Lauren Hirsch | CNBC
An empty Sears store in White Plains, New York, on Black Friday, November 23, 2018.
The inside of Sears at the Galleria White Plains mall on Black Friday looked mostly the same as it has for the past few years. Yellow tags highlighted doorbuster sales. Rows of washers and dryers stood gleaming. Sparkling Christmas ornaments were on display.
But the glaring omission at 7:00 a.m., an hour after opening, were the shoppers.
“This place looks like a ghost town,” noted Brandon Warkenthin, who made the trip to Sears in White Plains, New York, from the Bronx to check out deals on appliances. He rarely comes to Sears, often only on Black Friday.
“It was a waste to even come out,” said Warkenthin, who was equally underwhelmed by the sales on other items. “They’re not really changing the prices,” he added.
The retailer may be reluctant to slash its prices too low. It’s fighting for its life at the bankruptcy court in White Plains, just a five-minute drive from the store.
Sears filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 15. Since then its lawyers, bankers and advisors have been arguing for its survival. Its chairman and former CEO, Eddie Lampert, is trying to put together a bid for its best performing stores. Doing so would save the retailer and some of its 90,000 jobs. For a fighting shot, the retailer needs to make some money this holiday season.
Cash has always been a problem for Sears. It hasn’t turned a profit in eight years. Now, it also needs money to appease creditors who have called efforts to stay alive a “foolhardy gamble.” It needs to pay lawyers preparing for the threat of lawsuits. It’s looking to find some of that cash outside its business, but if its stores don’t perform, it won’t have a shot.
Sears has already begun to shutter its less profitable stores, a list the White Plains store has managed to escape. As long as it’s open, the sales it rings up will help prop up the entire company.