‘I’m not sure Kmart on its own could ever be a great retailer’: Sears CEO makes a stunning admission about Kmart’s viability in rare interview

  • Sears CEO Eddie Lampert said he doesn’t think Kmart on its own “could ever be a great retailer” in a rare interview with Vanity Fair.
  • The famously reclusive CEO, who rarely talks to the press, also defended his decision to invest in Sears’ online business instead of investing in stores.
  • “I could have a better website than Nordstrom’s. I could have a better website than Bloomingdale’s,” he said.
  • Sears’ sales have plummeted from $53 billion in 2006 to $16.7 billion in 2017.

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert made a shocking admission about Kmart’s viability in a new interview.

“I’m not sure Kmart on its own could ever be a great retailer,” Lampert said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “But you put Kmart and Sears together, in combination they had a chance … Kmart had the locations and Sears had the brands.”

Kmart’s locations were attractive because they weren’t attached to shopping malls, whereas “Sears was sort of stuck in the mall,” he said.

Lampert, who rarely talks to the press, merged Sears and Kmart in 2005. The combined company’s sales have plummeted since then, dropping from $53 billion in 2006 to $16.7 billion in 2017.

Kmart is in particularly bad shape. Analysts say the discount chain is in danger of shutting down entirely. Kmart faces intense competition from successful discount retailers, as well as from Walmart and Amazon. As the business dwindles, Sears has been shutting down Kmart stores far more rapidly than its namesake stores and laying off full-time workers at the stores that remain open.

Lampert has been criticized for failing to invest in Kmart and Sears stores, which, in some cases, are falling apart with problems like leaky ceilings and broken escalators.

In the Vanity Fair interview, Lampert said he chose to invest in Sears’ online business over its stores because he believed the company had a better chance of competing with retailers like Nordstrom and Saks online than in stores.

“I could have a better website than Nordstrom’s. I could have a better website than Bloomingdale’s,” he said. “In other words, I don’t need to invest in fixtures, but I do need to invest in the features and the experiences.”

He said he’s going to keep fighting to keep Sears alive.

“I believe in what’s possible, and we’re doing things that are necessary to keep the company going,” he told Vanity Fair.