Sears CEO lashes out at suppliers trying to ‘take advantage’

Sears Holdings Corp. CEO Eddie Lampert vowed to fight back against suppliers trying to take advantage of his company, saying that “dire predictions” about the retailer’s future have hurt its position with vendors.

The department-store chain has been working with suppliers to ensure that their level of credit risk is “both affordable and appropriate,” but some vendors have tried to capitalize on its situation, Lampert said in a blog post.

Sears operates two local department stores in the Indianapolis area, in Castleton and Greenwood. It also has two Kmart stores in Indianapolis, as well as Kmart stores in Anderson and Elwood.

“There have been examples of parties we do business with trying to take advantage of negative rumors about Sears to make themselves a better deal,” Lampert said. “In such a case, we will not simply roll over and be taken advantage ofwe will do what’s right to protect the interests of our company and the millions of stakeholders we serve.”

Lampert pointed to one supplier in particular, One World, which makes power tools under the Craftsman brand. The business, part of Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries, has threatened to file a lawsuit against Sears as it attempts to get out of a contract, Lampert said.

“We will take the appropriate legal action to protect our rights and ensure that One World honors their contract,” he said.

A representative for Techtronic in Hong Kong didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours.

Sears’s shares fell as much as 12 percent, to $8.36 each, in the wake of the comments, marking the worst intraday decline since March 22. The stock had been up 2.2 percent this year through the end of last week.

Once the world’s largest retailer, Sears has racked up more than $10 billion in losses since 2012. The retailer now has fewer than 1,500 stores, down from 2,073 about five years ago.

Lampert, also the chain’s biggest investor, has helped keep it afloat by injecting more than $1 billion in financing into the operations. The company also has sold or spun off assets to raise cash, including its Craftsman tool brand, Lands’ End clothing business and hundreds of stores.

Sears added so-called going-concern language to its annual report filing in March, acknowledging there was “substantial doubt” about its future. The move sent the stock on its biggest decline in more than two years.

But Lampert indicated on Monday that the pessimism has been overblown—hurting the company in the process.

“While we are not asking to be spared from informed opinions about our business performance, the recent wave of dire predictions about our company’s future have done harm to our business,” he said.

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