Eddie Lampert Blames ‘Tax Refunds, Cold weather, etc.’ for Weak Sears Sales

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Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD)  reported earnings today which overall disappointed investors, and sent shares down 12 percent in after hours trading. Eddie Lampert rarely speaks, but now that he is CEO of Sears he is forced to a bit. Lampert on the conference call called the results poor and unacceptable but cited Tax Refunds, Cold weather, etc.’ as factors impacting the results.  Joining other fellow hedge fund managers, Lampert threw in a line blaming Bernanke’s low interest rates for poor returns by the company’s pension. Below we have some comments from the famous investor on Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) results for the quarter.

Eddie Lampert Blames 'Tax Refunds, Cold weather, etc.' for Weak Sears Sales

Eddie Lampert on Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) Conference call


I would now like to turn the call over to our chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert.

Eddie Lampert opening remarks

Our first-quarter 2013 financial performance is not acceptable.

A company of our size and with our assets should be generating a significant process profit.

As an investor, I follow our industry very closely and have benchmarked our performance against our competitors. During the first quarter of 2013, many of our competitors have noticed a certain macro factors that impacted our industry, their businesses and our business. Colder weather parts of the country, delayed tax refunds etc.

Having said that, I do not subscribe to the view that the macro factors are the sole reason for our poor performance. They have an impact . But even with that impact, we should be doing a lot better than we are. Changing customer buying habits and changing forms of competition are challenging us in the retail industry generally and we must evolve our company and our business models to meet this challenge.

Eddie Lampert later in the call

As I said, our performance is not acceptable and has both to do about it. Everclear vision and strategy and in order to execute on a we have to generate acceptable profit.

As we explained at our annual shareholder meeting, we have made significant strides in articulating our plans and future business models encapsulated by our focus on integrated retail and our ShopYourWay rewards membership program. We have made significant investments in digital capabilities that have both a very large group of engaged members on the ShopYourWay platform.

Lampert on his first 100 days

In my first 100 days as CEO, I’ve spent a lot of time meeting with members of our executive leadership team , asking questions and listening to their opinions, ideas and concerns. I found many engaged, determined and excited leaders.

For those who may be inclined to accept current performance levels or incremental progress, I have made clear that I have much higher expectations. And meetings with our leaders that have continued to lay out my expectations in my vision so as to generate alignment around a strategy.

It will take a bit of time, but I’m committed to having a leadership team which is aligned, accountable and understands what we need to do to transform this company. And we intend to transform a while producing results. Not using transformation as an excuse for why results are not satisfactory. We aren’t sitting still.

Lampert on debt and pension obligations

Faster we took several actions to stabilize the company and to generate significant liquidity to meet maturing debt obligations and to provide our vendors with additional comfort with regard to ordinary obligations. Actions we took also help to address legacy pension obligations made worse by the actions of the Federal Reserve to artificially will down long-term interest rates.

As Rob indicated, we are currently evaluating a range of actions. One of which revolves around our protection agreement business, which if successful, could generate in excess of $500 million of targeted additional liquidity. Actions such as these are among alternatives we have to create liquidity and drive long-term shareholder value.
There are other possibilities that we are considering . And depending on valuation and and alternative investment opportunities, we may choose to execute on one or more of these in the near future.

Lampert on improving member experience

We’re doing a better job of articulating the ShopYourWay value number proposition. For example when offered targeted personalized her words through in-store and online offers.

We’re adding points to member accounts as a targeted promotional tool and were driving excitement through contests and sweepstakes. We constantly strive to tailor the information that we communicate to our members based upon what we know about them. We want more than an occasional transactional relationship with our members. We want to be a trusted advisor and have the capability to meet many of our members needs in the most convenient manner for them.

We are also letting everybody who visits our stores are websites know that membership is free and that there are significant member benefits to being a member. Our members always get more. We’re working hard to build value trusted relationships with our members by providing differentiated products and services that will be difficult for other retailers to replicate. Mastering the product assortment with a number of recent actions.

Lampert on appealing to youth

Launch of our relationship with Adam Lind the been in acumen is in the Kmart business broadens our appeal to a younger demographic and further enhances our social media reach.

Outdoor life and the Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) apparel business to appeal to the outdoorsman in the mall. Of the line in the electronics accessories business initially focused on headphones, bands and gaining category. The tires and automotive business offering the best in class 100,000 mile guarantee.

Lampert on business partnerships

At the same time, we are maintaining a strong position in home appliances with Kenmore and other leading brands in and tools with craftsman. I when you combine exclusive products with innovative services and experiences, you have a compelling proposition.

Let me offer a few examples. Our newly launched member assist application empowers our Associates to seamlessly interact it offered by store members amount of where they are.

Lampert on tech initiatives

We are able to nimbly respond to our members needs with information on demand using various mobile devices such as the iPad , iTouch and android platforms. Shopper recaps allows to send members an e-mail with information on the specific items they looked at in-store , providing them with information they need to make an informed decision even after they leave the store. These functions are supported by investment in technology platforms as well as our investment in wireless networks and devices in our stores.

Buy online pick up in stores leverages our natural store footprint is a added convenience for members by giving them additional choices for when and how they want to purchase products. And return of five and exchange of five provides a more streamlined exchange pot process regardless whether the product was purchased online or in store pick up most importantly all of these capabilities are powered by are engaged and empowered Associates. We are placing our bets on the evolution of retail becoming a more social and collaborative process. And we have results to prove that these capabilities are helping. We are seeing continued strong online sales performance.

Lampert on Sears.com

Sears.com and Kmart. com grew 20% over the prior-year in Q1. 60% of Kmart and Sears Holdings Corp (NASDAQ:SHLD) sales were in 2011 were associated with ShopYourWay members.

This was continued in 2013. Annual sales per member of increased by over 8%. Members spend 18% more than nonmembers.
And our supply chain enhancement it now allows us to ship the most in demand products to 99% of the country in today’s alas. With 50 million items to our marketplace assortment as we increase the assortment of 5 million items currently prefer bring the online capabilities that we built and customers in bringing our store capabilities to our online business to help with inventory management and fulfillment.

Lampert sees growth coming from aging population

In terms of growth revenue area of focus that I would like to share with you today around health and wellness. The health and wellness marketplace is currently one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the US economy. As a result of an aging population, innovative new technologies and the implementation of the health care reform law to me our members have a greater need for competence of a coordinated healthcare solutions.

Because of this, we think there’s an opportunity to leverage our company’s assets and focus our efforts on this growing market reserving and enhancing our relationships with our members by addressing their needs.

The strategy forward we established the health and wellness solutions business live by Doug Winger..Will focus on delivering it the health and wellness solutions in addition to developing innovative parts and services for members.
The health and solutions business will impact the health and wellness services we currently offer such as our optical license business, our hearing aid business, chronic care management, home health, health clinics and pharmacy.

We work to leverage the shop my platform to improve the access of healthcare coverage for members. The focus will be on making health and wellness customized, convenient and comprehensive. In addition to the work that we’re doing is to position ourselves for the future, we are taking steps to improve operationally and return to profitability.

Lampert on expenses

Expense management has been an area of focus for labor marketing and cost of goods perspective. We are taking deliberate actions to reduce our fixed expenses while ensuring that we are enhancing our member experiences. Faster we reduced our expenses by approximately $600 million and as Rob indicated, we intend to reduce our expenses by an additional $200 million this year.

Lampert on marketing

When changing our marketing practices to increase the different a time a targeted offerings to our members. In this process we’re reducing our Lance and fixed long lead times, traditional marketing vehicles and favor of variable real-time marketing vehicles.

Where hard looking harder to markdown processor can’t store specific factors and other factors. And some more first quarter performance was unacceptable I tried to provide some clarity around the strategic vision. More specifically, have offered an outline of the initiatives that we are pursuing their intended to restore the company to an acceptable level of profitability.

Lampert on the future

Beyond that to position us to realize profitable growth. The pace of change in our industry is accelerating as the individuals are altering their shopping behaviors as they. net technologies. We plan to be well-positioned to serve our members of these changes occur.

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