Sears chairman Eddie Lampert submitted a last-minute bid to save the company — we visited the day it filed for bankruptcy and saw firsthand how much it's struggling

Business Insider/Jessica TylerThe two-floor Sears store we visited hardly had any shoppers.
  • Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-October. The company says it will close 142 stores before the end of the year, and its CEO, Eddie Lampert, will step down. It has been searching for funding to avoid liquidation.
  • Lampert submitted a last-minute $US4.4 billion bid on Friday for many of the company’s assets, including 425 stores. The bid may save Sears from imminently shutting down.
  • The rise of e-commerce, declining foot traffic to malls, and a higher demand for off-price products are just some of the factors that have caused department stores to suffer in recent years, and Sears is no exception to that.
  • We visited a Sears store the day the company filed for bankruptcy, and it felt like the store had already been abandoned. Parts of the store were well-kempt, but others were disorganized and empty, and there was hardly anyone in sight.

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-October and has been desperately trying to stay afloat since.

The company said when it filed that it will close 142 stores before the end of the year, and its CEO, Eddie Lampert, will step down.

The company has been searching for funding to avoid liquidation, and on Friday, Lampert submitted a last-minute $US4.4 billion bid for many of the company’s assets, including 425 stores. The bid may save Sears from imminently shutting down.

READ MORE: Inside Sears’ death spiral.

Sears has been closing stores and selling off assets following years of crippling sales declines. The company currently operates 687 Sears and Kmart stores, according to its bankruptcy filing. That’s down from nearly 2,000 stores in 2013.

The rise of e-commerce, declining foot traffic to malls, and a higher demand for off-price products are just some of the factors that have caused department stores as a category to suffer in recent years.

“The problem in Sears’ case is that it is a poor retailer. Put bluntly, it has failed on every facet of retailing from assortment to service to merchandise to basic shop-keeping standards,” said Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail.

When we visited a Sears store the day the company filed for bankruptcy, it felt like the store had already been abandoned. Parts of the store were well-kempt, but others were disorganized and empty, and there was hardly anyone in sight.

Here’s what it was like:


We went to a Sears store in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store seemed like it was in pretty good shape at first glance.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Women’s clothing was the first department at the front of the store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most things in the store appeared to be on sale.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Everything seemed to be in order, but it was totally empty.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were no shoppers — or employees — in sight throughout most of the first floor.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store got messier as I went further back. There were a lot of boxes left sitting around.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

A lot of accessory racks were half-empty …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and some displays had nothing on them at all.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The first floor also had a small men’s department …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and a kids’ department that took up a good amount of the floor.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most of the signs throughout the store were handwritten.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Downstairs, I found home furnishings and appliances.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It was eerily quiet downstairs as well.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The men’s department continued downstairs …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… but parts of it were in pretty sad shape. A lot of displays were set up on metal folding tables instead of the more sturdy displays that were set up throughout the rest of the store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

And some mannequins were just leaned against the wall instead of being propped up.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Home-improvement products were also on this floor. A handful of products were marked as the last in stock.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The rest of the floor was a bit of a mess.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a pile of bricks just sitting in the middle of the floor …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and products like refrigerators were in random spots instead of in the appliances department.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The clearance department as a whole was lacklustre. There were not a lot of products, and what was left was spread out to make it seem like there was more.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even the holiday and toy departments felt empty. I only passed one employee the entire time I was in the store. The store felt abandoned.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though the store was in relatively good shape compared to some other Sears stores, it felt like a ghost town.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Read more about Sears’ downfall:

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