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A hint that trouble might be brewing came in mid-December when Sears Holdings unexpectedly announced that 260 of its Sears, Roebuck and Co. locations would stay open until midnight through Dec. 23.

In an internal memo Tuesday to employees, CEO and President Lou D’Ambrosio said that the retailer had not “generated the results we were seeking during the holiday.”

Like Mr. Sozzi, Mr. Balter believes the shopping experience is hurting Sears’ performance.

“The extent of the [sales] weakness may be larger than expected but the reasons behind it are not. It begins and, some would argue, ends with Sears’ reluctance to invest in stores and service,” he said.

Sears has yet to determine which stores will close. The company would not discuss how many, if any, jobs would be cut.

Christina Rexrode contributed to this report from New York.