Since Sears Holdings Corp. filed for bankruptcy last fall, we haven’t reported much on the progress. Aside from The Toy Association putting out a call to gauge toy industry risk going into the holiday season, there simply hasn’t been a lot of concrete news of real substance—especially in this past week of “will-they-or-won’t-they” liquidation talk. Sears is like a cat, but the looming question is just how many of their nine lives have been spent?

Ahead of this week’s Toy Report, Sears received yet another last-minute reprieve thanks to Chairman Eddie Lampert submitting a new bid through his ESL hedge fund worth more than $5 billion atop a $120 million deposit and an agreement to absorb some additional debts. The stores stay open for now, but the ultimate fate of both Sears and Kmart, along with over 50,000 employees still hangs in the balance. All of the information is fluid, and nothing is set.

There’s still an auction planned for Jan 14., with results of that auction scheduled to be revealed and accepted or rejected by creditors and the court on Jan. 16. Sears could still liquidate, and with the already complicated and convoluted structure of its assets, the pie could be sliced and diced in multiple directions.

Whatever happens, from most accounts the impact to the toy industry will be minimal. Following the disastrous collapse of Toys “R” Us last year, many vendors switched to a cash-up-front model or stopped dealing with Sears altogether—something many others had already done years ago. Looking at the more than 7,400 claims filed from creditors, the highest amounts owed are six-figure invoices largely for house brand products shipped to Kmart stores. Most are much smaller claims, such as the $75,000 owed to Basic Fun! or the $6,000 owed to Toynk, a smaller outfit who sold toys through the marketplace feature of and

Even if liquidation can be held-off, many continue to debate whether or not Sears and Kmart even have a place in 2019. One point everyone agrees on is that should they survive, they need to be fully reborn from the ground up—perhaps everyone but Lampert himself, who’s spent years touting customers as “members” and his stores and brands as little more than pieces in an expensive game of Monopoly.

Despite this, a sign of what a ground-up rebuild could be actually exists.

The Trim-A-Home department of the new Sears store in Oakbrook, Illinois, October 2018 (Sears)

One thing many seem to have missed last fall is that just a week prior to filing bankruptcy, Sears opened a brand-new store in Oak Brook, Illinois—complete with a formal grand opening ceremony featuring Jaclyn Smith.

Could this concept (and similar attention to Kmart) have been the spark to save the company?

Let’s wait and see what next week brings.

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.