TORONTO - Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) announced Thursday it is laying off 700 workers across the country as part of a move to "right-size" the company and focus on restructuring its business.
The national retailer says 360 people are being laid off from its department stores and about 300 from its distribution centres. The remaining workers are being let go from head office and other support areas.
The job cuts will be across Canada.
"This is part of our initiative to right-size the organization, which is working in concert with other initiatives to make Sears successful," said Sears spokesman Vince Power in a statement.
The city of Belleville in eastern Ontario, where Sears has a distribution centre that deals with small-ticket catalogue and online sales, will lose 120 jobs — the largest single cut in the current round of downsizing.
A distribution centre in Regina, which also deals primarily in smaller items for western customers, will lose 80 jobs. There will be smaller job losses at distribution centres in the Toronto and Montreal areas, which deal more with larger items, and at two small distribution centres in Calgary and Vancouver.
By contrast, the job losses at Sears retail operations will be smaller — in the range of two to four people per store.
Power said the distribution centres are feeling a bigger impact because "over time we've been able to improve some processes, so we're able to do more in the distribution centres."
"And also we didn't want to affect customer service in the stores."
Sears Canada has been revamping operations to encourage more customers to return to its stores after years of declining sales, and also to prepare for the entry of numerous U.S. retailers, including discount chain Target (NYSE:TGT).
In a report assessing the impact of Target's arrival, released last fall, Barclays Capital said that Sears Canada, Walmart, Old Navy, Loblaw's Joe Fresh brand and Canadian Tire are the retailers most at risk.
The company has 195 corporate stores, 269 hometown dealer stores, eight home services show rooms and more than 1,500 merchandise pick-up locations.
Amid declining sales, Sears announced in December that it was closing four of its prime stores in three cities — Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. The locations are being taken over by major U.S. retailer Nordstrom for its first Canadian locations.
By mid-afternoon, shares in Sears Canada were down 10 cents or 1.05 per cent to $9.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Earlier this month, Sears Canada announced a new partnership with the Aldo Group, who will design and manufacture footwear lines for their Nevada, Attitude and Jessica brands.
It also inked a deal with Buffalo International Inc., who will produce an entire line of women and men's Nevada denim-based apparel for the department store.
Earlier on HuffPost:
The Booming Canadian Dollar
The Canadian dollar has risen from around 62 cents U.S. in 2002 to around $1.03 U.S. at present. What this means is that, from the perspective of international retailers, we're spending a lot more in stores. Colliers Canada reports that <a href="http://www.collierscanada.com/en/News/2012/Canada-Still-Magnet-for-Foreign-Retail" target="_hplink">Canadian shopping malls brought in 50 per cent more in sales, per square foot, than their U.S. counterparts</a> in 2011. While U.S. malls earned $400 U.S. in revenue per square foot, at Canadian malls it was around $600 U.S.. That's a powerful magnet for U.S. retailers looking to expand.
Our Existing Stores Are Disappearing
Remember Zellers? How about Eaton's, or <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._W._Woolworth_Company" target="_hplink">Woolworth's</a> or <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpsons_(department_store)" target="_hplink">Simpsons</a>? <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%26A_Records" target="_hplink">A&A Records</a>, anyone? Those are just a few of the retail names that have disappeared or are disappearing from Canada's street fronts and malls. With traditional retailers fading, U.S. retailers are seeing opportunity left and right. They are also seeing vacant space they can easily convert to their own stores, as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/22/target-canada-zellers-protest_n_1822223.html" target="_hplink">Target Canada is doing with Zellers locations</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/11/nordstrom-canada_n_1874734.html" target="_hplink">Nordstrom Canada is doing with Sears stores</a>.
Our Retail Sector Is Growing Fast
Growth in Canada's retail sector was <a href="http://www.nasdaq.com/article/the-promise-of-the-canadian-retail-market-20120914-00599" target="_hplink">34 per cent faster than it was in the U.S. between 2004 and 2008</a>, according to data from the Retail Council of Canada -- and that's before the financial crisis sank the U.S. into an economic no-man's-land. The Council's data also shows that retail grew 96 per cent faster than the Canadian economy as a whole during that period.
There Are Too Many Stores In The U.S., And We Have Room For Growth
In the U.S., retail supports one-quarter of all jobs and accounts for about 18 per cent of the country's economic activity. By comparison, Canadian retail supports only about one-eighth of all jobs in the country, and retail accounts for just more than six per cent of all economic activity, <a href="http://www.nasdaq.com/article/the-promise-of-the-canadian-retail-market-20120914-00599" target="_hplink">according to a report at Nasdaq.com</a>. This would suggest that the U.S.'s retail market is saturated, while there is plenty of potential growth in Canada.
More Of Us Have Disposable Income
The U.S.'s persistently high unemployment rate in recent years has left many Americans with little cash for buying anything beyond the basics. Data from WSL/Strategic Retail shows that <a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120914005044/en/Canada-Land-Retail-Opportunity-WSLStrategic-Retail" target="_hplink">only about 50 per cent of Americans have disposable income</a>, but the same is true for 64 per cent of Canadians.
Less Competition From Online Shopping
Canadians often complain that our options for online shopping are more limited than in the U.S., and that seems to show in our shopping habits. Research on women's shopping habits finds that <a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120914005044/en/Canada-Land-Retail-Opportunity-WSLStrategic-Retail" target="_hplink">only about half of Canadian women shop online</a>, compared to 75 per cent of American women. That means more opportunity for brick-and-mortar stores planning to move into Canada.
We're Not As Big On Bargain-Hunting
The <a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120914005044/en/Canada-Land-Retail-Opportunity-WSLStrategic-Retail" target="_hplink">same study of female shoppers</a> found that, while 68 per cent of American women use coupons when shopping, only 55 per cent of Canadian women do. Half of Canadian women look online for coupon opportunities, compared to 61 per cent of Americans, and 57 per cent of Canadian women pick up in-store circulars, while 71 per cent do so in the U.S. This lack of hunger for bargains translates into bigger profit margins for retailers.