"Sears Suffers as It Skimps on Stores" is the headline over a news article on the front of the marketplace section of today's Wall Street Journal.
From the article: "Mr. Lampert, who serves as company chairman and whose ESL Investments Inc. controls more than 60% of Sears shares, hasn't given a media interview in more than three years."
That's not accurate. The March 4, 2009 Wall Street Journal carried a column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr., a Wall Street Journal staffer, that includes the words, "Mr. Lampert tells me," along with quotes from Mr. Lampert. March 2009 is less than three years ago. It'd be one thing if the Journal missed an interview with some obscure publication. But this was an interview that Mr. Lampert gave to the Wall Street Journal.
From today's article: "Macy's just announced a $400 million renovation of its flagship Herald Square store notes Craig Johnson of consultancy Customer Growth Partners. By comparison, that's only slightly less than what Sears spent—$441 million—on capital expenditures last fiscal year. The retailer has roughly 2,200 full-line stores as well as more than 900 smaller locations."
That's so poorly written that it's not clear whether "the retailer" in the last sentence of the paragraph is meant to refer to Macy's, Sears, or Sears Holdings, but no matter what the "2,200 full-line stores" figure is supposed to refer to, it does not appear to be accurate. Macy's Inc. has 810 department stores and furniture galleries and 41 Bloomingdale's, according to the Macy's company Web site. Sears Holdings has 1,309 Kmart stores, 990 "Full-Line Stores," and 1,762 specialty stores, according to the press release it released with its quarterly earnings this morning. Sears Domestic has 868 "Full-Line Stores" and 1,384 specialty stores for a total of 2,252 stores, according to the release.
The article faults Sears for not spending enough on remodeling its stores: "Maintenance and renovations are important for a fresh atmosphere that signals to shoppers that products are up-to-date and worth buying. Even Wal-Mart, a company known for Spartan operations, spent billions on remodeling in recent years." But what today's article does not mention is that the U.S. head of Walmart told this same Wall Street Journal reporter back in March: "A lot of things have distracted us from our pricing mission. We got enamored with presentation as an example. We walked people through our [remodeled] stores and they were gorgeous. But they cost more. And if you spend more on your building, your prices can't be as low as you want them to be."
The Journal article concludes with a dire quote from "former Sears Canada Chief Executive Mark Cohen, now a professor at Columbia University." It doesn't mention the circumstances under which Mr. Cohen left Sears Canada more than 7 years ago. At the time the headline the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation put on the story was "Sears Canada CEO Mark Cohen Fired."
Disclosures: I worked with the Journal reporter, Miguel Bustillo, at the Los Angeles Times in Ventura County in the mid-1990s, and we got along fine and as far as I could tell he was a perfectly fine reporter. I own some Sears Holdings stock. I know some directors of Sears Holdings and think highly of them, though I haven't discussed this post or the Wall Street Journal article with them.