Sears has said that after years of losing money there is "substantial doubt" it will be able to keep its doors open.
It's a dramatic acknowledgment from the chain that owns Sears and Kmart stores, which has long held that a turnaround is possible, even as many of its shoppers have moved on to Wal-Mart, Target or Amazon.
Sears has survived of late mainly with millions in loans funneled through the hedge fund of Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert, but with sales fading it is burning through cash. Sears Holdings Corp. said late Tuesday it lost more than $2 billion last year.
The company known for DieHard batteries and Kenmore appliances has been selling assets, most recently its Craftsman tool brand. But it says pension agreements may prevent the sale of more businesses, potentially leading to a shortfall in funding.
"It's a sad story. This is the place that created the first direct-to-consumer retail, the first modern department store. It stood like the Colossus over the American retail landscape," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting firm. "But it's been underinvested and bled dry."
Company shares, which hit an all-time low last month, tumbled more than 13 percent Wednesday. Sears tried to soothe investors' fears, saying in a post on its site that it remains focused on "executing our transformation plan" and that news reports miss the full disclosure that it's highlighting actions to reduce risks.
That includes announcing that it would close 108 additional Kmart and 42 more Sears locations, and unveiling yet another restructuring plan in February aimed at cutting costs and reconfiguring debt to give itself more breathing room.
But it has to get more people through the doors or shopping online for what it's selling.
Sears has upped its presence online but is having a hard time disguising its age. Its stores are in need of a major refresh, as rivals such as Wal-Mart and Target invest heavily to revitalize stores. Sales at established Sears and Kmart locations dropped 10.3 percent in the final quarter of 2016.
Industry analysts have placed the staggering sums of money that Sears is losing beside the limited number of assets it has left to sell, and believe the storied retailer may have reached the point of no return.
The company has lost $10.4 billion since 2011, the last year that it made a profit. Excluding charges that can be listed as one-time events, the loss is $4.57 billion, says Ken Perkins, who heads the research firm Retail Metrics LLC, but how the losses are stacked no longer seems to matter.
For Sears to survive, Perkins believes it would need to do so as a company running maybe 200 stores. It now operates 1,430, including one in Lincoln at Gateway Mall.