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TheStreet Open House

Sears: A National Tragedy

NEW YORK (TheStreet) --

That's part of a Twitter (TWTR) exchange I had over the weekend with Sears Holdings (SHLD) VP of Corporate Communications Chris Brathwaite. It came as part of a much larger viral explosion triggered by an article that blew up Saturday on TheStreet:

More Pathetic Pictures From a Dying Sears.

In that article, I featured photographs TheStreet's Brian Sozzi took at a Sears store in New York. The images show the unkempt conditions many of us associate with Sears and similar dying physical retailers.

To say that article blew up is an understatement. And because this article will clear a few things up and clarify critical points, it's too bad far fewer people -- most likely -- will read it. But, at least it will be on the record.

First, as I mentioned to the Sears VP on Twitter, none of this is personal (even though he admitted to being a Boston Bruins fan). Several people responded to Saturday's article with angry feedback. Some of it was downright vile. Granted, many of these readers had probably never heard of me (or Sozzi) prior to seeing the article pop up on Yahoo!'s (YHOO) homepage, but they would be better off seeking context before taking shots and forming (uninformed) opinions.

Speaking for myself only (though Sozzi has an even richer track record covering retail than I do), the Sears piece represents a sliver of what I have written about with respect to retail over the last two-plus years. It comes as support for a larger thesis, articulated in articles such as ...

The Death and Life of Great American Retailers, 2013.

Will Intel Revolutionize Physical Retail?

And ...

J. C. Penney Needs to Fire Delusional Ron Johnson Now (from February 2013).

This isn't about being bullish or bearish or short or long any particular stock. It's about a narrative I have fleshed out over several years on what I perceive to be the state of brick and mortar retail and where it needs to go. I mean, I'm as bearish on Best Buy (BBY), one of 2013's best performing equities, as I am SHLD or J. C. Penney (JCP). That's because it's not about stock movement over a day, a month, a quarter or even a year; it's about the long-term prospects of companies in a largely broken space.

So, while I said that about Sears, it applies to any number of physical retailers, who had their heads handed to them by Amazon.com (AMZN) and have yet to cobble together anything resembling a sound response. That's where the Sears' VP's Tweet matters in this conversation.

Like I told him on Twitter, to even mention "shorts" in relation to Sears's problems waxes delusional. The same type of delusion Ron Johnson showed at JCP. But now Ron Johnson's gone and, sadly, nobody learned from his bravado-fueled mistakes. There doesn't appear to be the will or intellectual capacity within the executive ranks of retail to imagine and fight for the level of wholesale change that needs to take place.

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