When Sears was flush with cash, it took the form of billions of dollars of share repurchases, even if it meant the stores suffered years of underinvestment. Repurchases, or buybacks, are common among cash-rich companies, but also derided in some corners as a waste of a company’s resources as they only serve to create the appearance of improving earnings.http://www.businessinsider.com/sears-obsession-with-wall-street-2016-3
In the early days, Lampert was unapologetic about this. According to an executive at the company then, Lampert was genuine in his belief that Sears could be run differently than other retailers and that the shares were being acquired at a bargain price.
“Unless we believe we will receive an adequate return on investment,” he wrote in a 2007 letter to investors, “we will not spend money on capital expenditures to build new stores or upgrade our existing base simply because our competitors do. If share repurchases or acquisitions appear to be more productive, then we will allocate capital to those options appropriately.”