Lampert remarked that articles speculating on pension payments were “certainly designed to scare people.”
Apart from lambasting the media, Lampert also spoke about the future of the company. In particular, he compared those six years to Amazon.com, Inc.’s early stages of unprofitable growth. Lampert stated that the “Shop Your Way” rewards program would be the driving force behind the company’s return to glory, even saying that people “will look back and wonder how they missed the Sears’ turnaround” and that: “We do believe that the more points people accumulate, the more they’ll shop with us.”
Moreover, Lampert added that Sears would focus on improving its relationship with customers, saying: “The strategy we’ve been talking about for over a decade, we think it’s clear. We think it’s working. We have a lot of data that shows where it’s working, and where we need to improve.”
When questioned by a shareholder on the possibility of being in denial of the company’s losses, Lampert responded that “behind-the-scenes” counterparties were attempting to take advantage of the company’s situation, and that he was trying to save as many jobs as possible. “That’s not about denial; that’s about caring,” Lampert told the shareholder.
In an effort to cut costs, the company has closed down almost 200 stores since the year began, including 18 Kmarts. Though 1,400 stores are still in operation, the struggle continues for the retailer, with its 2016 losses amounting to over $2.2 billion and investment shares falling by 23 percent as of May of this year. Sears spokesman Howard Riefs spoke to USAToday.com and stated that the company would shift its focus onto its “best stores, best categories and best members.” (Related: Major retail chains shutting down thousands of stores; are you prepared and self-reliant?)
That was a sentiment echoed by Lampert in his ChicagoTribune.com interview, saying that the company is “fighting like hell to change the way people do business with us.” Lampert then added: “And my view is, we’re the customer. If you’re a vendor, and want to do business with us, then you have to treat us like a customer, you don’t treat us like a pariah.”
Visit Journalism.news for more information on the media at large.