Sears, Roebuck & Co. is leaving the door open to securitize in the fourth quarter, and despite the recent exodus of other retail credit card issuers out of the sector, the company is committed to the business and will continue to issue, a source close to the company said.

The retail credit card issuer is taking an "opportunistic" approach to funding this quarter, and is open to the idea of completing a securitization if market conditions continue to improve, the source said.

"Since we're fixed-rate borrowers, the recent run-ups in rates haven't been real conducive to our funding program," he said. "Unlike other securitizers, we have a lot of arrows in our quiver - we can go to unsecured financing or commercial paper - but if the markets improve, and there's an opportunity to get some low cost funding, we can do [ABS]."

While the Sears card portfolio has sustained a continued increase in volume, the source says that growth to the company's receivables base does not directly affect its ABS program.

"We can pull the different levers whichever way we want to go," the source said. "Right now, given where the rates are, and the market tone, the unsecured commercial paper probably looks the most attractive."

"If something happens as early as the fourth quarter - in the next couple of weeks - and for some reason, we see a huge rally, there's nothing to stop us from going into the markets," he said.

Since 1997, Sears has slowed its securitization efforts after problems in its bankruptcy accounts spurred a lawsuit, causing a slowdown in overall asset growth. But the source said Sears has no intention of exiting the hyper-competitive sector like fellow card issuer J.C. Penney.

"We feel we have a pretty competitive product," the source said. "When we benchmark ourselves against other retailers - I think J.C. Penney was the second-largest retailer, and their portfolio was about $5 billion or so, and ours is $20 billion to $30 billion - we don't have that same kind of pressure on us."

The source added that while Sears remains dedicated to the merchandizing business, officials do not know where the current financing strategy will lead, and the company was looking at "all the options."

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