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Attention, Kmart Shoppers: Flat-Line Special

Rubble remains by the back door of what used to be a Kmart
Rubble remains by the back door of what used to be a KmartPhotograph by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg

Kmart, the discounting pioneer owned by Sears Holdings, is in the throes of a mass shutdown of stores. After a bad 2011 Christmas, Sears Holdings said it would close up to 120 Sears and Kmart locations; as of January, there were just over 1,300 Kmarts in the U.S. and territories, 800 fewer than a decade earlier, when Kmart slid into bankruptcy as an independent company. In February, the parent posted its biggest quarterly loss in at least nine years. It lost $132 million in the July quarter, and analysts expect another loss, on a 10 percent drop in sales, when the company reports on Thursday. (Update, Nov. 16, 1:45 p.m. ET: Sears Holdings’ stock price is down 18 percent, to $47.75, after the company reported a wider, $498 million loss on lower sales.)

Today, as Amazon wallops all of retail, discounting’s old Big Three has been duopolized down to Wal-Mart vs. Target. According to Bloomberg Industries, department stores now make up less than half the share of the retail industry’s core “general merchandise, apparel and accessories, furniture and other” sales than they did 20 years ago. As for the subject of 30 years ago, that’s when Kmart’s rights to Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith’s clothing line (it still exists) might have been worth something.