The following is abstracted from a 2002 New York Times article by Constance L. Hays, “Business; A Bet on Credit Cards Becomes Messy at Sears,” published November 10, 2002 (accessed at nytimes.com on Aug. 13, 2008):--
About 60 million Americans hold Sears credit cards [circa 2002], and credit provides 60 percent of the company's profits -- far more than at any other retailer. To Wall Street, in fact, the credit business often overshadows what happens inside the stores.
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‘We think Sears has lost its retail identity, leaving it ill equipped to win much market share,’ Rozilyn Bryant, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, wrote in a note to investors late last month. ‘Given a flawed retail strategy and a credit portfolio that's beginning to resemble Pandora's box, we'd avoid the shares unless they fell to $10 to $12.’
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Sears has become the world's No. 2 MasterCard issuer, according to the Nilson Report. ‘The Sears credit unit has delivered profits that any credit card issuer would be delighted to have as their own,’ said David Robertson, the publisher of the report. ‘Over the last few years, analysts have come to view Sears as a credit card company that has a retail arm. It hasn't led the market on the retail side in a long, long time.’