Sears liq­ui­da­tion sales be­gin to­day


Dozens of Sears Canada stores slated for clo­sure be­gin liq­ui­da­tion sales Fri­day, but bar­gain hunters would be wise to tem­per their ex­pec­ta­tions, say in­dus­try ex­perts.

Ea­ger to avoid bank­ruptcy, the one-time retail gi­ant is count­ing on hordes of shop­pers to scoop up dis­counted mer­chan­dise, fix­tures and equip­ment as soon as pos­si­ble.

The Sears in An­caster is one of the stores ex­pected to close in the court-su­per­vised re­struc­tur­ing.

De­spite the ev­ery­thing-must-go sales at dozens of out­lets, Sears Canada still has to sur­vive as a com­pany once re­struc­tur­ing is com­plete, says mar­ket­ing Prof. David Sober­man of the Univer­sity of Toronto’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment.

“They have an obli­ga­tion to their share­hold­ers,” says Sober­man. “They’re not try­ing to squeeze ev­ery last penny, (but) just like any com­pany they’re try­ing to make them­selves as prof­itable as they can.”

Typ­i­cally, liq­ui­da­tion sales fol­low a tried-and-true process: start with a mod­est dis­count and what­ever prod­ucts are left will grad­u­ally get dropped in price un­til they’re gone.

Sears Canada has un­til Oct. 12 to va­cate premises slated for clo­sure, most of them in small-town Al­berta, On­tario, Que­bec and Saskatchewan.

A shorter liq­ui­da­tion sched­ule could mean steeper dis­counts sooner. Sober­man says it’s a bal­anc­ing act for Sears Canada, which has turned to ex­ter­nal liq­uida­tors to han­dle down­siz­ing — some of whom were in­volved in sim­i­lar sales for Tar­get and Ea­ton’s.

“Longer time means the dis­counts don’t have to be as deep, but then you have to pay the staff longer and it’s more dif­fi­cult to rent the store, so all of th­ese things are trade-offs.”

Sears Canada has been op­er­at­ing un­der court pro­tec­tion from cred­i­tors since June 22, when it an­nounced plans to shut­ter 59 stores and cut ap­prox­i­mately 2,900 jobs.

The liq­ui­da­tion process in­volves 54 of those stores, start­ing on or shortly af­ter Fri­day.

Whether sig­nif­i­cant crowds show up is a ques­tion.

Some ob­servers ex­pressed dis­gust that thou­sands of long­time em­ploy­ees are not get­ting sev­er­ance pay­ments while ex­ec­u­tives are slated to re­ceive $9.2 mil­lion in re­ten­tion bonuses.

“So @SearsCA is lay­ing off hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees and not pay­ing sev­er­ance? I wont spend an­other dime in Sears,” wrote Twit­ter user @WTFisHalonCon, while @Tec­ni­coPaixao tweeted: “Close your doors @SearsCA! I will not spend an­other dime there, this is dis­gust­ing!”

But retail ex­pert Mau­reen Atkin­son was skep­ti­cal that bad press would keep bar­gain hunters away.

“Peo­ple will do what­ever is in their own best in­ter­est,” says Atkin­son, se­nior part­ner at the Toronto-based J.C. Wil­liams Group.

Still, Atkin­son ques­tioned whether the deals will be that great any­way. She ad­vises shop­pers to be pre­pared to ac­cept what­ever brand is be­ing liq­ui­dated, and cau­tions against hop­ing to score that fridge or range you might have had your eye on.

Sober­man ex­pected dis­counts will vary widely be­tween lo­ca­tions.

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