UPDATE 2-Sears loss widens as discounts fail to arrest fall in sales

Thu May 22, 2014 8:24am EDT
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(Adds analyst comments, background; updates shares)

By Maria Ajit Thomas

May 22 (Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp posted a bigger loss for the first quarter as the struggling retailer failed to arrest a fall in sales despite offering heavy discounts to woo shoppers.

Shares of the company, which operates Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain, fell 4 percent in premarket trading.

Sears, controlled by hedge fund billionaire Eddie Lampert, has been shedding assets and closing stores as it battles the operating losses and weak sales that have plagued the company since 2005, when the two chains were merged.

Unappealing merchandise and poor store layouts have pushed shoppers away from Sears and Kmart to Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp, analysts say.

"The customer experience at Sears and Kmart is basically horrific," Brian Sozzi, chief executive of Belus Capital Advisors, said on Thursday.

Sears was once the largest retailer by revenue in the United States, but it lost the crown to Wal-Mart in 1990.

Sears has been trying to move away from relying on stores for revenue to focus on membership through its Shop Your Way program, which integrates online shopping.   Continued...