Sears, the 132-year-old company that was once a dominant retail chain that changed how Americans shopped and lived, has filed for bankruptcy. The company had been struggling for several years and was drowning in debt. The final blow was a $134 million debt payment due Monday that it could not afford.
The filing in federal bankruptcy court in New York came in the early hours of Monday morning. The company issued a statement saying it intends to stay in business, keeping open stores that are profitable, along with the Sears and Kmart websites.
As of the filing, about 700 stores remained open and the company employed 68,000 workers. That’s down from 1,000 stores with 89,000 employees that it had as recently as February.
However, Sears made it known that it was on the lookout for a buyer for a large number of its remaining stores, and it will close at least 142 stores near the end of this year. That’s in addition to the 46 store closings already planned for next month. The company did not rule out additional store closings as the bankruptcy process proceeds.
Eddie Lampert, the company’s chairman and largest shareholder, gave up the title of CEO. The company will now be run by three of the company’s top executives.
For years, Lampert has claimed the company was making progress to end its years of ongoing losses.
“While we have made progress, the plan has yet to deliver the results we have desired,” Lampert said in a statement Monday. He said the bankruptcy process would allow the company to shed debt and costs and “become a profitable and more competitive retailer.”