'We are down, but not out': Sears gets feisty on social media

Jan 8 (Reuters) - The clock may be fast running out on Sears Holdings Corp, but you wouldn't know it from the company's feisty posts on Twitter.

"We are down, but not out... - SMT," Sears, via its official Twitter account (@Sears), said in reply to one of the many posts Monday morning about the 126-year-old company potentially going out of business.

The optimistic tweets come ahead of a hearing on Tuesday, where Sears will ask a U.S. bankruptcy judge if it can proceed with liquidation after it failed to reach a deal on Chairman Edward Lampert's $4.4 billion takeover bid, according to people familiar with the matter.

Another Twitter user opined that the retailer "had a good run I would say." Sears replied: "We would say that as well, but we are Marathon Runners, and we are still running. We may be slowing down, but we are not out of the race just yet. Don't count us completely out. Happy Shopping! -SMT"

The "SMT" sign-off is for the Sears Social Media Team that runs the Twitter account, which has a following of 209,000, significantly smaller than many of its retail peers.

The company declined to comment on its social media strategy.

In the face of competition from online giant Amazon.com Inc and other brick-and-mortar retailers, including Walmart Inc, Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears has struggled to reinvent itself.

Sears' former Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Cook told Reuters at the end of 2017 that the company planned to invest more heavily in social media in 2018.

Cook said marketing directly to shoppers via Twitter and Instagram posts and influencers could help change consumer sentiment toward Sears. The company also planned to use shoppers' opinions to make operational and merchandising changes, she said.

However, only 9 percent of U.S. millennials - aged between 22 to 37 years in 2018 - said they would consider buying goods from the retailer, according YouGov BrandIndex, a company that tracks public perception of brands.

Sears locations closing:

46 Sears and Kmart locations closing
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46 Sears and Kmart locations closing

935 Sweetwater Road
Spring Valley, CA

1075 Shaw Avenue
Clovis, CA
3625 East 18th Street
Antioch, CA
6310 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
589 Bridgeport Avenue
Milford, CT
301 College Square
Newark, DE
3231 Chicago Road
Steger, IL

11 South Kings HWY 61
Cape Girardeau, MO

2308 Highway 45 N
Columbus, MS
605 Old Country Road
Riverhead, NY
440 NW Burnside Road
Gresham, OR
101 Great Teays Blvd
Scott Depot, WV
2150 South Douglas HWY
Gillette, WY
Flagstaff Mall, 4800 N US HWY 89
Flagstaff, AZ
Capitola Mall, 4015 Capitola Road
Santa Cruz, CA
2424 Highway 6 And 50
Grand Junction, CO
2266 University Square Mall
Tampa - University, FL
1625 NW 107th Avenue
Doral / Miami, FL
Coastland Ctr, 2000 9th Street N
Naples, FL
Oglethorpe Mall, 7810 Abercorn St
Savannah, GA
2860 Cumberland Mall
Atlanta, GA
100 Mall Blvd Ste 300
Brunswick, GA
1631 E Empire Street
Bloomington, IL
4201 Coldwater Road
Fort Wayne, IN
3000 Mall Road
Florence, KY
1914 Hammond Square Drive
Hammond, LA
50 Holyoke Street
Holyoke, MA
Silver City Galleria
Taunton, MA
1250 Jackson Xing I-94
Jackson, MI
4601 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh - Crabtree, NC
77 Rockingham Park Boulevard
Salem, NH
1500 South Willow Street
Manchester, NH
4409 Black Horse Pike
Mays Landing, NJ
200 Eastview Mall
Victor, NY
578 Aviation Road
Queensbury / Glen Falls, NY
1400 Union Turnpike
New Hyde Park, NY
2700 Miamisburg Centerville Road
Dayton, OH
9505 Colerain Avenue
Cincinnati - Northgate, OH
11800 SE 82nd Avenue
Happy Valley / Portland, OR
400 Memorial City Way
Houston - Memorial, TX
Post Oak Mall
College Station - Bryan, TX
7453 S Plaza Center Drive
West Jordan, UT
12000 Fair Oaks Mall
Fairfax, VA
8800 NE Vancouver Mall Drive
Vancouver, WA
4720 Golf Road
Eau Claire, WI
Valley View Mall, 4200 US HWY 16
La Crosse, WI

On Monday, Sears encouraged those saddened by its store closures to shop online.

"Thank you for the picture! It is very surreal," the account tweeted at a user who posted a picture of a Sears store striped of inventory, one of many to shutter its doors. "Here's to ONLINE shopping for everyone! -SMT"

Over the last 30 days, Sears’ posting frequency on Twitter has gone up by the week, as have interactions per post, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph.

Toys 'R' Us took a slightly different tack to reach its nearly 2 million followers on Twitter.

"While our store roster may be getting smaller, what is not changing is our desire or commitment to serving you," Toys 'R' Us (@ToysRUs) tweeted from its official account in February 2018, roughly five months after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

"We will continue to operate stores in all major markets and as always, you can also continue to shop online. Thank you!"

Then, in March, Toys 'R' Us announced it would sell or close all 885 stores in its U.S. chain, after failing to restructure billions of dollars in debt.

Nearly three months after filing for bankruptcy in October, Sears has made plans to sell its vast inventories of tools, appliances and store fixtures, sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Lampert's bid is meant to preserve 425 Sears stores and up to 50,000 jobs across the United States. A liquidation would put roughly 68,000 people that Sears now employs out of work.

"If Sears liquidates, it'd be very, very sad for all of us," said longtime Sears vendor Joe Shamie, CEO of furniture vendor Delta Children, which lost millions after Toys 'R' Us filed for bankruptcy.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York and Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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