'We are down, but not out': Sears gets feisty on social media

(Reuters) - The clock may be fast running out on Sears Holdings Corp, but you wouldn’t know it from the company’s feisty posts on Twitter.

FILE PHOTO: A dismantled sign sits leaning outside a Sears department store one day after it closed as part of multiple store closures by Sears Holdings Corp in the United States in Nanuet, New York, U.S., January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

“We are down, but not out... - SMT,” Sears, via its official Twitter account (@Sears), said in reply to one of the many posts Monday morning about the 126-year-old company potentially going out of business.

The optimistic tweets come ahead of a hearing on Tuesday, where Sears will ask a U.S. bankruptcy judge if it can proceed with liquidation after it failed to reach a deal on Chairman Edward Lampert’s $4.4 billion takeover bid, according to people familiar with the matter.

Another Twitter user opined that the retailer “had a good run I would say.” Sears replied: “We would say that as well, but we are Marathon Runners, and we are still running. We may be slowing down, but we are not out of the race just yet. Don’t count us completely out. Happy Shopping! -SMT”

The “SMT” sign-off is for the Sears Social Media Team that runs the Twitter account, which has a following of 209,000, significantly smaller than many of its retail peers.

The company declined to comment on its social media strategy.

In the face of competition from online giant Inc and other brick-and-mortar retailers, including Walmart Inc, Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears has struggled to reinvent itself.

Sears’ former Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Cook told Reuters at the end of 2017 that the company planned to invest more heavily in social media in 2018.

Cook said marketing directly to shoppers via Twitter and Instagram posts and influencers could help change consumer sentiment toward Sears. The company also planned to use shoppers’ opinions to make operational and merchandising changes, she said.

However, only 9 percent of U.S. millennials - aged between 22 to 37 years in 2018 - said they would consider buying goods from the retailer, according YouGov BrandIndex, a company that tracks public perception of brands.

On Monday, Sears encouraged those saddened by its store closures to shop online. “Thank you for the picture! It is very surreal,” the account tweeted at a user who posted a picture of a Sears store striped of inventory, one of many to shutter its doors. “Here’s to ONLINE shopping for everyone! -SMT”

Over the last 30 days, Sears’ posting frequency on Twitter has gone up by the week, as have interactions per post, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.

Toys ‘R’ Us took a slightly different tack to reach its nearly 2 million followers on Twitter.

“While our store roster may be getting smaller, what is not changing is our desire or commitment to serving you,” Toys ‘R’ Us (@ToysRUs) tweeted from its official account in February 2018, roughly five months after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

“We will continue to operate stores in all major markets and as always, you can also continue to shop online. Thank you!”

Then, in March, Toys ‘R’ Us announced it would sell or close all 885 stores in its U.S. chain, after failing to restructure billions of dollars in debt.

Nearly three months after filing for bankruptcy in October, Sears has made plans to sell its vast inventories of tools, appliances and store fixtures, sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Lampert’s bid is meant to preserve 425 Sears stores and up to 50,000 jobs across the United States. A liquidation would put roughly 68,000 people that Sears now employs out of work.

“If Sears liquidates, it’d be very, very sad for all of us,” said longtime Sears vendor Joe Shamie, CEO of furniture vendor Delta Children, which lost millions after Toys ‘R’ Us filed for bankruptcy.

Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York and Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jeffrey Benkoe