Sears Holdings
Sears Holdings
Fortune 500 rank: 65
2011 loss: $3.1 billion
Things went from bad to worse for Sears Holdings last year. A lack-luster financial performance was topped off by a $2.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter -- its worst performance since its 2005 merger with Kmart.

The retail giant, which includes the venerable Kmart and Lands' End brands, now operates some 4,010 stores. In a downbeat annual report, it announced it would spin-off its Hometown and hardware store divisions, transferring ownership of 1,250 locations. The company will also close nearly 200 stores this year in an effort to generate much-needed cash.

Recent years have not been kind to either Kmart or Sears. In 1972, Sears was the nation's largest retailer and accounted for more than one percent of gross domestic product, according to the 1998 book about the company "The Big Store." Today, sales are slow at stores that can seem uninviting and run-down, despite being a nationwide mall fixture. Revenues have also been hurt by fierce competition from Wal-Mart, Target and, of course, Amazon -- maybe the closest existing equivalent to the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog of yore.

By Anne VanderMey, reporter @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 08 2012: 1:42 PM ET
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