Sears Holdings CEO Eddie Lampert, known for being more soft-spoken, is speaking up.
“The challenge for us internally … is to be able to demonstrate to the world that what [Sears has] built is something that can stand up against the best competition that’s out there,” Lampert said Tuesday, ahead of the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he acknowledged Sears’ struggles and admitted that the company’s turnaround is taking longer than he anticipated. Though, he remained optimistic about the retailer’s future.
“I feel like we’re ahead of J.C. Penney, we’re ahead of Macy’s, we’re ahead of Target, in some aspects of where the world is going,” Lampert told the Tribune.
“Clearly we have our challenges. Every time people use the word bankruptcy, somebody who reads that doesn’t get past that word. It makes it very unfair for us, and it’s a very uneven playing field for us.”
When asked about how Sears has been able to do business with other vendors amid a season of negative headlines and tough criticism, Lambert told the publication, “We’re fighting like hell to change the way people do business with us.”
Earlier this year, because of new rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sears was required to disclose that there is “substantial doubt” about the retailer’s “ability to continue as a going concern.”
That disclosure reignited long-standing rumors that the company could file for bankruptcy as early as this year. It was the first time the retailer had made such a statement.
Sears has been closing stores, selling off assets like its Craftsman brand and borrowing money from Lampert to survive. Those cash injections have convinced some investors that the retailer will be able to stave off a Chapter 11 filing.
At the time of that filing in March, Sears had $13.2 billion in total liabilities and no short-term borrowings. Based on that disclosure, Moody’s analyst Christina Boni told CNBC that the company should be able to fund its operating losses through the end of the year.
The retailer will see more meaningful levels of debt mature next year.
Sears Holdings is scheduled to report first-quarter results later this month.