Sears Headquarters Review Could Bring Job Cuts

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Next year could see fewer jobs at the Hoffman Estates, IL, headquarters of Sears, Roebuck and Co.


Sears last week began an internal review designed to improve "the efficiency and responsiveness of the support structure at the headquarters," spokesman Chris Brathwaite said.


The news comes more than a month after Citigroup finished its acquisition of the Sears Credit Card and Financial Products business. Upon completion of the deal, substantially all 8,300 employees of Sears' Credit and Financial Products business became part of Citigroup.


"In the 'post-credit' environment, we have to make sure we have the right structure to go forward," Brathwaite said. "It's a home office review as opposed to a review of our stores. We will look at all aspects of what we do and how we do it and determine if there are better ways to do it.


"As they are supported by jobs in this facility and folks who have certain responsibilities to the direct marketing arms of the business, everything in this building is up for review," he said. "The other efforts we've done have provided some benefits and efficiency, but we know we can do more. Previous organizational reviews have provided savings and/or efficiencies."


When asked to comment on the probability that layoffs could follow the review, he said, "I wouldn't speculate on [job cuts since] we don't know if it's going to happen. The media is focused on job cuts. Is there a possibility? Yes. But it's not the focus of this initiative. It's about fixing and improving the organizational structure to make sure it's the right model to move forward."


The company has 4,800 employees at its headquarters, a number that has fallen by about 500 during the year.


Thomas C. Gorey, vice president of inventory management and merchandise operations, is leading the effort. He is to present findings and recommendations by late January.


Brathwaite said the big box discounters are rewriting the rules of competition.


"Our home office structure was built many years ago to support a variety of businesses, some of which we don't operate," he said. "Credit is the most obvious one."


The company said comparable domestic store revenue fell 3.6 percent in the four weeks ended Nov. 29, and that total domestic store revenue was $2.5 billion in the four-week period, down 3.2 percent compared with the four weeks ended Nov. 30, 2002.


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