Sunday, August 19, 2012

Goodbye Sears Great Indoors; the last location in Houston TX

This is a farewell article for the short-lived Sears Great Indoors concept. Nine Great Indoors stores were left when Sears decided to abandon the concept and close the remaining stores. The Houston store pictured here lasted a few weeks longer than the other eight stores that were closed.



The great indoors concept was much different from any recent Sears or Kmart concept. Each middle section of the store focused on a section of a house such as the great bathroom, the great bedroom, the great kitchen, and the great room. Some of the areas had sample bathrooms or kitchens to showcase their products. The edges of the store had appliances, tile, carpet, blinds, lighting, and furniture. The concept carried higher end products for the home than most items found in Sears stores. Also the prices were high in comparison with Lowe's, Home Depot, and Ikea. Since Sears is focusing on their core operations of Sears and Kmart; this concept was closed.

The store was huge at 150,000+ square feet of sales space. This was the view when you walk in the front door. There were two locations in Houston at one time Willowbrook (closed in 2011) and I-10 West near Beltway 8 pictured here.



The kitchen appliance section carried the higher dollar Kenmore and other Sears brand appliances.


At one time there must have been a cafe here, but it was filled with outdoor furniture even before the closing sale.
Here are several views of the different departments starting with the great kitchen.










The back of this picture was the rug section.


The view from the back of the store to the front.

Everything for the house including the kitchen sink.

There are several corny quotes posted in the far sections of the store.


The far back corners of the store contained this window blind section and a tile section on the other side of the store.

Another goofy quote.
The lighting section.

A view of the front row of the store.

Here are a couple displays that showcased merchandise packages.

The other corner of the store with the tile section.
The back row of the store.

The final quote should have been changed to high prices instead of beautiful prices. 

5 comments:

  1. Nice pictures of the inside of a great indoors store. It's the first time I've seen an extensive set if pictures for the inside of one. It's unfortunate that they gave up on the concept, as it was a very nice looking store.

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  2. I know I read this post a long time back, but I guess I never really thought about it too much until this week when I linked to this post on a reply I made on the Dead and Dying Retail blog. One thing that I would like to add is that The Great Indoors had an electronics department in the early days of the concept. I assume that they got rid of it at some point, but I don’t know when. The electronics that they sold were pretty high end. They sold very expensive German Loewe TVs back in the day and they also sold some high end Hi-Fi gear from brands that weren’t known to be sold at chain stores much less one owned by Sears. They also sold more mainstream high-end gear from brands like Mitsubishi and Thomson/RCA’s ProScan line. I also remember that The Great Indoors was probably one of the first chain stores to have HDTVs and D-VHS HD VCRs.

    The Willowbrook Mall area The Great Indoors closed well before 2011 if I remember correctly. It probably closed around 2004 or 2005 IIRC. I could be off on that, but I think that’s about right. I remember buying a lot of rechargeable Rayovac NiMH batteries there at a great price during the closing sale.

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    Replies
    1. I did not know that about The Great Indoors, I wonder if the concept would have performed better if they had kept those products. That store had a WOW factor. It was WOW that product is really nice, and then WOW that product is really expensive. The Great Indoors was a nice alternative to the grimy home improvement stores and crowded big box retailers.

      I will post and reply to your remaining messages tomorrow when I have a few more minutes to catch up.

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    2. The Great Indoors was a good concept, but I think it suffered from poor timing. The national economy wasn’t in the best shape in the early 2000s. That probably led to people cutting back on new home purchases/renovations. The 2008 recession was probably the final death blow. Also, Kmart/Lampert got their hands on Sears pretty soon after the concept was launched and that probably hurt Sears’ ability to grow the chain. The chain probably could have continued if it had a solid base of stores in strong markets like the Town & County/Memorial City area, but the chain never grew big enough for that to happen.

      The thing you're saying The Great Indoors having eye popping products and high prices is pretty much accurate. The prices were high for the average consumer, but I think their prices were reasonable/good compared to other stores selling similar items. The Great Indoors electronics departments could have done well during the great home theater and flat panel HDTV buying spree of the mid-to-late 2000s, but eventually that would have come crashing down so I can't blame them for giving up on that department. Most of the high end TV brands during the CRT/early flat panel days have given up on TVs altogether and now common brands like Samsung and LG are considered the top of the heap. Sears, or Kmart for that matter, can/do sell those brands so I'm not sure if The Great Indoors would have a real edge. There are still high end audio brands, but I doubt The Great Indoors could sustain an electronics department on Hi-Fi audio alone.

      The Willowbrook Mall area had another concept store that opened at around the same time as The Great Indoors did. Home Depot opened a store called Expo in the AMC 24 shopping center that had a lot of high end home furnishings. They didn’t have the variety of goods like The Great Indoors had (they didn’t have electronics for example), but they probably had more products in the departments that they did have. It was a nice store, but it was gone even before the Willowbrook The Great Indoors closed. Perhaps the Willowbrook area didn’t have as many high dollar home spenders as the developers thought in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

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    3. 2008 & 2009 were terrible years for the American economy. I am surprised more retailers and restaurants did not close during the economic downturn. The Great Indoors did not have a very strong customer base that other retailers had that kept the others going.

      As you mentioned, they were losing their competitive advantage once other retailers started carrying better electronics. Places like Lowes which carry high end home improvement products likely cut into the small market share that the Great Indoors had.

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