Sears Holdings Corporation yesterday (28 January) announced the surprise departure of its president and chief executive officer Aylwin B Lewis and launched a search for his successor.

In the meantime, W Bruce Johnson, executive vice president, supply chain and operations, will take on the additional role of interim chief executive officer and president, the company said.

During his four-year tenure, Lewis oversaw the integration of Kmart and Sears, but failed to stem slumping sales at the department store chain.

Earlier this month the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company, which owns 3,800 Sears and Kmart stores in the US and Canada, said its fourth quarter profit could be as much as 57% below last year's result, as lower apparel sales and unfavourable economic conditions" continue to bite.

It has also restructured into five types of units: operating businesses, support businesses, brands, online and real estate.

Mr Johnson joined Kmart in 2003 as senior vice president - supply chain and operations and at the time of the merger was appointed executive vice president - supply chain and operations for the combined company.

He was named to the office of the chairman in 2005 and took on store operations in 2006.