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Iconic US Retailer Sears Files for Bankruptcy

In this July 8, 2017, file photo people walk into a Sears store slated for closing that is next to a mall that is being torn down in Overland Park, Kan. Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, Oct. 15, 2018.

Iconic U.S. retailer Sears, which at one time was the world's largest chain of stores, filed for bankruptcy Monday as it struggles to stay in business.

The company is worth about $7 billion, but lists more than $11 billion in liabilities. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, the day a massive payment to its creditors was due.

As part of its plan to stay afloat, Sears will close 142 of its remaining stores, leaving about 500 locations still open — down from a one-time high of 4,000 stores.

"It's a shame," President Donald Trump said Monday. "Somebody that is of my generation, Sears Roebuck was a big deal. So, it's very sad to see."

"Where America shops" was one of the slogans Sears used throughout its 132-year history. But in recent years, Americans found other places and more modern ways to shop, and Sears, which focused on traditional brick-and-mortar department stores, could not keep up.

FILE - Shoppers walk into a Sears store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Feb. 8, 2017.
FILE - Shoppers walk into a Sears store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Feb. 8, 2017.

Sears began in 1886 selling watches and soon expanded to become the nation's top retailer.

Anything that a household could use could be found at Sears, including the house. Sears sold tens of thousands of build-it-yourself house kits, which would be shipped to customers by rail from the Chicago headquarters. Hundreds of these homes still stand across the U.S.

The arrival of the annual Sears mail order catalog was a major event in American homes, especially in rural areas with no access to big stores.

Sears became known for multistory downtown locations and its expansion to suburban shopping centers. A shopping trip to Sears on a Saturday was an event — children explored the toys, Dad admired the tools and tires, and Mom checked out the latest fashions.

But younger generations of Americans began to regard Sears as the place where their grandparents shopped, as they started to gravitate toward more modern retailers and online sales.

Sears also spent billions in such non-retail businesses as credit cards, insurance and real estate, and found itself with little money needed to upgrade its fading stores.

Sears has not turned a profit since 2010. It sold off many of its assets, including famous house brands such as Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools, in what some economists said was a fruitless effort to stay in business.