Sears to sell 16 stores in online auction

Sears Holdings is selling 16 of its store locations in an online auction as the once-dominant retailer struggles to resurrect its business after years of sales declines.

The stores will be sold to top bidders under a “sale and lease-back” structure,” which will allow Sears to continue operations at the locations while paying rent, a company official confirmed to FOX Business on Wednesday. The new owners of some locations will be permitted to alter part of the properties for other purposes. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the auction.

Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate services firm, will conduct the auction through Real Insight Marketplace, an online platform. The sales process began in February, and bids are due by May 1. Some 200 investor groups have expressed interest in store locations, Sean Hayes, Cushman & Wakefield managing director, told the Journal.

Howard Riefs, communications director at Sears Holdings, told FOX Business that the auction process “is tied to the previously announced agreement” with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Sears said last month that it had secured a $440 million loan that would be used to pay $407 million toward its pension plans, allowing the company to sell as many as 140 properties.

The 16 Sears store locations available for sale are located in Texas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

Sears posted a loss of more than $380 million in fiscal 2017, though it turned an unexpected profit in the year’s fourth and final quarter. Same-store sales sank more than 15% during the same period. Sears shuttered more than 400 store locations last year and plans to close another 100 stores by this month.

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert received a 24% compensation hike in 2017 through stock awards valued at $4.3 million, FOX Business reported last month.