PICKERING, On. — The first day of Sears Canada’s countrywide liquidation sale began quietly on Thursday as Target and Eaton’s before it did: with scores of consumers perusing and many saying they will wait for the discounts to get deeper before they buy.
Sears, which had been in bankruptcy protection since June after more than a decade of falling sales, announced last week that it would close all 130 stores and lay off 12,000 employees across Canada after 65 years in business.
On Thursday, sales began with goods marked down between 20 per cent and 50 per cent storewide at Sears’ full-line outlets and its Home Stores kick-started the process with 30 per cent discounts.
“You’re really not getting a deal at all at this point,” said Jan McGowan, who was looking at footwear with her husband Paul at a Sears store in the Toronto suburb of Pickering.
“They will have to keep increasing it but they won’t get to the good prices — 75 per cent off or so — until a few weeks from now, that’s the way they usually go. They did that at Target.”
Liz Hunt had come the night before with her son, who needed a suit, and she returned Thursday to buy a black Van Heusen jacket, originally $200, and pants for $100, both marked down by 20 per cent. “I’m sure it’s going to be marked down more, but he needs it now.” A day earlier, Hunt said, she had bought her son a pair of dress shoes at The Shoe Company that were priced lower than the same pair offered at a 20 per cent discount at Sears on Thursday.
“It’s hit and miss,” she said, pointing to a large centre aisle of apparel marked down by 50 per cent. “You have to pick through it. It’s mostly summer clothes so they would be marked down to that anyway, you’d think.”
Sales at Sears Canada run until January 21, and will include furniture, fixtures, and any other equipment inside the retailer’s locations.
Thursday’s sale followed the appointment this week of a new administrator for Sears Canada’s underfunded retirement plan by Ontario’s Superintendent of Financial Services. Lawyers for the retailer’s 18,000 pension members and beneficiaries have asked that the plan, operating at a deficit of $267-million, be wound down.
On Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court judge Glenn Hainey approved an amended plan by Sears’ court-appointed bankruptcy monitor to ensure that key employees will stay on through the liquidation process — originally, $7.6 million in bonuses that drew the ire of employees who were laid off in June without any severance. With $3.7 million in retention bonuses paid out thus far by Sears, the overall retention bonus amount was reduced by $1.1 million on Wednesday, with $2.8 million remaining earmarked to retain a lower number of key staff in the group — 36, down from 43.
“I’m sad that Sears is closing, but that’s besides the point,” said shopper Nader Ali, surveying the Sears sales floor at Pickering Town Centre on Thursday.
Like Hunt, Ali had visited the Sears store on Wednesday night and wondered if pieces of luggage marked down by 65 per cent would be priced even lower on Thursday.
“The same luggage is 30 per cent off today,” he shrugged. “I am surprised. I think (the prices) will have to get lower soon.”
He paused, and leaned in to speak more quietly.
“I’m one of the reasons they have gone downhill. I shop a lot online — Amazon is my favourite retailer,” he said, for electronics and household items, not clothing.
“Now we just have the Bay. Let’s keep that.”