US giant to close 100 stores

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SEARS ROEBUCK, the US retailing giant, is expected to close 100 stores with the loss of thousands of jobs and shrink its mail order catalogue operations.

An announcement is expected in January according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. The company has eliminated more than 48,000 jobs since late 1990.

A spokesman said that Arthur Martinez, chairman of Sears Merchandise Group, met yesterday with individual analysts in New York. But he declined to comment on speculation about any cost-cutting measures.

Analysts are cautious over whether the expected programme will be successful in wooing back shoppers from rivals.

'I think Mr Martinez has got one shot, and he's a real pro at this,' one analyst said. 'I don't think what he will announce will be negative.'

Besides Sears stores, some speciality stores and distribution centres could be shut.

Sears as a whole already faces a broader restructuring. In the next year, the company is scheduled to spin off its Dean Witter Financial Services Group, sell up to 20 per cent of Allstate Insurance Group and sell Coldwell Banker Residential Services.