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Three California Sears stores among 79 outlets to close nationwide

December 29, 2011 |  2:14 pm

Sears
Three Sears stores in California are among 79 stores nationwide on the chopping block after a dismal holiday season forced Sears Holdings Corp. to retool its strategy.

Two Sears stores in San Diego and one in El Monte will be closed at a date yet to be determined. The Illinois retailer posted a list of 41 Sears and 38 Kmart outlets targeted for closure, the first wave of the 100 to 120 total stores that the company ultimately plans to shut down. The list can be viewed here.

Retail analysts believe that the company, which has suffered more than four years of sales declines, may be edging toward bankruptcy unless it takes drastic action to upgrade its stores and revamp its merchandise.

After domestic sales dropped 5.2% in the two months leading up to Christmas, the retailer announced a new strategy redirecting resources away from "marginally performing" stores and toward more profitable shops. The company said Tuesday that lackluster holiday sales coupled with rising costs will slash fourth-quarter earnings to less than half the $933 million it reported a year earlier.

Sears Holdings is controlled by billionaire financier Edward Lampert, who gained control of Kmart in 2003 and two years later brought Sears, Roebuck & Co. into the fold. As board chairman, Lampert has held down costs by cutting investment in stores and reducing product assortment, decisions that retail analysts say won short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth.

Sears shares fell 43 cents, or 1.3%, to $32.90 on Thursday.

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-- Shan Li

Photo: A Sears store in Niles, Illinois.Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

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