Sears Canada files for bankruptcy protection

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      One of Canada's major retailers is seeking shelter under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act to restructure its business.

      Sears Canada has filed an application to the Ontario Court of Justice to deal with serious cash-flow problems.

      In Metro Vancouver the company has department stores at Capilano Mall, Brentwood, Metropolis at Metrotown, Coquitlam Centre, Guildford Town Centre, and Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

      Across the country, Sears Canada has 95 full-line department stores, 26 home stores, and 14 outlet stores, according to its 2016 annual report. It also has 69 Hometown stores and 62 Sears Travel offices.

      The court filing comes less than two weeks after Sears Canada reported a $144-million quarterly loss.

      The company put a bright shine on the announcement in a news release on its website.

      "Sears Canada rebuilt its front and back-end technology platform, redefined its brand positioning, revamped its product assortment, and rebooted its customer experience and service standards," it stated. "The new product assortment is reflected in two pillars, The Cut @ Sears, which offers designer labels at everyday value prices, and the Sears Label, which offers premium quality and enduring styles, also at everyday value prices.  The customer experience was reinvented, both online, with a newly designed site built in-house by a new technology team, and in-store with a new format called Sears 2.0."

      It also claimed that its customer service standards are "best-in-class", noting that it "launched a new store in downtown Toronto to showcase its reinvention to an entirely new audience".

      "The Company's hard work to bring its vision to reality is reflected in reported growth in same store sales in its two most recently completed quarters," it added. "Sears Canada believes this indicates that the new brand positioning is starting to resonate with consumers."

      Some companies that seek protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act emerge successfully, such as Air Canada. But for others, like Target Canada, filing for bankruptcy protection was one of the steps along the way to its demise.

      Under the act, if the application is approved the court will appoint a monitor who is a trustee in bankruptcy. This ensures the company continues operating as it deals with creditors.

      Update: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted Sears Canada's application for creditor protection. As a result, the company's shares are not trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange and on NASDAQ. 

      Sears Canada has also announced that it will be closing 20 full-line stores, including one in the Aberdeen Mall in Kamloops. It also plans to shut down 14 Hometown stores, including ones in the B.C. communities of Sechelt, Creston, and Grand Forks. Ten outlet stores will close, including one in Abbotsford, and 15 Sears Home stores will be shuttered, though none of them are in B.C.