According to usatoday.com, for years, there have been reports of Sears death spiraling toward the corporate graveyard alongside other popular brick-and-mortar retailers.

The company, once one of the great brands of America, has managed to stay afloat in recent years by borrowing cash from its CEO and selling off desirable assets such as real-estate and brands.

Now, reports say Sears is working with advisers to prepare to possibly file for bankruptcy, as soon as this week. But just because Sears Holdings Corp. might be in trouble doesn't mean consumers have to be.

In the wake of all that's happening, here's what Sears shoppers should know: More: Sears may file for bankruptcy as debt payment looms, reports say

Question: Will my local store close?
Answer: Possibly. So far, Sears has announced that 46 of its under performing stores are closing in November. The plan involves shutting down 13 Kmart locations and 33 Sears stores in several states.

Q: Can I still use my gift card?
A: Yes – at least for now. But experts suggest that you put them to use ASAP. "In general, people shouldn’t hold on to gift cards," said Katherine Hutt, director of communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "They should go and spend them as soon as they can, regardless of the status of the company."

Q: What's the best time to shop for deep discounts?
A: Now – maybe. "When retailers close stores, they are likely to have some sales. You have to be careful though. Yes, some items are going to be deeply discounted, but it is also likely they will be marked 'no return,' " Hutt said. There may not be a store to return to.

Q: I purchased an extended warranty. Will Sears still honor it?
A: Until the point at which a company files for bankruptcy, warranties and return policies will likely be “business as usual,” Hutt said.

If you would like more information, contact your local Better Business Bureau.