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Kmart-Sears Deal Won't Prompt Widespread Store Closings

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- The merger of Kmart and Sears won't necessarily not out to substantially fewer stores, the retailers' new parent company said late last week.

Edward Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings Corp., said at a news conference that decisions about store closings will be made as leases come up, but he said that a presumption that there will be a lot of store closings is the "wrong presumption."

Lampert said he intends to reinvigorate the two faded retail icons, and "transform them into a great company." Lampert was Kmart's chairman, and the largest individual shareholder in each retailer.

Sears Holdings will have a combined 3,800 stores in the United States and Canada, and will be the third-biggest U.S. retailer based on sales, behind Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Home Depot, Inc.

Although the company hasn't disclosed specific plans for what happens next, Sears has said it will convert up to 400 Kmart stores to the new mid-sized Sears Essential concept, which adds snacks and other convenience items to Sears' typical product mix.

Sears said some layoffs will be announced by the end of April from among the 5,000 people working at the two headquarters, but the vast majority of the work force of 400,000 will keep their jobs and the company will maintain a corporate presence in Michigan.

The merged company starts trading today on the Nasdaq with the ticker symbol SHLD.
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