business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The New York Times this morning reports that "shoppers may no longer come in droves for wrenches, watches or washing machines. But Sears, the once-ubiquitous department store that has been battered by the growth of e-commerce, may have one last thing of value to market: its own buildings.

"Starting about a decade ago — and accelerating over the past few months as its owner embarked on the equivalent of a clearance sale — investors have been betting on new uses for vacant Sears stores, from Santa Monica, Calif., to southern New Jersey.

"Many of the sites, often older, windowless hulks connected to shopping malls, are not straying far from their original mission: They’re being overhauled for new retailers.

"But some addresses, in line with a trend of repurposing dusty commercial properties, are being given fresh and sometimes unexpected new functions. At more than a dozen sites across the county, developers are installing high-end apartments, cutting-edge classrooms and even labs where classified weapons systems are conceived."

There are those who have argued that this has all been deliberate, that Sears' utter incompetence at retailing masked its desire to make the company more of a real estate play.  Maybe that's true, but if so, you'd think that they could've done in a way less drawn out and painful.