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Sears hopes to sell its home improvement business to Service.com

The bankrupt company would lose a key division to a key rival.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
November 5, 2018
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Bankrupt retailer Sears announced that it's seeking permission to sell its home improvement division to a key rival partly responsible for its downfall. Pending trustee approval, it will sell the business to Service.com, an Airbnb-like service that helps home owners find contractors, for $60 million. Sears Home Services is considered to be one of the retailer's more valuable assets, so the asking price shows how far the company -- which employed 302,000 people just a decade ago -- has fallen.

Earlier this year Sears still had big plans for the division, which offers cleaning and handyman services. Unlike its retail division, Home Services doesn't have to compete with Amazon and other retailers. Sears believed it could make a go of it by leveraging its name and helping customers set up smart home devices. In other words, it would send technicians out to help tech-illiterate folks set up an August lock, security cameras and smart lights.

"In the smart home space there is not one provider that has everything," the Sears Home Services CEO Mitch Bowling told CNBC in February. "It's usually a collection of items from different providers and we want to be a trusted advisor of all that space."

Alas, it seems like those grand plans will be lost, as Sears badly needs to raise capital just to survive. The company is seeking court approval for a "stalking horse" sale, in which a bankrupt debtor essentially tests the market for assets prior to an auction. If it has no other takers, Service.com will likely acquire the division by the end of the year.

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