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Death of a salesman (almost)

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Death of a salesman (almost)

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Source: The Associated Press

In the early hours of Oct. 15, the inevitable finally happened — Sears Holdings Corp. filed for bankruptcy. The extent of the department store operator's travails, and the creative measures attempted by its chairman and — now former — CEO Edward Lampert to reverse its fortunes are too vast to fully document here. The retail sector has been brutalized by the juggernaut that is Amazon.com Inc., but as the chart below shows, Sears has felt the pain more than its rivals.

And yet Sears, which enjoyed Amazon-like dominance over the U.S. retail sector during much of the 20th century, has not given up just yet. The company's restructuring plan would see it carry on operating with a significantly reduced store footprint and a supply chain that better reflects its diminished scale, and it intends to continue trading through the holiday season. However, the plan depends on approval from the company's unsecured creditors, many of whom have reportedly lost faith in the business and favor a liquidation. In the words of one analyst interviewed by S&P Global Market Intelligence, Sears is "kind of out of bullets at this point." It looks increasingly likely that the end has finally come for one of the icons of corporate America.

Chart of the week: Sears' probability of default vs. US department store median

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Consumer Edge is a weekly collection of critical developments across the automotive; retail; and food, beverage, and tobacco industries that draws on exclusive analysis and value-added content from the Consumer News team at S&P Global Market Intelligence.