Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sears Midtown Houston April 2013

Here is one of the oldest Sears stores (opened in 1939) in the Houston area still in operation. This Sears is located just off of the Southwest Freeway on Fannin Street. This store is also the only three level Sears in the Houston area. I am not too familiar with the history of this store, so if any of my readers would like to add more please comment below. This store also has a nearby Auto Center a block away, but I did not get any photos on this trip. Check out this chron.com article for more photos. Warning; many of the interior photos have severe glare issues (time for a new phone). The first level or basement level features Hardware, Lawn and Garden, Electronics, and Appliances. The second level is actually at ground level since this store has a basement level as the first floor. Men's, Women's, Shoes, and Optical are on this level. There is also a Keyshop near the North entrance of the store. The third level features Childrens, more Women's clothing, housewares, and furniture.

257 comments:

  1. Yeah, this location is certainly very retro. It certainly flashes back to the days of candy counters and things like that at Sears locations. That "As Advertised" board looks like it came straight from the 1970s. Granted, that's probably where it came from! That Houston Chronicle article that you linked certainly gives a pretty good history of the store and why it is such a historical landmark. Houston is often accused of tearing down old historical buildings to build parking lots and stuff, but leave it to Sears to keep a historic building up and operational. Hopefully this location stays in business even aside from the historical factors. The store serves an important purpose for near downtowners especially with the closing of the downtown Macy's.

    One thing I do wonder is if this is one of the locations that sold the Sears Allstate car back in 1952-1954. A lot of people know about the kit houses that one could buy from the Sears catalog back in the day, but you could even buy a Sears branded car once upon a time! The Allstate was a rebadged Kaiser-Frazer Henry J and it was considered a pretty basic economy car at the time. It was only available in a handful of markets, but Houston (as well as Baytown, Beaumont, Dallas, Lubbock, and Waco) was one of them. These cars may have been sold at multiple Houston locations. I'm not sure.

    As an aside, one of the more famous "vintage" Houston Sears locations was the Harrisburg and Wayside location. I'm not sure exactly when the location closed, but it probably went away at around the same time as the Palm Center Montgomery Ward closed. It probably would have closed even earlier if the Harrisburg Freeway was built, but that is a whole different story! Anyway, that store had a brief cameo appearance at the very end of the very famous Thunderbolt Engine and Transmission commercial that ran for years here in Houston. It might have been the 2nd most famous local commercial after the Mattress Mack ones. There was a remake of the commercial in the early 2000s, but the Sears was long since demolished by that point. I thought that I would point out that interesting piece of Houston history!

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  2. Lol I remember that commercial would always come on while watching late night TV and it was always louder than everything else. I did not know about that Sears location until recently even though it is long gone. Another Sears I never saw was the Southmore location in Pasadena that is now a Wal-mart. Was that store two stories like more Sears stores in our area and what was it designed like?

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  3. I don't think that I ever went to the old Pasadena Sears (or the current Pasadena Town Square Sears for that matter), but some of the user comments on this Bayou City History blog post seem to indicate that the old Pasadena Sears had at least two levels. Perhaps one was a basement, but the picture on that link looks like that store had at least two above-ground levels. That link also has photos of a Sears location at Montrose and Allen Parkway, but I don't know anything about that location.

    The Willowbrook Mall Sears did make headline news (at least locally) this past weekend as the Kardashian sisters signed autographs there on Saturday. It seems that more than 2,000 people were there. I don't know why they chose the Willowbrook Sears especially when Kim K. stated that they usually do appearances in L.A. and New York. The Willowbrook Sears is my local Sears, but I wouldn't say that there is anything particularly "Hollywood" about it. Perhaps they chose Willowbrook because they had enough parking and security to handle the crowd. That would probably be a bigger issue at someplace like the Main St. Sears. Anyway, the Chronicle has several pages of photos from the event in addition to the earlier link (one, two). Most of the pictures are of the crowd and the sisters, but some show small parts of the store.

    I'm not a fan of the Kardashians so there was no way that I was going to go to that event even if it was really close by, but I did see a pretty massive crowd at the Willowbrook Sears during the Black Friday (well, Thursday) sale at Sears last year. It was not my idea to go out on Black Friday, but it was interesting to see a Sears so swamped with customers that you could hardly move. I guess Sears can still attract a crowd every now and then.

    Actually, the Kardashian thing reminds me of the famous The Brady Bunch Movie scene where the Bradys go to Sears. Perhaps the most famous quote from that movie was "Put on your Sunday best, we're going to Sears!" (or something like that). You may remember that the villain in the movie was run over in the Sears store by a bunch of teenage women who saw Tori Spelling signing autographs at the Sears. Anyway, I'm not so sure if Sears' role in that mid-1990s movie caused Sears to suffer from their "stuck in the 1960s/1970s" stereotype or if it merely reflected pre-existing stereotypes. Of course, the 1970s Bradys might feel right at home at the Main St. Sears! It would be good if Sears did renovate that store, but on the other hand, the retroness of it is pretty awesome IMO as long as the store isn't falling apart.

    Just in case the photos on this post makes anyone have a retro Sears hankering, there is a website that has a bunch of old Sears (as well as JC Penney and Montgomery Ward) catalogs scanned. It's certainly quite interesting. One can certainly waste a lot of time at that site! I know I can spend a lot of time at the website that has most of the annual Radio Shack catalogs scanned.

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    1. I was at the Willowbrook Sears earlier today coincidentally. Do you know if the mall has any plans to rebuild the former Lord and Taylor plot as was previously planned with the outdoor stores like at the Woodlands Mall? Another part of the mall I would like to see is the second floor of the former Wards which is closed off to the public. I wonder if Macy's left the floor as is or did they remove all evidence of what was there before. I think they removed the escalators that were close to the middle of the store also. I did find a few photos of the old Pasadena store and it was indeed two stories.

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    2. I'm not aware of any concrete redevelopment plans at Willowbrook Mall. There was talk about the outdoor lifestyle center, but nothing has come of that. It might be worthwhile for GGP to wait and see if there is another anchor that might want to build a store on that vacated anchor pad. Perhaps they could stretch out that corridor a bit then and get a few more in-line tenants.

      There was a lot of rumors in the newspapers back when Sears/Homart still owned the mall that they would add a second level to the mall. I'm guessing that proposal isn't on the table anymore. Willowbrook is a successful mall, but I don't know if it can support that many more tenants.

      The Vintage at 249 and Louetta Rd. seems to be pretty successful as an outdoor lifestyle center (and probably will be even more so with the opening of the Alamo Drafthouse and the upcoming opening of Whole Foods) so I'm not sure if there is room for another lifestyle center in the area. OTOH, maybe the success of The Vintage is indicative of the potential success of lifestyle centers. I don't know. It's hard to say, but I think the fact that The Vintage is so close to more wealthy neighborhoods gives it a clear advantage over Willowbrook Mall.

      As for the Macy's Mens and Furniture store at Willowbrook Mall, that's actually an interesting point of discussion. Back when that was a Montgomery Ward, the second floor did not extend all the way to the mall entrance wall. Instead, there was a large foyer at the mall entrance with an open ceiling that had a very 1970s looking mirrored egg-crate looking design (if I remember correctly). The second floor overlooked the entryway so that you could see people walking in and out of the store and mall. Although I have been to the Foley's/Macy's mens store a few times, I don't think I have ever been in the mall entryway. I don't know if it still has the design of the old Wards. If it does, then in theory it would be possible to look up from the first floor into the second floor. I would think that they would have either extended the second floor to the wall or built a vertical wall where the second floor ended so that isn't possible to look up into the second floor from the first, but I don't know. I really should check this out sometime! I don't really shop at Macy's that often (IMO, Dillard's has them beat in terms of selection and prices) and going into that store makes be a bit sad that Montgomery Ward no longer exists. Oh well I guess. I thought Macy's was a nicer store back when they had their original three-story store at Willowbrook in what is now Dillard's (Dillard's/Joske's used to be in the demolished former Lord & Taylor).

      I think Macy's (well, Foley's) did enclose the partially enclosed exterior section of the Wards store out towards the main Foley's side of the mall that Wards used to store lawn tractors and stuff like that. Also, I'm not sure, but it looks like the former attached auto center and garage was converted into retail space (I believe furniture stuff is out on that side). I'm not totally sure what Foley's did with the little optical/Miracle Ear/restroom/elevator/payphone section of the Wards store that jutted out a bit on the side of the store that faces the Sears. I'm also not sure if Macy's really needs the second floor with all that converted floorspace, but it would be interesting to see what they have upstairs. It may still look like Montgomery Ward up there for all we know. It would seem pointless to redesign it significantly if it is just used to warehouse stuff.

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    3. It looks like the one anchor they could have possibly lured to Willowbrook choose the Woodlands Mall instead (Nordstrom). They should do something with that dead space and tearing down the old Dillard's/ Lord and Taylor probably hurt their chance to land another anchor. I am hoping Belk will move into the Houston market though. They opened a bunch of stores in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth metro area and have stores in nearby Lufkin and Nacogdoches also. The Willowbrook Mall plot and the empty anchor pad at Deerbrook would be good places to start. West Oaks and San Jacinto both have empty anchor spots that Belk could easily move into as well. One thing I have noticed with Willowbrook is the mall entrances to Dillard's, the former Lord & Taylor, JCPenney, and Macy's Mens store have very few stores if any on those corridors. Some stores have grown from the main mall concourse into those corridors but without an extra entrance near the department store entrances. The Dillard's there that was a Macy's was one of three stores that Dillard's took over in the late 1990's. Willowbrook and Baybrook were extensively remodeled and expanded, but Deerbrook only received a small renovation inside but still looks the same on the outside as before. If you want to see what those former Macy's stores looked like before Dillard's took over go to the Macy's Galleria at Sage. That store is a time capsule from the 1980's and is mostly the same as when the store opened. As for the Wards at Willowbrook, I think they covered up the windows into the mall on the second floor of the store. I remember furniture being in that section of the store on the second level. Macy's did a good job with erasing nearly all evidence of the former Montgomery Ward that used to be there. I can't tell where the escalator was located anymore but I remember it was close to the middle of the store. The Macy's furniture section is where the auto and tire center was, but you would never know now. I don't think Macy's invested money in the second floor of that store so there is a good chance that it still looks like a Montgomery Ward. As far as the lifestyle centers go, I am not much of a fan. Especially during the upcoming summer months those centers are miserable and just a few minutes walking will result in sweating through your shirt. I also noticed the newer premium outlet lifestyle centers have high prices when compared to older outlet malls such as Katy Mills.

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    4. I certainly agree with you about the outdoor lifestyle centers and outdoor malls. I'm not a big fan of them. I suppose their biggest disadvantage, lack of isolation from the weather, is their biggest advantage in the eyes of the developers though. Outdoor centers are probably cheaper, but perhaps the biggest thing is that teenagers don't tend to congregate at outdoor centers like they do at indoor malls. Maybe the outdoor centers are more teenager proof because of the weather factor. I'm not sure.

      It seems very silly to me, but I don't think it can be denied that some people will automatically label a mall as being "ghetto" if people of certain ethnicities and/or young people go there. Crime obviously leads to "ghetto" labels (though the cause/effect there can be hard to pin down), but it seems to me based on numbers that I have seen that there is increased crime at all types of large shopping districts. Anyway, perhaps these lifestyle and outdoor malls have a perception of increased safety. How much of that is because those malls are newer and have not had time to establish a reputation is up for debate I suppose.

      But, yeah, I was at the Cypress Outlet Mall one day back when the mall was brand new and rain started to pour down. The mall does have covered walkways, but it does not protect the corridors entirely especially in heavy rain. Perhaps they have done something to correct that. I don't know. I have not been back there since that event though. It's a pretty mundane place to shop, the weather can make the shopping even more unpleasureable, and I agree with you about the prices. I wasn't impressed, although I did buy a pair of irregular Assembled in the US New Balance shoes there for like $8. I had a grand opening coupon that offered a pretty significant discount so that might have been a one-time type deal. Then again, it's not like I regularly go to outlet malls anyway. The only factory outlet that I found to offer good deals pretty consistently was the VF Outlet out in Hempstead. Even then I have not been there in years, but there was a time in the late 1990s where we'd stop and buy stuff there frequently when traveling between Austin and Houston. I just don't see the need to go to outlet malls when good clearance deals can be found quite easily at places like Sears, Dillard's, and Kohl's. Add TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshall's, Dillard's Outlets (though it seems that Dillard's Outlets are chock full of sizes S and quadruple XLarge with little in between) to the mix and the factory outlets seem kind of pointless.

      Yeah, perhaps Nordstrom or one of their competitors could still be an option at Willowbrook Mall at some point down the road. I don't foresee anything happening soon. The hallways that are off the main Sears to Macy's concourse have more of the B/C list stores or aren't occupied at all. I suppose the traffic on those minor corridors just isn't that great. I know the hallway opposite the food court has always struggled and generally has locally owned stores. OTOH, the mall seems to have no problem leasing stores to A-list clients on the main concourse.

      Foley's did a pretty good job erasing Montgomery Ward's legacy from that men's store building. It does look quite upscale. Of course, Wards did do a pretty good job renovating that location over the years. It probably saw more makeovers than the Willowbrook Sears store has seen even though Wards was there for ~12 years less. Granted, even Ward's best look was far, far off from what Foley's/Macy's has done. Oh, and you're right about the furniture department being at the end of the 2nd floor, but there was a wallpaper and drapery department at the end of one of the corners.

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    5. First West Oaks mall have a college to put a college in the former JC Penneys anchor and now ya'll wish for a Nordstrom to be put in Willowbrook Mall has been answered. Heres the link to the story.

      http://www.heraldonline.com/2013/07/09/5007701/nordstrom-rack-to-open-at-willowbrook.html

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    6. Looks like I was wrong about my prediction for Nordstrom coming to Willowbrook Mall in the future. I guess the Woodlands is far enough away to not take sales away from the Willowbrook area. The Rack is a discounted Nordstrom and the Woodlands will be a full line store, so there should be enough room for both. 38,000 square feet seems small for a lot that held a two story 122,000 square foot two story building. Maybe they will add more parking to the lot or another store by dividing the lot in half. Thanks for sending in the updates.

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  4. West Oaks mall must have read your comment because there turning that empty anchor into a college. there is a huge banner outside the empty anchor advertising the soon to ba college.

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    1. Good find. I did some research and it seems like some college called Fortis Institute will take over the top floor of the old JCPenney. According to this brochure, Fortis has 300 students and will have 45,000 sq. ft. with the first floor having 45,000 sq. ft. still available. A college with 300 students may not provide much more traffic to the mall, but I guess it is better than nothing. Perhaps the college plans on going some. It certainly seems like they have enough floor space to expand their enrollment.

      I'm not quite sure when this college will open. I'm also not quite sure how the students will have access to the 2nd floor with the 1st floor still being vacant. Will there be stairs/elevators at the entrances? Will there be a mall entrance for the college?

      Northwest Mall also has a college, College of Healthcare Professions, as a tenant. I believe both the college at Northwest Mall and Fortis College are both for-profit colleges oriented toward healthcare vocations.

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    2. They might extend the mall through the first floor of the JCPenney to become a new entrance to the college. It seems like they would have to move the playground if they are going to open up this part of the mall again. Possibly the playground would go inside the first floor of the former JCPenney if they open it up into the mall again. Looking at the floor plan of the mall with new tenants in yellow which mentions Forever 21, Encore, Shoes, Spencers and others. Are those tenants they are trying to get or are those tenants that are coming to the mall? They have done a really good job so far at West Oaks and it seems the property is headed in the right direction.

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  5. The news about the Nordstrom Rack at Willowbrook Mall is very interesting. It sounds like this will be going on the vacant anchor pad that used to be Joske's/Dillard's/Lord & Taylor. The article states that that part of the mall will be renovated. I wonder what kind of renovation will take place. Perhaps they'll stretch that wing out a bit since the anchor will be so small?

    I'm not quite sure how to feel about the news. I think we all believed that if anyone moved into that anchor pad, it would be Nordstrom. The Rack format probably makes sense, but I'm sure some will be upset that it isn't a full Nordstrom and perhaps some will use that as evidence that Willowbrook is a "ghetto" mall. Oh well I guess. I wonder if the anchor will be owned by GGP or by Nordstrom.

    The thing that has me a bit on edge I suppose is that now there won't be any available anchor pads left. That could lead to a situation down the road where perhaps Sears or JCPenney will sell their store to GGP to raise money if another anchor wants in at Willowbrook. Losing JCPenney would not be a huge deal to me, but losing Sears would be quite upsetting. I can't really imagine another anchor being interested at this point so perhaps there isn't much to worry about, but who knows.

    As for West Oaks, I really can't imagine that they would use the old JCPenney escalators because then the mall would have to renovate at least a decent sized part of that old store. Then again, it might make sense to do that if they want to convert some of that old anchor into in-line mall stalls. Sears recently sold a couple of their stores back to the mall owners in Kentucky and Tennessee to do something like that. I would not think that they are planning on doing that though as it says that there is 45,000 sq. ft. still available on the first floor and the old Penney's was only about 100,000 sq. ft. on two floors anyway. Who knows though. My guess would be that there will be one exterior entrance that has an elevator and stairs to the college, but that's just a guess.

    That West Oaks leasing plan is quite confusing as it looks like they have four stores listed under one 2,500 sq. ft. storefront. That does not make any sense. That would be great if they are getting all those stores listed though. That would be a real boost to the mall. The mall is in great physical condition both outside and inside. I'd like to see that mall do well because I think the owners have been doing a good job maintaining the mall.

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    1. Willowbrook could use more in-line store space if they are going to stretch the mall out since the store will be much smaller than the lot it is going on. I am sure a discounted Nordstrom is still going to be more expensive than a Ross or TJ Maxx and much more organized. Sears is probably the most likely to sell their store back to the mall and cash out.
      It looks like West Oaks is reaching out to several retailers for the open spaces listed on their leasing plan. With all that is going on over there I think there is a good chance some national retailers will come back to the mall. Creating new mall store space in the former JCPenney on the first floor with a remodeled storefront will make the most of the open space and enhance the mall. If they just open up the JCPenney with a hallway to the escalators and/ or elevators while the rest of the first floor remains closed, the project will not help the mall.

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    2. I'm interested to see what GGP has in store for Willowbrook Mall. For one thing, the mall has not seen a major renovation since 1992. I wonder if the renovations to the Nordstrom Rack wing will blend in with the 1992 decor (which isn't really outdated looking since malls haven't evolved that much since the 1990s) or if they will go in a different direction. We'll have to see about that because any drastic changes could foretell future renovations to the rest of the mall.

      Willowbrook Mall could probably use more inline store spots, but the East-West anchor halls aren't as successfully leased as the main North-South Sears- Macy's concourse. The former Joske's wing is one of the most vacated parts of the mall, but I guess that should not be a huge surprise given that there isn't an anchor there at the moment. That could change when Nordstrom Rack moves in, but perhaps there won't be huge demand for new store stalls in that wing given that there are already vacant spots there. I don't know much about Nordstrom Rack stores so I can't really predict how busy they will be. Perhaps it will be worthwhile to add more store spots if they expect that Nordstrom Rack will generate a lot of mall traffic. This may be their last chance to expand the mall some so hopefully they make the right calculations.

      I'm sure that Nordstrom Rack is a major step up from Ross. I'm not sure how it compares to Stein Mart, but I would not be surprised if it is a step above that as well. I guess I'll learn more about the store when they move into Willowbrook. Regardless, I'm sure the Willowbrook Mall critics (I've heard commenters, especially online at other sites like the Chronicle, say that Willowbrook has become "ghetto") will use the fact that the mall could only get a Nordstrom Rack instead of a regular Nordstrom against the mall. I don't know for sure, but I think even having a Nordstrom Rack puts the mall in fairly exclusive company. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I'm sure some "$30,000 millionaires" will make it seem like Nordstrom Rack is like a Burlington Coat Factory even if those same people will probably shop at the Nordstrom Rack (or Burlington for that matter!).

      I'm really, really hoping that Nordstrom Rack moving into the sole remaining anchor spot isn't a death sentence for the Willowbrook Sears. I may be in the minority in thinking this way, but I would hate to lose Sears in any kind of anchor/mall expansion trade. I guess we'll have to see what happens though.

      West Oaks may be in a bit of a crossroads. On the one hand, the mall is pretty small so expanding the mall using the 1st floor of the former JCPenney may make sense. On the other hand, keeping the mall at the current size is probably beneficial if business does not take off as anticipated and it might allow them to raise the lease rates (and perhaps replace 2nd and 3rd tier tenants with better ones) if business does increase. Plus, it would give them more flexibility if another junior anchor wanted in. It's hard to say which direction would be best for them to go in. Hopefully those stores they have listed on their lease plan have genuine interest because there are some big names on that list. West Oaks has seen some boom-to-bust cycles in the past so hopefully it can sustain any momentum that it might be gaining.

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    3. One of the issues that Willowbrook has is that stores are hidden in the East-West anchor hallways. You have to go into the hall about halfway before you can see all of the stores. I am surprised at the date of the remodel, that design has held up well for 21 years. If they would have remodeled a couple years earlier it would have probably been similar to the neon pastel colors in the Mall of the Mainland and Post Oak Mall (remodeled in 2012-2013).
      It seems that Sears unloaded a mix of good and terrible stores in the deal that caused the demise of the Woodlands store. If another department store comes to Houston I would be worried, but for now the anchor spots should be safe.
      West Oaks had lost most of the stores in the wing that was bulldozed so the size of the mall now is probably the right size for the market. There were also several vacancies all over the rest of the mall about two years ago before the outdoor portion opened, so we will see what will happen. I am surprised that the college is just going to be on the second floor. If West Oaks was a two story mall this would not be an issue, but since the mall is on one level the logistics of having the first floor closed and the second open sounds strange.

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    4. It seems that Willowbrook Mall benefited from being renovated in 1992 at the right time and perhaps being renovated using good projections. You're probably right that Willowbrook probably would have looked very late 1980s/early 1990sish if it was renovated any earlier. Even a few months might have led to a very different looking mall. I'm not sure if the decision to remodel the mall to the way it looks now was just a coincidence or if they had good vision about how malls would look in the 1990s/early 2000s. Granted, I'm not sure if they knew that mall design would stay pretty stable for 20+ years. Also, the mall was only 11 years old when it was renovated in 1992 so doing any renovations earlier than that probably wasn't necessary. The mall originally did have a very 1970s/early 1980s earthtones look with lots of dark woodgrain decor so it was probably pretty clear by around 1992 that a remodeling was needed.

      The East/West hallways at Willowbrook Mall either has or had little signboards near the main Sears-Macy's concourse indicating what stores are in those halls. I can't really remember if those signs are still there, but I'm guessing that they are still there because I can't really think of any reason why they would take them down. Signs or no signs, it is true that those stores do have poor visibility from the main North-South concourse. The hallway opposite from the food court was particularly bad for a while, but they expanded some the storefronts in that area so that larger stores can go there. The Forever 21 that has an entrance off that hallway (as well as the main concourse) is probably big enough to be considered a junior anchor.

      I drove by the former Joske's anchor pad that we are expecting the Nordstrom Rack to be built on yesterday and it still had an available sign on it. Below that, it mentioned that restaurant pads of a certain size (I don't remember what size specifically, maybe 10,000 sq. ft.) would be available. I don't know if that is still true or not. That restaurant idea might have been thrown around when there were discussions about turning that wing into an outdoor lifestyle type thing. I don't know if there are still plans for that, but there could be room for a restaurant or two in a renovated extended hallway there if any restaurant was interested in that type thing. There is a Los Cucos in the western hallway across from JCPenney. I think that used to be a Casa Ole I do believe. I think the IRS seized that Casa Ole if I'm remembering correctly. Luby's and Ruby Tuesday used to be at the mall as well, but they are gone now. The Forever 21, at least a part of it, might have been the former Luby's. The Visionworks might be the former Ruby Tuesday, but perhaps the Ruby Tuesday was where the Tahos is now. I'm not sure, it has been a while since I've even thought about those restaurants.

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    5. Ruby Tuesday has had a troubled past in the Houston area and I think they are gone again. I remember Ruby Tuesday in Willowbrook and Deerbrook at one point. I also remember the Ruby Tuesday across from the mall that lasted only a few years. Malls are a fickle place for sit-down restaurants and they usually do better when they are located on an out-parcel. Willowbrook has probably been painted and maintained well since the remodel in 1992. Greenspoint was renovated around the same time, but in the past ten years the building has not been taken care of as well in the past with broken paint chips and rust stains on the ceiling and many sections of broken tiles. I think Deerbrook was renovated in the mid 1990's when the theater was added, but the mall looks new like Willowbrook does.

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    6. The state of disrepair at Greenspoint Mall is quite remarkable. There are malls that were probably last renovated before Greenspoint, but they still manage to look better than Greenspoint because they have been maintained. Almeda Mall comes to mind, although I'm not actually sure when Almeda Mall was last renovated. I'm assuming it was renovated before Greenspoint based on the decor themes. I could be wrong about that. The broken and duct taped tiles are quite obvious at Greenspoint as are the paint chips and rust stains. They also had several buckets collecting leaking water from the roof the last time I was there a couple of months back. It's pretty sad. A mall like West Oaks Mall has seen it's share of struggles over the years, but at least West Oaks manages to make their mall a nice place to be otherwise. I know a lot of people considered the Greenspoint renovation to be quite cheap and disappointing compared to how the mall looked previously. It did seem like the mall lost a lot of it's special architectural features, but at the same time, a lot of those features would have shown the mall's age if they kept them. It's a hard thing to balance I suppose.

      Deerbrook Mall does look quite modern even though it has been a little while since it was last renovated as well. It, like Willowbrook Mall, has benefited from mall decor trends staying stable over the last couple of decades. The flooring at Deerbrook perhaps is even more modern looking than the flooring at Willowbrook, but the flooring at Willowbrook still looks modern. I'm not sure if The Woodlands Mall has ever been renovated significantly or not, but I see Deerbrook as being quite similar architecturally to The Woodlands Mall. Obviously there are some differences (some that make Deerbrook better, some that make The Woodlands Mall better), but there are similarities as well. Both were developed by Homart/Sears so perhaps any similarities aren't purely coincidence. Of course, there was about a decade between the opening of those two malls. I may be in the minority, but I prefer Deerbrook over The Woodlands Mall. The fact that Deerbrook still has a Sears is one major benefit, but Deerbrook seems to be easier to navigate.

      Yeah, mall restaurants can be a tough business. Restaurants failing does not seem to be all that uncommon so having a restaurant in a high rent place like a mall may not help. Also, the differing hours that people like to eat dinner and the hours of a mall might cause some confusion whether the restaurant is open or not. I can only remember eating at a Willowbrook restaurant once. That was at the old Luby's. I'm not even sure if Luby's would count as being a restaurant. I've eaten at Los Cucos before, but not the mall one. At least the mall Los Cucos should not have the parking problems (aside from Christmastime perhaps) that other Los Cucos restaurants in the area have at peak hours. Ruby Tuesday did open a freestanding location very close to Willowbrook Mall at 249 and W. Greens after the mall location closed, but that location is closed now as well. There may have been a few years between the mall location closing and that one opening, but I'm not sure about that. The restaurants and stuff on 249 past the mall don't have the visibility of the freestanding restaurants on FM 1960 or the ones directly across from the mall on 249 near the AMC theater. BTW, W. Greens does not directly connect to the Greens Rd. that Greenspoint Mall is on, but I guess it would have been quite interesting if it did.

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    7. It looks like Almeda had significant renovations in the 1980's from the look of the mall. Northwest has had a more recent renovation but has some of the same styles as Almeda Mall. Both malls have new signage, but Northwest appears to have newer elements such as the interior lighting that Almeda does not have. Most malls in our area have not had a major renovation in several years. The Woodlands and First Colony added the outdoor sections but the corridors did not get an upgrade. The Galleria added the new wing with Nordstrom and Foley's, but the mall did not get a renovation either. PlazAmericas got a new paint job in parts of the mall, but not a full re-do. West Oaks I believe was the last mall in the Houston area to get a major renovation and that was several years ago.
      The Woodlands Mall still has the empty anchor pad that was part of the mall plan that maybe Sears could come back to in the future. That is highly unlikely but you never know. Deerbrook also has an empty anchor pad, but they paved the lot over and turned it into parking. I am sure they would tear up the parking quickly if Nordstrom or another anchor showed interest in locating there.

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    8. I'm not sure where the empty anchor pad would be at The Woodlands Mall. I can only assume that it is opposite the JCPenney. The problem with that spot is that probably only a smaller anchor would fit there and it would cause major parking problems. It would probably have to be built with parking below the store. That would be expensive to build. I doubt Sears will come back to The Woodlands Mall anytime soon because Sears/Kmart just does not seem interested in opening new locations.

      Almeda Mall does look very 1980sish (early 1980s at that). The retroness of it is pretty neat especially considering that the mall has been maintained pretty well. I have not been there since 2009 so perhaps things have changed one way or another though. Northwest Mall does have a newer looking interior. I assume that Northwest Mall was renovated sometime in the early 1990s, but I can't remember if that is true or not. I did visit that mall somewhat frequently during that timeframe, but I can't really remember if/when it was renovated. I'm hoping that you are still considering doing a post comparing and contrasting Almeda and Northwest Malls with pictures taken from similar vantage points at both malls. The concept of twin malls is quite interesting, but both malls have evolved a bit differently over the years so it would be interesting to document how the malls compare to one another in modern times.

      It is my understanding that Sears has launched a new subsidiary called Seritage that will be involved with developing/redeveloping properties. Perhaps you could call it a modern day Homart, but I don't think they are quite that ambitious at the moment. It looks like most of their current projects involve enhancing retail at existing Sears and Kmart properties. Interestingly, two of the properties that Seritage has listed on their website for possible redevelopment are the N. Shepherd and Westwood Mall Sears freestanding Auto Centers. As far as I know, both of these Sears Auto Centers are still open. Seritage has drawings of those centers subdivided into what would appear to be small shopping centers. I'm not sure what the game plan is with those locations. Is Sears/Seritage proposing those redevelopments just to see if there is any interest in those locations? If there isn't interest, would Sears consider closing those auto centers anyway? If there is interest, would Sears consider building new auto centers elsewhere in the area? I don't know about the Westwood Sears Auto Center, but the N. Shepherd Sears Auto Center always looks busy when I go by it so it would be a bit of a shame to lose it. Of course, putting new retail on those properties might help drive traffic to the Sears stores themselves. Anyway, this Seritage thing is an interesting thing to keep an eye on especially given Sears' history in developing real estate to help supplement their stores. Companies like GGP have Sears to thank for building such strong malls like The Woodlands Mall and Willowbrook Mall.

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  6. Yes you are correct, the empty anchor pad at the Woodlands is South of the JCPenney. The mall was designed like Deerbrook to have six anchors, but there are few malls today that have that many anchors that are all open. I am surprised that the Woodlands Mall has not added parking garages especially on the south side of the mall. I guess they don't want to hide any portion of the mall behind a parking garage, but even the lifestyle center across the street has a parking garage.
    I do have some photos of Almeda and Northwest, but I may need to get more to make a detailed post with the similarities of both malls. Almeda is much harder to get good photos inside of than Northwest because of the kiosks that are packed into the mall blocking off good views of the concourses.
    I am surprised that Sears is still at Westwood because they are the only major retail left in that area. I would like to see Sears move to the empty Macy's in PlazAmericas Mall just down the street and help out that section of the mall. Even if Sears just takes up the first floor of that building, it will help the appearance of the mall from 59. It makes sense for Sears to make some money from small strip centers to see if they can take on larger projects again.

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  7. It might have been nice if Sharpstown Mall and Westwood Mall could have consolidated in general back in the day into one mall that might have been better equipped to compete, but I suspect something like this theoretical "Sharpswood Mall" may have turned out to be a big dying mall ala Greenspoint Mall. Oh well. I don't think it is realistic to expect Sears to move to Sharpstown/PlazAmericas Mall at this point. The Westwood location is very big and it would cost a lot to move. It would put them marginally further away from the key Sugar Land market and I think the Sharpstown area still suffers from a strong stigma. It's not that the Westwood area has a stellar reputation either, but the Sharpstown area has one of the worst reputations in the metro area whether it deserves it or not.

    I'm not sure when the Westwood Mall Sears opened exactly, but I believe that it existed before the mall did. To that extent, perhaps Sears was ok with that location not being a mall store back in the day. Maybe they expected a mall to be built anyway. It's hard to say at this point what they were thinking way back when. I believe that Sears Auto Center has a design that looks like it may have had gas pumps at some point in the past. I'm not sure when those went away if they did have pumps. I know that some JCPenney Auto Centers had gas pumps back in the day.

    Hopefully Seritage will be able to redevelop properties to help enhance Sears and Kmart stores instead of perhaps closing Sears and Kmarts in order to turn them into something else. Obviously, Sears has another subsidiary called Ubiquity Critical Environments that is trying to convert former Sears and Kmarts into data centers and stuff like that. Hopefully things will go well with Seritage and it can be the next Homart, but we'll see. Having said that, if I ran a retail store, I probably would not trust Sears/Eddie Lampert to run a shopping center where my stores are at. I would be afraid that Eddie Lampert would run the shopping center as a slumlord with neglected upkeep like the Sears and Kmart stores in particular are run. Oh well, maybe Sears/Seritage will take this venture more seriously. I guess we'll have to keep our eyes on the N. Shepherd and Westwood Mall Sears Auto Centers to see if there are any changes.

    Yes, it must be difficult to get photos of the insides of some of these stores/malls. I suppose using a camera phone probably helps as you can subterfuge as you can pretend to be using the phone instead of it being obvious that you are taking photos. Also, I guess it helps to have someone else with you who you can pretend that you are taking photos of instead of it being obvious that you are photographing the mall. I'm not really sure what the sightlines are like at Almeda Mall since it has been a few years since I've been there, but that makes it all the more interesting to see recent photos of the place. Hopefully you're able to do that comparison post because I think it would be really interesting to compare and contrast "twin malls" 40+ years after they were built.

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    1. Yes the Westwood Mall Sears was there before the mall. Westwood started losing businesses and then pulled the plug on retail by letting stores leave in 1998. Foley's was going to leave Shapstown and move to Westwood, but when that plan fell through the owners decided to turn the mall into the business center. Yes taking photos in malls and stores is difficult and I try not to get people in my images which is a challenge sometimes. I do see other people taking pictures sometimes so I am not the only blogger out there in this area. A cell phone camera is a must and does not attract attention from security which I heard can be aggressive in some malls.

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    2. I have also heard that mall security at some places do not take kindly to mall photographers. Using a camera phone does seem to help a lot, but I've seen some new camera phones that are especially marketed for their photo taking ability to have lenses that protrude from the back of the phone like a regular point & shoot camera. While it is good that some phone manufacturers are taking photo quality more seriously (though it's a double edged sword as better camera phones probably will lead to less and less sales of P&S cameras), hopefully the ability to take pictures somewhat discreetly won't be lost. I don't know if any P&S camera makers make cameras that are as discreet to use as a camera phone and still take good pictures/video, but that might be something that I would be interested in if it isn't too expensive.

      I don't see people taking store pictures too often, but I guess it can be difficult to tell what somoeone is doing with their phone. I did see someone some time ago, but I forget where it was. Kroger maybe. I don't know if it was a blogger, someone taking pictures just for themselves, or maybe an employee from the district office or something.

      Sometimes I think it would be nice to take photos/video just for my personal collection. I do sometimes think about how nice it would be to have an old photo/video of how Willowbrook Mall used to look. Yeah, the mall decor hasn't changed in 20+ years, but the stores and their storefronts have changed. It might have been nice to have a video of say an old Houston Kmart or something like an old Phar-Mor.

      I did find an old video on YouTube that someone took of San Jacinto Mall (mainly the Montgomery Ward wing) back in 1990 or 1991. Unfortunately, the person who uploaded it seems to have deleted it. Fortunately, part of that video still exists in this San Jacinto Mall tribute video at around 8:20 in the video especially. There are ways to download videos off most video sites and it might make sense to download and keep stuff that you like because you never know when or why stuff might get deleted off the "cloud." I know there was a bit of a brouhaha sometime back about someone getting a YouTube video they made of inside a Kmart deleted or flagged because one of the music companies made a complaint about the music that was being played in the background of the store being audible in the video (albeit it was barely even audible). So you never know. Someone uploaded a pretty neat video of the inside of a Kmart from 1989-1990ish that I guess the uploader used to work at back in the day. I think it was an Illinois Kmart, but I can't find it anymore on YouTube so I don't know if the person deleted it or what. I wish I could find that video again because that store still had the orange stripe around the store (of course, that was contemporary for a Kmart at the time) and all the old school price and department signage.

      One place where you can find indoor mall photos sometimes is through Yelp reviews. People upload pictures as part of their reviews I guess. Here are some pictures of inside Almeda Mall on Yelp as an example. That person must have been fond of Piccadilly's fried chicken I guess.

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    3. Yes I look at my blog as a time capsule and a way to preserve retail as it stands today or in the past. By the way I finally made it down to the Katy Freeway former Buyers Market Mall (Garden Ridge). The storefronts are still intact but the old stores and corridors are packed with shelving and merchandise so it was hard to get good photos. Part of the building is blocked off and contains Garden Ridge offices, but most of the former mall is still open and looks very similar to the Airtex location. These buildings may have been built to the exact same specifications, but I have to find out for sure by comparing the sizes of the buildings.
      I saw those San Jacinto videos from the 1990's, the Walgreens looked exactly the same when they closed that store in 2000 or 2001 as it did in that video. Well for the most part so did the rest of the mall but many of those stores are now closed. Yelp has become a good place to find out about just about anything before you go. Generally people give honest reviews on Yelp which is helpful.

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    4. The Memorial City Mall Walgreens looked like the San Jacinto Walgreens until that one closed as well. I guess it must have closed around the same time. It's not like Walgreens interiors have changed a ton over the years, but I do miss those older style Walgreens interiors a bit. Didn't they have turnstiles at the entryways? I don't remember if the mall ones did, but I think the regular shopping center ones did. Maybe I'm remembering that wrong.

      Interestingly, there is still a shopping center Walgreens very close to Memorial City Mall at I-10 and Echo Ln. in the Kroger shopping center. I believe that Kroger was a Safeway/AppleTree before. Oddly enough, there is a picture of that Kroger on the Kroger Wikipedia page. I don't know when that Walgreens opened or what it looks like inside, but I guess a few shopping center Walgreens do linger on. There is also a shopping center Walgreens in Spring/The Woodlands at Sawdust Rd. and Budde Rd. next to the former Kmart, but that one is at the end of the shopping center so it has a drive-thru pharmacy. It does look like an older Walgreens on the outside though. I don't know what it looks like on the inside. I'm not aware of there being any vintage looking interior Walgreens in Houston, but there are so many Walgreens in Houston that perhaps one does exist. Obviously, these don't have the wood paneling type "exterior"/mall entrance that some of those mall Wagreens had. I think that Willowbrook Mall may have had a Walgreens in it's very early years (perhaps by the Montgomery Ward), but my memory is a bit fuzzy on that so I could be wrong. I don't know if any of your readers would remember that.

      Yelp, Google Reviews, and other such websites are nice tools. Of course, everyone grades things based on different scales so it is hard sometimes to base any conclusions based on reviews. It is interesting to see what people think about various different malls and stores though.

      I'm glad that some people are taking and sharing pictures of places. Hopefully this site will be available to reference for many years to come. You never know what will happen though. I remember when GeoCities was the big thing on the Internet, but it lost popularity and it was eventually shut down with all the pages on it being deleted. I think some people tried to archive old GeoCities pages, but I don't know how complete those archives are. But, yeah, it is nice to have this site since there aren't really that many bloggers covering Houston retail.

      Interesting information about the Fry Rd. Garden Ridge. I don't think the Airtex Garden Ridge had any offices in it (not noticeable ones at least), but I could be wrong about that. It has been a while. The Airtex Garden Ridge did have a lot of stuff stacked in the corridors though. I remember it being a bit difficult to navigate with a cart. I think I also remember the cart wheels making loud clanking noises over the tiles in the corridors.

      I must say that I am quite jealous that that kid from the San Jacinto Mall video won (I guess) that Pennzoil Chaparral 2K Indycar look-alike go kart from Montgomery Ward! It would have been awesome to have something like that. It's funny that those kids could film that mall back in the day with what was probably a full-sized VHS camcorder. There's no way that would work now. Granted, there was no YouTube type things back then for mall operators to "fear" that their mall may end up on with negative comments.

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    5. Yes many drugstores had turnstiles at the doors including Walgreens. I guess they wanted to keep counts of how many people entered versus how many transactions were made in a day. Walgreens has updated their interior designs several times in the 2000's and I am sure that any pre-1990 designs are wiped out by now even in the shopping center locations. Even the Canal Street location in New Orleans which still has a large neon sign from a very long time ago, but the interior is new. I know for sure that Willowbrook had a Walgreens with a mall entrance near Montgomery Ward and another on the main mall corridor going towards the food court.
      I wonder where that go-cart is today, I bet that would be worth some serious money now.

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    6. It's interesting that you seem to remember the Willowbrook Mall Walgreens better than I do, but what you say about it is congruent with my very foggy memories of it. Do you remember when it closed? It's odd how I can remember obscure stuff like the old sports card store at Willowbrook, but I can't remember much about something as significant as the Walgreens. I do remember the old Woolworth Express store at Willowbrook though.

      There is a retro looking Walgreens in San Antonio as well.

      I did a search about those Pennzoil Chaparral 2K go-karts and someone on a forum said last year that they came across one on Craigslist that was selling for $700. Who knows what kind of condition that one was one, but yeah, they are still worth a decent amount it seems. The real Chaparral 2K Indycar is one of the most famous Indycars of all-time and it dominated and won the 1980 Indianapolis 500 with Johnny Rutherford driving it. Johnny Rutherford was known as "Lone Star J.R." since he is from Texas and famously wore a helmet with a large Texas flag design. Of course, those were the days when Indianapolis was huge and Rutherford and Houston's AJ Foyt were amongst the dominant forces. Foyt still has a team based out of Hockley or Waller I believe. Of course, Foyt made some commercials for Sears Craftsman that ran for many, many years. Here is one of the newer commercials. Perhaps some of the family tools that Foyt was talking about in that commercial were purchased from the Main St. Sears. Foyt's father's garage that is shown in that commercial existed in the Heights on W. 18th St. and Ashland near where the Harold's in The Heights clothing store used to be. Come to think of it, the N. Shepherd Sears isn't all that far from where AJ Foyt grew up. Well, anyway, it's interesting that perhaps the most famous Indycar driver of all-time and one of Sears' biggest spokesmen from a few years ago is from Houston.

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    7. I went to the Willowbrook Mall several times during the early 90's but did not go back until after 2000 so I am sure that I missed a lot. I remember the Woolworth Express store at Greenspoint that is still covered up and located in the closed off Sears corridor. I don't think that store was ever reopened after the Woolworth so who knows what is still left from the Woolworth store inside. I am trying to remember where the store at Willowbrook was but I am not sure.
      AJ Foyt, didn't he also own some car dealerships in the Houston area?

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    8. Yes, AJ Foyt owned two car dealerships that I remember. One was the AJ Foyt Chevrolet dealership near South Post Oak and W. Bellfort. That dealership was called MacRobert Chevrolet (or something like that) before Foyt brought it in the early 1970s. I don't think that dealership exists anymore and it is now a Kroger I believe. The dealership you may remember is the AJ Foyt Honda dealership on 59 near Kingwood. That dealership still exists today as Sterling McCall Honda. That dealership may have sold Isuzus as well. I don't know when AJ Foyt sold that dealership, but I do remember seeing the AJ Foyt logos on new Hondas through the mid 1990s. Perhaps you remember when it became Sterling McCall. I have been to that dealership under the Sterling McCall name a couple of times for service. There might have been AJ Foyt motorcycle dealerships as well, but I don't know about those.

      The Willowbrook Mall Woolworth Express was between the Sears and the former Oshman's. I don't think I remember the Greenspoint Mall Woolworth Express, but I'm sure I saw it or perhaps even shopped at it back in the day. I did go to the Willowbrook one quite a bit while it was open.

      I'm pretty sure the Willowbrook Mall Walgreens would have been closed by the early 1990s. Perhaps not, but surely I would have remembered more about it if it was open that late. Who knows though. The odd thing is that I went through the Montgomery Ward wing many times and I do remember the other stores in that area, but I don't remember much about the Walgreens. Aside from the 1992 renovations, the JC Penney addition, and the anchor swaps that occurred when Macy's left and Dillard's moved into it leaving a spot open for Lord & Taylor, the mall has not changed drastically over the years. It's been more of a slow evolution. Having said that, the mall store lineup is quite different now than it was 15 years ago. For example, junior anchors like Palais Royal and the General Cinema have left, but new junior anchors like Forever 21 and H&M have come in. But, yeah, the changes have been more of the gradual kind and not the sudden kind for the most part.

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  8. I think the Walgreens was where the Bath and Body works is now. Deerbook also had a Walgreens that was near Sears that closed in the early 90's as well. Pasadena Town Square still has the former Walgreens storefront mostly unmodified and not covered up. The former Walgreens is located across from the closed Dillard's anchor. http://southernretail.blogspot.com/search/label/Pasadena%20Town%20Square%20Mall
    Willowbrook has been one of the most stable malls in the Houston area and is still very successful today. Greenspoint and Deerbrook have both struggled but at different times. Greenspoint was a booming mall at the beginning and has struggled for years. Deerbrook struggled for the first 12 years and is now a booming mall.

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  9. It sounds like the Baybrook Mall area (though not the mall itself) will be getting a Nordstrom Rack store as well. I'm personally glad that Nordstrom Rack isn't locating themselves within the mall as hopefully this gives the Baybrook Mall Sears location a better shot of surviving in case GGP decides to throw some money around to get an anchor pad.

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    1. That is good news for the Sears employees at Baybrook because I am sure that the mall owners would drop Sears in a minute to get a Nordstrom with a cash deal similar to what happened at the Woodlands Mall. Sorry for the late response to the recent comments, work and travel have taken the majority of my time away these past two weeks.

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  10. Also, I came across an interesting article discussing some changes to a Sears Canada store. It seems that a Sears Canada store (it looks like one in North Bay, ON) has removed their electronics and window coverings departments, reduced their fitness section, and expanded their furniture, appliance, and clothing departments. I'm not sure if this is some sort of isolated experiment, but the article indicates that this is part of a company-wide transformation. By company-wide, I assume they mean Sears Canada and not Sears US. I would have to assume that other Canadian stores will do the same thing or else it may be difficult to have national promotions and stuff like that, but who knows. I'm not really sure how Sears Canada operates.

    I guess the concerning question is if Sears US plans on doing the same things as Sears Canada. Reducing fitness equipment departments and expanding clothing departments in the US stores would seem like a major mistake as Sears does quite well in the fitness equipment area and not so well in clothing. As far as electronics goes, that might be a different story. Then again, maybe not. It's hard to say. I would think that keeping electronics may benefit the company as a whole as it would improve their buying power for Kmart, but I'm not sure how much overlap there is between Sears US and Kmart electronics departments.

    It seems like US Sears have been expanding their furniture and appliance departments since Sears got out of their Homelife and The Great Indoors stores. Thus, it may not be a big surprise to see Sears want to grow those departments even further, but I'm not sure what could be reduced to make more room for those departments.

    Anyway, I thought that that article was interesting. What goes on at Sears Canada (especially at what might be just one specific store) might be of no consequence when looking at our Sears stores, but it is an interesting thing to think about. I would not be opposed to expanded appliance and furniture departments at our Sears stores, but I would not want that to come at the expense of the electronics department even though it would not surprise me a ton if electronics isn't a great moneymaker these days for Sears or any traditional B&M department or big box store for that matter. Electronics, along with tools and appliances, are what makes Sears a unique destination amongst all the other competitors. It would be a real shame to lose some of that uniqueness.

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    1. Yes Sears losing those departments would take away what most of what Sears does differently from their competitors. I hope they don't do this company wide, it reminds me of what Service Merchandise did about a year before closing their stores. Sears has some great deals on TV's from time to time, but they have been reducing their selection of electronics in the past few years. Electronics is the one department that I always visit when going to Sears and I plan on buying my next TV from them when I finally upgrade my 1990's era TV.

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  11. Part I:

    I do kind of wish that the Willowbrook Mall Nordstrom Rack located themselves off the mall instead of on an anchor pad. That would allow that anchor pad to remain free in case a larger anchor ever wanted to locate there, but I'm not really sure if there are any realistic options for that happening anytime soon. Also, of course, it would keep the Willowbrook Sears anchor spot off the endangered list for a bit longer. The vacant Room Store/Phar-Mor spot in The Commons across FM 1960 from Willowbrook Mall might have been a good spot for a Nordstrom Rack (perhaps that spot would have to be subdivided for a smaller store), but oh well I guess. I guess the positive side for the mall is that this gives GGP something that should revitalize that wing of Willowbrook Mall a bit along with the stated renovations to that wing (or the mall itself, it's a bit unclear at the moment).

    The interesting thing about that Sears Canada store pictured in that link is how the entrance of the store is laid out. They have the Clinique and Estee Lauder cosmetic counters right out front kind of like other US mall department stores. Sears US stores generally don't have things situated that way. I don't know if that Sears Canada store has always been like that or if that was part of the changes. Perhaps Sears Canada (and perhaps Sears US eventually, it's hard to say) is trying to reposition themselves to be more similar to a JCPenney or maybe a slightly less expensive version of something like Macy's. There's a ton of competition in that category (at least in the US), but perhaps Sears Canada feels that it is necessary with stores like Target making a push in the Canadian market. Perhaps they don't feel that they can compete with Target in Canada given their experiences here so they are wanting to chart a different course as soon as possible. It's hard to say and it's hard to say if any of this will have any impact on US stores. I do wonder if there is or has been any thought by the US side of things to move Sears a bit more upmarket to differentiate it from Kmart, but if anything, Sears has probably moved a tad more downmarket since the merger. That does make some sense as keeping some similar product lines and ranges might help with buying power.

    It was sad when Service Merchandise closed their electronics departments because they had a good electronics department. But, yeah, hopefully this isn't a repeat of that. It's almost impossible for me to think of a mass merchandiser like Montgomery Ward without electronics. JCPenney cut their electronics and hard lines, but JCPenney only sold electronics in their stores for a relatively short period of time so that was a bit of a different deal.

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  12. Part II:

    This may sound very strange, but a Sears store without an electronics department would seem just as strange to me as a Sears store that didn't have appliances or tools. Sure, Sears' electronics departments have shrunk over the years (I remember when they had a full computer department about 20 years ago), but I think that is reflective of the consumer electronics sector in general. Even if the Sears electronics department isn't what it was, it's still a must check stop for me if I'm looking for things like TVs, media players, stereos, cameras, headphones, clock radios, phones, and stuff like that. I would hate to lose that because it gives the store and the malls a lot of variety that otherwise would not exist. Obviously Sears would not quite turn into a JC Penney type store with little uniqueness if they cut electronics since they would still have appliances and tools, but I think it would be a major blow as a shopper.

    Speaking of Sears computer departments, I found it a bit odd the last few weeks seeing computers (just laptops I think, but maybe desktops too) in the Sears newspaper ads. I can't remember Sears selling PCs (outside of cheap netbooks and stuff like that) since they closed their computer departments around 20 years ago, but I guess they still sell them. In fact, I found some old Sears ads that I saved from around 2000-2001 some time back and they had full desktop computers advertised there too. I don't remember Sears selling computers then, but I guess they did. Perhaps they only sell computers seasonally or perhaps they sell them, but don't have the computers out on display. I'm not sure.

    Sears is actually a pretty good place to shop for TVs in my experience. I was looking for a TV last year and I found Sears to be quite good. The prices were good (of course, Sears does have a pretty good price match policy for B8M stores at least) and the selection was quite good for the sizes I was looking at. Moreover, all of the TVs out on display had their remotes next to them so I could easily adjust the settings on each TV to something reasonable so I could do a fair comparison between all the models out on display. A lot of display TVs are set to a factory "demo mode" that sets unrealistic settings to make TVs look good in the showroom, but it's useless to look at them that way. It's best to set the settings to something reasonable and then compare. Also, I could isolate the sound of each TV by muting all the other ones so I could test the sound quality. Sound quality on flat panel TVs can be quite bad so it's certainly something that needs to be tested if you plan on using the internal speakers. Sears (at least the Willowbrook Mall location, but I think most are like this as well) also has their TV set out so you can see the back of them to see what kind of inputs/outputs each model has. That's really useful for me. I know Best Buy had some remotes set out, but it's a bit iffy there. Sometimes I had to track down remotes from other models of the same brand in order to adjust the settings at Best Buy. Also, Best Buy stores are quite loud so trying to isolate sound to test TV audio is difficult. Finding remotes at places like Target and Wal-Mart may be impossible unless the clerks have them locked away somewhere. Plus, it can be hard to see the back panels of TVs there with the way they have them mounted.

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    1. Speaking of JCPenney I went back to a store in Louisiana that I had not been to in a while. The entire second floor has been redesigned with the new look departments, but some of that floor was empty with no merchandise and open to walk around in. There was nobody up there but a couple employees and me, it was quite strange. The first floor was busy, but this did not look good for the prospects of the new setups. Another interesting anchor that is opening in some Louisiana malls is Dick's sporting goods. I would really enjoy to see a sporting goods anchor come to Deerbrook or maybe even Greenspoint. Deerbrook still has an open spot for an anchor, but they would have to remove some parking to make this happen. They also have a couple new H.H.Gregg stores one that took over a former Circuit City location which would also be a good addition to our choices here for electronics. The Dick's stores are still under construction so I did not get a chance to check them out. I also did not stop at the H.H.Gregg store either, but they seem to have a good selection of products online. As for Sears, the Westwood store seems to have one of the best electronics departments in the Houston area at a Sears. Both Willowbrook and Memorial City run a close second, but Westwood seems to have a larger selection of TV's on display and fuller shelves.

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  13. Part I:

    That is interesting that you note that the former Westwood Mall Sears has the best Sears electronics department in Houston. Of course, that is one of the biggest Sears in Houston so perhaps that should not be a big shocker. I'm not too familiar with the Westwood Mall Sears, but I would like to visit it sometime to see what it looks like these days. I thought that the N. Shepherd Sears had a pretty big electronics department based on my visit there a few months back. They actually had shelf stereos out on display unlike the Willowbrook Mall Sears (at least they didn't have them out when I brought my shelf stereo there last year). The Willowbrook Sears electronics department recently lost a little bit of their space as they put vacuums and microwave ovens in the little semi-partitioned electronics space and put more major appliances in their old spot.

    One area where I think Sears dropped the ball was that they never really developed a house brand of electronics that maintained a loyal following. Having a solid house brand for electronics may have helped to boost sales. Sears uses or recently used the Alphaline brand on some electronics like headphones, cables, and DVD players, but certainly that name does not have the value of Kenmore or Craftsman. I don't know if they even have any other electronics house brands aside from Alphaline these days. They had stuff like Silvertone, SR2000, and LXI Series before, but I suppose none of those garnered much loyalty with the shoppers. Silvertone was probably the best name they had, but I don't think they have used that since the 1970s.

    I think that Sears electronics, especially in the LXI Series days, had a bit of a reputation for being cheap, low grade equipment. I would not completely disagree with that sentiment. Some of the LXI stuff built by LG/Goldstar probably earned the low grade reputation, but some of the stuff made by Sanyo and other OEMs were generally solid if not spectacular. While Silverstone stuff probably had a similar reputation or perhaps even a slightly better reputation than Montgomery Ward Airline electronics, it seems like this changed in the 1980s and particularly the 1990s when Wards used the Admiral name. It's funny because I see Wards and JCPenney branded electronics in thrift stores, but Sears branded electronics are extremely rare in my thrifting experience. Sure, Wards was probably more successful with their Electric Ave. branding than Sears was with Sears Brand Central when it comes to electronics, but Sears was such a force even in the 1990s that there should be some of their electronics in thrift stores especially if JCPenney stuff still exists. Perhaps the Sears stuff just wasn't that good compared to the others and so their stuff has been junked instead of being donated.

    Electronics house brands can still be successful I think. It seems like Best Buy sells or has sold a lot of Dynex and Insignia branded stuff in recent years. Perhaps Sears should try to use/license a dormant established electronics name, like Wards did with Admiral, and try to re-establish a line of electronics. Something like Zenith might be good since I don't think LG is doing much with the Zenith name these days. LG's technology is better these days than it was in the LXI Series days and I'm sure that there are some people out there who would rather buy a low price Zenith product over something like a similarly priced Vizio unit just because of the name. Plus, something like the Zenith name could probably be used on more higher end products as well especially if they have LG build the product for them since it wasn't all that long ago that Zenith made decent electronics. I'm sure that LG would not mind having more shelf space at places like Sears and Kmart as well.

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    1. Strong store brands do make a big difference in the perception of the quality of products sold at stores. I am a fan of Samsung products personally and only one VCR over several purchases of Samsung electronics has not worked well. For the price and the quality I believe Samsung is one of the best. I have formed this opinion over 20 years of purchasing Samsung for the majority of our home electronics.

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  14. Part II:

    I did visit a Dick's Sporting Goods store at The Mall at Robinson in the Pittsburgh area a couple of years ago. This is the mall that is near the now former Moon Township Super Kmart that has gained a lot of attention from K-bloggers in recent times. Perhaps I shouldn't base the whole chain based on one store, but I would say that Dick's is a higher end type store than Academy. Perhaps it's more a long the lines of The Sports Authority. Academy is such a force in this area, along with some of the other competitors, that I don't know if Dick's would be as successful here as they have been in other places. On the other hand, there is pretty big demand for sporting goods and apparel so maybe they can carve out a niche for themselves here. Having stores in all major markets may help Dick's justify their national advertising campaign on things like ESPN though. Smaller sporting goods and shoe stores still exist in malls obviously, but some malls here had major sporting good stores back in the Oshman's days. They weren't major anchors, but I guess you could call them junior anchors. It would be interesting to see these come back. It's not like malls need more shoe stores, but bigger sporting goods stores sell a lot more than shoes. The variety would help improve malls I think.

    As for hhgregg, I did not realize that they have gone as far as Louisiana now. I know that they have opened a lot of new stores elsewhere in old Circuit City locations though. I would say that hhgregg is somewhat of a cross between a Best Buy and a Conn's in that they sell furniture, but their stores probably more closely resemble a Best Buy than a Conn's. Some regional electronics/appliance stores are still hanging in there and perhaps are even doing well, P.C. Richard in the NE and Conn's here come to mind, but I'm not sure if expanding to Houston would net the same results. Best Buy is pretty ubiquitous here, but we also have MicroCenter, Fry's, Conn's, TigerDirect, and others. I wouldn't mind seeing more electronics/appliance stores here though if they ever decided to give Houston a try. I would probably still have Sears, Fry's, and MicroCenter above hhgregg on my shopping list based on what I know about what they sell, but more choices wouldn't be a bad thing.

    As for JCPenney, well, who knows what is going on over there. The business side of the company has been chaotic even after Ron Johnson left with the Bill Ackman fiasco just taking place. Perhaps Ackman's departure will help the company return to their more successful roots, but I guess we'll see. As unfathomable as it may seem, JCPenney has made Eddie Lampert era Sears look like a well-run machine in recent months. JCPenney stores come in a variety of sizes and perhaps they are having a hard time providing the right product lines for each store. I'm not sure. I think JCPenney needs to pick a direction for the company (something similar to what they had before Ron Johnson would make the most sense IMO) and then stick with it. All this corporate chaos/stupidity is spilling over into the stores and is creating a mess.

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    1. Academy will be a tough competitor for any newcomer to the Houston area, and they offer great prices. The Sports Authority is still Oshman's with different signs, they have not changed much since the Oshman's name was eliminated. Cabela's was slated to come to Conroe a few years back, but that deal fell through so we could use a higher end sporting goods store in the area.
      I forgot about some of the smaller retailers like Microcenter and Tiger Direct that Houston has, but I think we could support another electronics store because Best Buy is likely to close some stores in the near future.
      I did not know Ackman already quit, that was a quick tenure. Well, it gives them a chance to look for someone who has some new ideas, but hopefully not as radical as what Johnson was going for. If JCPenney goes, many malls will not be able to recover from their loss. For us here in Houston despite having a great economy and major job growth over the past two years it may take years to fill the JCPenney locations at local malls with another anchor store.

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  15. Part I:

    Although Oshman's lives on through The Sports Authority, it just seems like The Sports Authority is not as competitive here as it used to be when it was Oshman's. I don't have any numbers to back that statement up though so my observation could be way off base. I believe that Oshman's got brought out by Gart Sports in 2001. Gart then merged with The Sports Authority, who had been owned by Kmart some years earlier, and converted their stores to The Sports Authority name a few years later. I'm not sure if or how much the stores have changed over the years since the name switch as I don't go to The Sports Authority all that often (I've been there maybe twice since the name change). It just seems to me that Academy is the default choice for most people I know, but it seemed like Oshman's was more competitive back when they still had mall stores and even later on when the Oshman's Supersports USA stores started to open. Gander Mountain, REI, and Bass Pro Shops are other competitors in this area as far as big sporting goods stores go, but those stores are probably more niche stores even though they are very big. I don't think I've even been to Gander Mountain even though they opened a store on 290 near me several years ago.

    JCPenney is in a real mess right now. Bill Ackman, who owns many shares of the company through his hedge fund, was on the JCP board of directors and was one of the people who pushed for Ron Johnson back in the day. Well, he was still on the board even after Johnson was gone and Myron Ullman came back as CEO, but he was in a hurry to get a new CEO to replace Ullman again to the point that he was leaking documents to the public about the situation. It was a messy situation, but hopefully his departure can lead to a more reasonable CEO search. Hopefully they can find someone who actually knows what they are doing. Ullman might be able to do a good job, but I guess they don't view him as being a long-term solution. But, yeah, perhaps we won't really know what the future of the company will look like until we know who the new CEO is and what kind of ideas they have for the company. Ackman still owns his shares of JCP (about 18% of JCP's stock) though. I don't know if he plans on selling those shares. That article that I linked earlier about the situation sheds a lot more light on the matter.

    I agree that Sears having a strong house brand for electronics might have helped their electronics sales. The rise of Samsung, and South Korean companies in general, is quite interesting. Many years ago, Japanese products were seen as being cheap, but inferior. Eventually, they became the benchmark for quality. I think one of the Back to the Future movies mentioned this. Well, Korean stuff had the same reputation when they started selling stuff here. Today, however, Korean electronics makers are seen as being just as good, if not better, than the once-powerful Japanese electronics giants. Even Korean cars have much better reputations now than they once had. The thought that Samsung would make a better TV than Sony seemed unfathomable even 15 years ago, but many experts see that as being true today. Several former Japanese consumer electronics giants have ended or curtailed their consumer electronics offerings in part because of the rise of Korean and other non-Japanese Asian competitors, but the changing landscape of consumer electronics probably had a big part in that as well. The rise of cell phones and mobile devices were and are big for LG and Samsung, but the Japanese companies weren't as well prepared for the situation it seems. Samsung and LG seemed prepared from a business perspective for mobile devices cannibalizing other electronics lines, but the Japanese companies weren't so prepared it seems.

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    1. I have a Samsung S4 and I have been impressed by the camera battery life, and fast processor. Unfortunately the internet is sporadic and the sensors are too touchy for the auto scroll and the eye recognition so I turned those features off. My last phone did not have connection issues, but there is no option on the Samsung phones to pick 4g only. I can pick 3g only, but I have to pick a combination of 4g, 4g lte, and 3g together to get any 4g signal. The network I am on may also be the problem, but I have no issues with my computer internet card connecting to regular 4g. I am not sure if the older Samsung phones have had these issues, but they have become very popular and surpassed HTC phones in my opinion.

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  16. Part II:

    I've had and have several pieces of Korean electronics over the years. My main TV is a Samsung LCD HDTV from 2008. This was considered to be the best TV in it's size class back when I brought it. It's worked well for me, although there are reports that these TVs were built with inferior quality capacitors that go bad easily. I have not had any problems so far, but I don't watch a lot of TV. I believe Samsung settled a class action lawsuit on the matter by paying for capacitor replacement on the afflicted models. Nevertheless, I believe that Samsung is considered to be amongst the reliable LCD HDTV manufacturers.

    I don't know if you heard about this, but Samsung suffered from some negative publicity a couple weeks back when it was learned that Samsung's "Smart TVs" that have webcams in them that can be used for videoconferencing can be hacked through the Internet so that the hackers can view the webcam without the TV owners even knowing about it. I'm sure Samsung's "Smart TVs" aren't the only ones with these security holes, but Samsung gets a lot of attention since they are considered one of the top brands now. Still, it is pretty concerning. A lot of these "Smart TVs" have bad reputations for horrible user interfaces and stuff like that. I would probably avoid "Smart TVs" for now unless you really want those features (most of which are pretty useless when you have other Internet connected devices) or if you have to buy one to get the kind of TV you want.

    I once had a Samsung VCR. It was actually an RCA VCR that was made for RCA by Samsung (RCA/GE/Thomson used a variety of companies to source their VCRs). I brought that VCR new from Montgomery Ward in 1993. That VCR worked well for about 5 years, but Samsung VCRs from that era had a very common problem where a capacitor on the power supply board would go bad probably because of the high levels of heat in that part of the VCR. Mine developed that problem. The VCRs with this problem would act like it wasn't getting power or like it wasn't getting enough power. It's odd that we are discussing this now because just yesterday I came across another RCA VCR made by Samsung from that era at a thrift store. It had the same power issue when I tried it at the store. I might have brought it if it worked since it was a 4 head Hi-Fi unit, but I really didn't expect it to work before I tried it since I knew about the problem.

    Samsung VCRs were considered to be pretty middle of the road as far as reliability goes though. They definitely had a better reputation than their Korean counterparts, LG/Goldstar and Daewoo, had though. Nevertheless, I've had many more LG/Goldstar and Daewoo built VCRs than Samsungs. We had two late 1980s el cheapo Goldstar branded VCRs from Auchan. They worked pretty well when they worked, but they didn't work for long. The last brand new VCR that I brought, an LG DVD Recorder-VCR combo brought from Circuit City in 2008, is still working well though. I also have a 1998 Zenith that was made by LG/Goldstar that I got from a thrift store that still works well. I have a couple of Daewoo built RCA VCRs from the late 1990s/early 2000s (one was brought new, the other was a thrift store find) that still work. I actually really like those units even though they don't have the best reputation for durability. I also have a Daewoo branded TV/VCR combo from that same timeframe, but the VCR in it is as basic as it gets so I have not used it in many, many years.

    As far as I know, all of the current DVD-VHS combo units are made by Funai under the Magnavox, Philips, Funai, and Toshiba brands. Funai made some of the most reliable VCRs back in the 1980s, but they nosedived big time in the 1990s. I have not heard the greatest things about the current Funai built units, but maybe they are ok.

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    1. Yeah I am not a fan of the sensor technology at this point, they never seem to work correctly on the display models at the stores. It does not surprise me that people have already hacked into these devices, security should be a major focus of any new camera technology but I guess it slipped by. I still need to make it to a thrift store and check out what I can find. My recent trip to a few area flea markets did not result in finding a good used VCR but I will keep looking.

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  17. Part I:

    On the topic of Sears, house brands, and rising South Korean industries, Sears recently reintroduced a line of RoadHandler branded tires in partnership with Korea's Hankook tires. Sears RoadHandler tires were rather popular and fairly heavily marketed back in the day, but Sears did not use the name for 12 years until they brought the name back. Korean tire companies like Kumho and Hankook were nobodies here just a few years ago, but now they are major forces.

    I know that the current Samsung line of phones are very popular and I believe that they have reviewed pretty well. I don't have much personal experience with them though to offer any insight into the issues you are having with your phone. The last Samsung phone I had was a high end flip phone back in 2002-3. It was a nice phone. Well, at least I think it was a nice phone. I never really had a chance to give it a lot of use because the Sprint network was absolutely horrible just about everywhere I went back then. That was a carrier problem though and not a phone problem. Regardless, I'm not really sure how relevant a 2002 phone would be when discussing 2013 models!

    I'm not a big fan of Internet connected "Smart TVs." I suppose they could be helpful if you want to stream stuff to your TV, but there are already other devices that can do this and they don't cost a lot. Heck, a lot of people already have them in the form of some game consoles and Blu-Ray players. Of course, a desktop or laptop computer connected to the TV would work as well. That's usually what I do if I want to watch some sort of streaming video on my TV.

    I think the TV manufacturers might have some sort of planned obsolescence plan up their sleeves with these "smart TVs." Sure, the streaming apps may work well now (although some reviews seem to doubt that even), but how will they work 5, 10, 15, or even 20+ years from now if people are still using the same TV? Well, the Netflix app (or whatever the modern equivalent is) will probably work as well in 2033 on a 2013 "smart TV" as it will on a 2013 phone in 2033. That is to say that it almost certainly won't work at all! First off, the TV manufacturers are coming up with these "smart TVs" hoping that people will buy them to replace their existing HDTVs that work fine otherwise, but they are probably hoping that people will continue to buy them every few years to get the latest "smart TV" platforms. Well, I don't think that is going to work when there are external streaming devices that work just as well, if not better, that cost much less.

    I think that the glory years for TV companies when the burst of TV sales caused by HDTV technology, flat panel TVs, and DTV transition was a blip on the radar for the most part and that people will go back to keeping their TVs for long periods of time as long as they work. Ultra HD/4K may make some people upgrade down the road when there is 4K content, but I don't think that is going to cause quite the mad rush that HDTV did. We'll see though.

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    1. Sprint is still having trouble keeping up with their networks. They are a year behind where the technology is today and it can be very frustrating. I also don't see a rush in the short term for new TV's because there is not much available yet to use the newest technologies. I don't know if this generation of Ultra HD televisions will ever become the standard, I think the next technology will probably be the one that gets people to upgrade their TV's. I personally still prefer to use VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray as opposed to downloaded content because I know the quality will meet my expectations without having to worry about internet connections.

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  18. Part II:

    I'm not quite sure what the used VCR market is like in flea markets, but they are plentiful in thrift stores. It's really a buyer's market for VCRs at thrift stores these days so it can be worth it to be a little picky about which one you want to buy if you don't mind visiting a few different thrifts. Having said that, getting one with a remote (especially a working one from a good brand that has the right features like Hi-Fi) can be difficult. What makes VCR shopping a bit difficult today and in the past even is that brands that were reliable in one era may be not so good in a different era and vice versa. Also, some well-known companies sourced their VCRs from a variety of manufacturers so it can be a bit difficult to tell who actually made a VCR unless you're versed in decoding the UL and FCC codes that are printed on the back labels of VCRs. The good news is that most thrifts charge no more than $10 for VCRs, even nice Hi-Fi ones, so it's not like buying the wrong one will be some major financial mistake. Ones that have remotes may cost more than ones that don't, but it depends on the thrift store. Usually the price difference isn't huge though.

    One thing to keep in mind is that "chain store" thrifts like the Goodwill stores don't always have consistent pricing. Even an individual thrift store may have inconsistent pricing that doesn't make sense. I'm not really sure how thrift store pricers make their decisions, but I've seen some really odd prices one way or the other. Also, I know that some Goodwills (for example) are usually cheaper in a department than other Goodwills, but that isn't always consistent across departments.

    You never know what you're going to find in thrift stores though. I know I made a reply to your blog at some point a few weeks ago complaining that most thrift stores want new DVD player prices for used DVD players that don't even have remotes even though they have tons of them sitting on the shelves. Well, a couple of weeks ago I found a working 2006 Panasonic DVD recorder/player with analog tuner and with the remote for $8 I think it was. It was kind of dirty and it had a little bit of physical damage, but it works just fine and the dirty exterior can be cleaned. I know how to access the service menu on these and I saw in there that this unit only had <70 hours on the laser. Obviously I brought it since $8 was a tremendous bargain for that. Sometimes you can find unbelievable bargains in the thrift stores even when you don't expect them.

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    1. Flea Markets such as Traders Village and the one on Airline have many stores with VCR's, TV's, and Video Games. It can take a while and lots of walking to find a good store but they are out there. You have to be careful on the pricing though, several video games are marked up to double or more on what you can find online. At least you can haggle on the price there unlike most chain retailers. I bought some electronics from pawn shops a few years ago, but all of those electronics failed within a year or two after my purchase. Needless to say I no longer make any electronics purchases from pawn shops from my experience.

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  19. Part I:

    I looked on the Sears website and I see that they are selling a Seiki 4K 39" TV for $699.99. It does not look like they are selling these in the stores yet based on the in store inventory check on the store pickup option (or they are sold out), but I'm guessing they will be coming in the stores soon. These Seiki 4K TVs are pretty cheap and the quality is certainly not equivalent to other 4K TVs that can be brought right now that are much more expensive, but it looks like the technology to enable these to be sold for decent prices isn't that far off. Regardless, it won't really matter until there is 4K content and who knows when that will be. I know there is work underway to create a 4K Blu-Ray disc. We'll have to see how that progresses. I'm not sure if/when the TV networks will adopt 4K.

    It's possible that consumers may wait for 8K Ultra HD, but that might still be several years off. There may come a point of diminishing returns with these higher resolution screens as it may be difficult for end users to tell the difference in quality based on current screen sizes and viewing distances. I think many people have already brought the biggest sized flat planel TVs that they can fit in their rooms (perhaps to the point of even exceeding recommended viewing distances) so I'm not sure if people will be able to buy larger TVs to really take advantage of the higher resolution. Also, the fact that people already have flat panel TVs that are or close to the maximum size for their rooms will probably limit the upgrade factor for some people.

    Aside from resolution, one of the technologies that videophiles have been waiting for is OLED technology. Samsung recently released a 55" OLED HDTV for $9,000. OLED will allow for better than plasma contrast without many of the downsides of a plasma TV. The interesting thing about the Samsung unit aside from the picture quality (which is supposedly very, very good) is the form factor of the TV. The screen has a small curve in it instead of being totally flat. It'll be interesting to see if that is a trend with newer TVs, but I suspect that some people won't like the curved screen. Also, the Samsung OLED TV has a frame type thing that goes around the TV. You can see it (and the curve) pretty well in this link. Perhaps one nice feature of that TV is that it has an external box that all the inputs/outputs are on so you only have to have the power cord and the cable for that box running directly to the TV itself. I'm sure OLED prices will continue to fall, but I don't know if people will rush to buy OLED TVs. While poor black levels are a known issue of traditional LCD TVs, it's not like the average user is bemoaning the contrast levels of their TVs to the point that they are itching for an upgrade. If that was the case, plasma TVs would probably be more popular than they are. We'll see though.

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  20. Part II:

    I've never looked for VCRs at flea markets, but my hunch would be that they would be quite a bit more expensive there than at thrifts. My guess is that flea market dealers would want something close to ebay prices since they could just as easily sell their stuff there. I've noticed that ebay prices for VCRs can easily be 3-5x+ more than thrift store prices even without shipping in some cases. Granted, ebay VCRs may be more likely to come with a remote, but that wouldn't justify the higher prices in most cases. It depends on how desirable the VCR is I guess. The price difference for some run of the mill VCR may not be super huge, but I've seen Mitsubishi VCRs that I paid <$4 for in thrifts go for over $100 with shipping on ebay. Heck, I've seen broken "parts machines" go for over $40 with shipping. Maybe I'm off base on my thoughts about flea market pricing though. I could be totally wrong, but I would think that thrift store prices would be lower since they only sell to the relatively smaller audience that go to local thrift stores and since they have to get rid of inventory quickly to make room for all the new donations that they get. Some thrift stores, like the NAM ones, do sell some of their donated goods on ebay, but the stuff that ends up there are things more typically associated with collectors like action figures, baseball cards, and stuff like that.

    Having said all of that, supply and demand is certainly alive and well at thrifts. VCRs may be cheap since there are many of them that get donated at the moment, but things like receivers and turntables go for big bucks due to the demand. The prices for stuff like that may be closer to the flea market prices since the thrifts know they can sell them for high prices. I rarely see component turntables at thrifts even though I know the thrifts sell the ones they get for high prices. Of course, you're right about negotiating at flea markets. Most thrift stores don't want any part of that. I've never looked at pawn shops before, but I suppose it is an option for looking for newer used electronics. Granted, the lower levels of discounts on newer stuff probably means that it's usually better to just buy new.

    I think you'll enjoy looking at the used videos and music that many thrift stores sell. Most Goodwill stores, for example, have many VHS movies for around $1 each. Some thrifts sell them for 25 cents each. DVDs are a little bit more, but the prices are generally reasonable. Video game hardware prices sometimes aren't so great at thrift stores though. Maybe I'm off on that though as I don't know what some of the systems are worth these days. Then again, there may be a supply and demand issue with video games as they tend to be quite popular with collectors.

    I agree with you about preferring to have a physical copy of something rather than streaming. There are many reasons why that is, but one of them is the ability to buy and sell stuff years down the road. There are upsides to streaming as well, but physical media tends to have a quality advantage as well given the state of Internet infrastructure. There are still a lot of people who can't get Internet speeds fast enough to reliably stream low quality video much less HD video. I try to archive videos that I really like online because you never know when they'll get deleted for whatever reasons.

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    1. I am excited about the next wave of TV's but I am not about to part with $9,000 for just one TV that will be obsolete in 5 years. Flea markets do charge higher prices for electronics and you also have to worry about the damage from the weather (in outdoor markets). I bought a cartridge video game on my last visit and had to clean it several times to get it to work. I did not notice how dusty the inside was until I took it home and looked at it again. I plan on making some thrift visits in the near future. Speaking of electronics I was trying to remember when Dillard's and Foley's removed their electronics departments. I want to say it was in 2003 but I am not 100% on that. I know Macy's also still had electronics in the 90's before Dillard's attained 3 of their 4 Houston area stores, but I am not sure when they phased out their electronics departments either. I was able to get more photos of the last remaining Deauville Mall that I have not covered and the Westwood Mall interior that I have been putting off for a while.

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  21. There is some Sears related topics worth discussing today. First, Sears released their 2Q results. They were not good. On the one had, there seems to be reason to think that a lot of the bad results can be blamed on the large amounts of store closures, especially closures of well-performing locations, but it seems like Sears' plan to raise money caused by the lack of sales is to close even more stores and to sell off other assets. Closing poorly performing stores is one thing, but one would have to think that closing well-performing stores in order to raise money will continue to keep Sears, B&M stores at least, on a downward track to irrelevance even if same store sales are ok.

    Perhaps the alarming trend is Sears' struggles in the appliance sector even when their competitors are doing well in that area. If Sears can't make appliances work, what can they do? It's interesting how this article speculates that Sears' shift to using LG and Samsung as suppliers for Kenmore appliances is hurting their sales. I don't know if I would agree with that sentiment, but it is hard to say I guess. It goes back to the discussion we just had about Korean companies, but the appliance business may be different than the TV/phone market.

    Also, I believe that The Woodlands Sears Appliance Showroom has opened. I thought it was interesting that it is branded as a Sears Appliance & Mattress store. I don't think that is a name that I've seen before. Of course, this store has the new signage.

    The question about when Dillard's and Foley's removed their electronics is a question that I've asked myself before since it kind of happened without me noticing it at the time. You might be right about 2003, but it might have been even before that even. I brought stuff from both places in the mid 1990s so they certainly still had stores then. I think I looked at Dillard's and maybe Foley's too for VCRs in around 1998 so they must have existed then too, but I don't know if I looked at the Willowbrook Mall locations because I really can't remember the relocated Willowbrook Dillard's having electronics. Maybe it did for a little while though and I'm just not remembering it. The original Willowbrook Macy's certainly did have electronics up on the 3rd floor near the escalators.

    I think the fact that we don't know when electronics left these stores is pretty indicative of why they got rid of them, but I do miss their electronics departments. We brought a lot of stuff from all three (although I think we only brought Sega Master System games from the original Macy's and not any major electronics) and I thought that they were probably better at selling middle-upper tier A/V gear than Circuit City and especially Best Buy. I remember that we got our first VCR from Joske's in the early 1980s I do believe and our first camcorder, a 1987 Magnavox made by Panasonic CCD VHS camcorder that I still have and still works aside from the battery, from Foley's. I can't remember the prices paid for each for sure now, but I would say that each was around $700. Perhaps the electronics departments at these stores kind of disappeared without much fanfare since higher end A/V gear isn't something I or most others look at everyday in B&M stores unless you're interested in buying something and they didn't advertise their electronics departments very well in the last several years so it's not like there was a change in advertising focus that clued people in to the changes.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the photos of the SW Deauville Fashion Mall and the former Westwood Mall. I've seen some pictures of the offices inside Westwood on their website, but I'd like to see what you have as well.

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    1. I think Macy's only carried Sega Master System games for a while and later added Nintendo products. I only visited Joske's a few times at Greenspoint but I don't remember anything about the store. I remember the Foley's at Greenspoint much more vividly probably because I spent more time there and Joske's did not last long after we moved to the Houston area the first time. Speaking of Foley's the former downtown store is scheduled to be demolished on September 22. A 23-story office tower is going in on the site. I had a feeling they were going to move quickly because office tower demand in Houston is very high right now. I just hope it is not another boring box even though it will be mostly hidden by the surrounding office towers. There are rumors that Macy's is looking at some old department stores downtown to bring a new store to, but they are just rumors for now.
      Westwood still looks very much like a mall in several areas especially the center court. There is even a restaurant and convenience store located in the center court where the food court may have originally been. The Southwest Deauville property is mostly fenced off by Direct Auto which makes it difficult to get good images of several parts of the mall, but I got a few good images for the post.
      As for Sears, you have to wonder how selling a great asset will help the company in the long-run. The store at the Woodlands Mall could have made the company great profits for several more years. Some of those properties they sold in that deal were duds, but leaving a mall that is in its prime years was a terrible idea. One thing I have noticed with Sears is that locations outside of major metropolitan areas are now closing earlier. Beaumont, Lake Charles, Texas City, and College Station are a few stores that I recently visited that closed at 8 pm. I am not sure how that will help considering these malls close at 9 pm, but I guess it may make sense to close earlier.

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  22. Part I:

    It is not a surprise, but I think Sears is really hurting themselves by selling off successful stores. It might have been one thing if it was just a store or two, but it seems like the sell-offs are more than an isolated case. Hopefully Sears will get the message that if they stop selling off successful stores, they may not have to be in a position where they have to sell off stores just to survive. It does not look like Sears is very understanding of that cycle though since it looks like they are pledging to continue the sell-offs. Maybe some of the future asset sell-offs will be things that won't have such an impact on the core business, but we'll see.

    I don't know if you were able to access that WSJ article I linked about the declining appliance sales at Sears and how that might be linked to Sears using LG and Samsung as their supplier for Kenmore. It looks like it might be behind a paywall unless you access it from something like Google News. Of course, you could just search for something like Sears and LG in Google News and read it that way if you want to. It is an interesting discussion point. Sears is not only in trouble if they lose their grip on the appliance market, but they are also in trouble if the Kenmore name becomes tarnished. Hopefully Sears can repair whatever issues they are having with Kenmore's suppliers, but I'm not really sure what the issue is exactly. I may have to do more research on that topic.

    Maybe I'm giving Sears too much credit, but I assume they have research to show that they don't sell enough in that last hour to justify keeping the stores open that last hour in the stores that close at 8pm instead of 9pm. I'm sure the malls where this is done aren't happy about Sears closing early as it might lead to reduced traffic in the mall during that hour, but oh well I guess.

    I think it was important for you to get photos of the SW Deauville Fashion Mall just so you could complete the series on these malls. That one may be the hardest for the public to see so it was nice that you got photos of it. Yeah, the photos I've seen of inside Westwood today shows that it still looks quite a bit like a mall. Were you able to get any photos of inside the Westwood Mall Sears? You've said a lot of positive things about this location so I'm kind of hoping to see some modern photos of it since I don't really go into that part of town very often. It's no big deal if you didn't get any photos of it though as I'm sure I'll be able to visit it at some point even if it isn't anytime soon.

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    1. I was not able to access the WSJ article but I did read another article which explains the process for outside companies making appliances and then rebranding the appliance with the Kenmore name. You have to wonder if the brand will take a serious hit if more people know about this information. I guess when it comes to buying products these days nothing is as it seems.
      I did not get any photos of the inside of the Sears at Westwood, I was planning on getting some, but the store did not open for another hour when I made my visit early one morning. I also was able to get a good photo of the inside of the North Oaks Mall to finally finish off that article soon. I am working on a bunch of articles right now, but it will take a while to get all of them up.

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  23. Part II:

    That would be interesting if Macy's opened a new store downtown, but I won't hold my breath waiting for that. Hopefully the Sears store mentioned in this post has benefited from the Macy's closing. Macy's and Sears are two somewhat different types of stores, but downtown shoppers have so few options that perhaps Sears can make some gains.

    Did you ever see those videos that I posted a couple weeks back? One of those videos on the HPL website showed a mall electronics store in what appeared to be a department store. I don't think it was a mass merchandiser since there was a lot of focus on national brands in the store. Maybe it was a Joske's or Foley's, but I'm not sure. I think you may like that old video of the Montgomery Ward store that looks like (and perhaps is) the Palms Center Wards store.

    I think the department stores really didn't advertise their electronics stores enough to make people aware of their offerings. I know that we brought a TV from Dillard's in around 1993-4 in part because of their advertising/sales, but perhaps they just didn't do enough of that as time went on. I think their furniture departments may be suffering from the same thing today, but maybe it isn't such a fatal blow since there is room for more furniture stores in the market. Out of sight is out of mind when these departments are hidden upstairs in some of these stores so they really need to advertise to keep the public aware of these departments.

    I did see a Samsung DVD Recorder/VCR combo from probably the last 5-6 years on sale with the remote at the Family Thrift Center at the original Willowbrook Mall area Circuit City building today. It was like $25, but I don't know if it worked since I didn't try it. Unfortunately, it did not have any kind of tuner on it. You have to use it with a cable box or a tuner that outputs composite video if you want to use it to record TV. Sadly, I believe all the currently built VCRs that are sourced from Funai (like the Magnavox ones) are tunerless as well. I don't like that at all, but oh well I guess. My 2008 LG DVD recorder/VCR combo does have a digital and analog tuner, but these combos with digital tuners are pretty rare. We used to have one or some of those Samsung combos at work (probably not the same model though as I think the ones we had were only DVD player combos), but I never used the VCR part in those to see how they work. My hunch is that you could probably get a better VCR if you brought something older though. We currently have several of the current production Magnavox and Toshiba DVD Player/VCR combos made by Funai at the office. They work ok (the VCR part at least) on the prerecorded SP tapes that I've tried on them, but who knows how well they work on EP/SLP tapes or on tapes that are hard to track. Newer Funai VCRs don't have the best reputation for durability and the tape transport doesn't feel really solid on those so I'm not really sure how durable they may be in the long run. I'd recommend the Toshiba models over the Magnavox ones though as the Toshiba ones have a pretty nice front panel display. I don't like VCRs or DVD players that don't have or have skimpy front panel displays.

    Speaking of Greenspoint Mall stores, I found some old receipts from 1994 of purchases that were made at Greenspoint. One was for a sofa that was purchased at the Greenspoint Montgomery Ward (a matching sofa was also purchased at the same time from the Willowbrook Mall Wards). The warranty papers attached to the Greenspoint receipt actually had the newer Wards logo while the Willowbrook one had the older logo. I knew about that purchase, but the one that surprised me was that we apparently brought a cordless phone from an AT&T Phone Center at Greenspoint. I don't even remember one of those stores being at Greenspoint. I know that we purchased another phone before that at the Willowbrook AT&T Phone Center across from JCPenney I think.

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    1. I just looked at those videos from the HPL, I had to dig a little to find them but it was worth it. I think the area of Northwest with the raised ceiling near the food court was where this was is where all of the kiosks are now. The Randalls is a classic for sure, I especially enjoyed the cash registers. I really don't see many people going into the furniture sections at department stores, the perception is that the price will be higher than a regular store. I don't remember the AT&T store either, but there were a bunch of stores at Greenspoint that I never paid attention to for whatever reason. I found an old Wards receipt as well from the Memorial City location from a game system I bought there. It had a warranty receipt attached as well but I don't remember purchasing one. The old receipts were much larger than you find today since dot matrix printing has been replaced by thermal printers. Sears will give you a receipt followed by several printed coupons or offers with any purchase. I wonder how much the company can save with eliminating this unnecessary paperwork, I know thermal paper is not cheap.

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    2. I also forgot to mention that Radio Shack is also no longer at Greenspoint Mall. I did not look to see if they moved across the street to the Burlington shopping center, but they are gone from the mall. I also noticed that there is a fence around the entire former Greenspoint Commons. The company Digital Realty Trust has taken over the property, see the link below. http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/blog/nuts-and-bolts/2013/08/major-data-center-player-expands.html?page=all

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  24. Part I:

    Yes, Sears uses a variety of sources to manufacturer and design their private label goods. This has been the case for decades now, but perhaps some people don't realize that Kenmore, Craftsman, and other stuff are actually made by a non-Sears company. There may be some products where Sears requests special features to be added to their products, but sometimes the products are straight up rebadge jobs.

    You can tell who made some Sears products (at least with older products, but this may be true today as well) by looking at the model number. The first three numbers can indicate who made the product. Most of the Kenmore appliances I have are made by Whirlpool, but we also have a Kenmore Frigidaire front load washer (back when such things were quite rare for home use and Frigidaire was one of the few possible suppliers for them) and a water heater made by A.O. Smith I do believe.

    Even national brands may just be a rebadge job. This was very common with VCRs throughout the years. I have a GE microwave that is actually made by LG, but the only way I knew that is by looking up the UL code information. Most people would probably not know the truth of the situation.

    Sears branded stuff, regardless of the product type, have usually rated pretty well in tests done by Consumer Reports and other publications. Hopefully they will be able to keep that up, but who knows. Sometimes Sears gets burned by suppliers who don't live up to their reputation. Perhaps the most obvious case where that happened was the controversy regarding DieHard batteries several years ago where Exide was making below spec (and perhaps even used) batteries for Sears. I remember there being a big fuss over Whirlpool and Kenmore Calypso washing machines that may have used a highly defective design. I don't know all the details about that, but that may have been a case where Sears received negative publicity for a problem that they didn't really have control over. It's hard to say what Sears knew and didn't know though.

    It seems like Sears shoppers, particularly tool shoppers, are particularly sensitive about overseas production. Craftsman tools being made in the US was a big selling point for Craftsman for many years (AJ Foyt's commercials for them drove this point home), but now a lot of their stuff is imported. Granted, Sears uses/used a variety of producers like Western Forge and Apex for tools (a lot of Craftsman screwdrivers will have a "WF" written on the handle if it is a Western Forge product). Who knows if the producers are even willing to build stuff here, but on the other hand, perhaps Sears has enough buying power that they could force the issue if they wanted to. Then again, they may have no choice if the competitors are using overseas suppliers since a lot of people don't put their money where their mouths are when it comes to buying local.

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  25. Part II:

    You might be right about the perceptions existing about department store furniture costing too much. Better advertising would help there, but oh well I guess. I don't know if we've ever brought furniture from a department store now that I think about it. We've looked at furniture there, including wall-to-wall carpeting back when they had that if they don't still do, but I don't think we've ever brought anything. Obviously, we did buy furniture from Montgomery Ward, Sears, and Sears Homelife though.

    I don't think that we brought a warranty with those Montgomery Ward sofas either, but the warranty was for the Scotchgard stuff they put on it I think. Those sofas were floor models (hence why we had to buy them from two different stores) so maybe they put that Scotchgard stuff on all the floor models. I'm sure I knew these details, but it was 20 years ago so I don't really remember. But, yeah, those receipts were bigger. Speaking of vintage registers, I remember Wards using those Nixdorf register terminals that were probably pretty advanced when they first got them. I think Sears had CompuAdd registers. I like that they used dot matrix printers back then because those receipts are still holding up just fine. I have Circuit City and Best Buy receipts from the late 1990s that were on thermal paper and they've completely faded by now. I know that Sears gives you an option of having a receipt printed, e-mailed to you, or both if you are in their loyalty program. I always like getting a receipt printed at the store, but it might make sense to also print off a copy of the receipts at home (or at least making a copy of the original) for your records if you brought something where it's important to keep the receipt. One other thing that my old Sears and Wards receipts have (at least in departments like appliances and furniture) are business cards of the salesman who sold us the stuff stapled to the receipt. I wonder if Sears' salesmen even have cards these days.

    You're right about Sears receipts having a lot of coupons and stuff printed with them. I don't mind getting the coupons, but it might cost them a lot to print and some people may not like the paper wastage. I've noticed that some stores will print coupons with their receipts for other stores. I've gotten OfficeMax receipts with Payless Shoe Source coupons for example. Of course, some grocery receipts have had coupons pre-printed on the back for other businesses for many years now, but that does not use up any extra paper.

    I'm glad that you were able to find those videos. The old Montgomery Ward video might have been linked on a different post so I'm not sure if you saw that. I think I may have linked that in the Lufkin Kmart post. I'm glad that you were able to get more North Oaks Mall photos. I'm looking forward to seeing that post. That one should be really good.

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    1. I opt to have receipts sent to my email now just to save the paper. Since email storage is much larger, it makes more sense to me. My vintage thermal receipts are barely visible after years of being in storage. I guess since thermal paper saves time printing, quality was the sacrifice. I still have several Circuit City receipts from the closing sale that were printed on dot-matrix style printers that will hold up.
      I am sure if you look at many items in the house the name is just that, a name. After mentioning the item OEM's I will look at what I have in my house to see who really made my appliances. Our last major purchase was a Whirlpool refrigerator less than a year ago.

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  26. Part III:

    I just now saw your latest response about the Greenspoint Mall area after I posted my other replies. I'll post a quick follow-up here.

    I'm not surprised to hear that RadioShack has left Greenspoint Mall. It has been my observation that RadioShack has abandoned many of their mall locations. We'll have to see if that trend continues. Of course, this closure may have more to do with the poor state of Greenspoint Mall rather than any corporate trend on RadioShack's part.

    I don't know if there is a RadioShack in that Burlington Coat Factory/ex-Target shopping center across I-45 from the mall now, but I did see that the 99 Cents Only store has opened in that center.

    The Commons at Greenspoint and RadioShack have a bit of a tie-in as there used to be a Computer City store in The Commons that was owned by Tandy. Of course, that is long gone now. I drove by Greenspoint Mall last week and saw the new construction in front of The Commons that I think you mentioned in another post several weeks ago. I'm not surprised to learn that those are data centers since I think Level 3 (and maybe others) have been using the old shopping center for many years now. Maybe Sears can turn their old Greenspoint store into a data center since they have a division that does such things now.

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    1. The Deerbrook Mall Radio Shack is still there for now, but if Radio Shack is pulling out of malls this one will go soon. Deerbrook has been doing well and stores do not stay empty for very long, Luby's left and a new clothing store, so I am glad I got photos of the Luby's before they closed. The Memorial City Radio Shack is still listed on the mall website, but it looked like they were either closing or remodeling the store when I last visited. Most of the inventory was gone and it looked like they were cleaning up the space. San Jacinto Mall also still had one, but that was several months ago that I visited that mall.
      Greenspoint is also one of the only malls left in the Houston area that has a Wendy's in the food court. The Quizno's was also replaced by a Subway which to me is a downgrade, but it is what it is. I am sure the food court at Greenspoint will take a major hit when Exxon moves out of the Greenspoint area early next year. The food court is always packed Monday-Friday at lunch time. Over 2 million square feet of office space is going to empty out at the same time when Exxon leaves.

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  27. Years ago, I used to feel that the mass merchandisers were a bit boring because they relied so much on house brands. This was particularly the case with Sears as Montgomery Ward changed their strategy regarding national brands quicker than Sears did. Sears was so house brand centered that they even had their "own" video game consoles that were just rebadges like the Sears Tele-Games that was really an Atari 2600.

    Of course, even then it was possible to decode who made what for Sears and the others. That did kind of bring some of the fun back to those stores that were missing the national brand names. Sometimes it was very obvious as to who made what. I remember we used to have a 25" JCPenney branded color console TV that was obviously an RCA product. It clearly looked like an RCA chassis, but even otherwise, the fact that the RCA logo was printed on the plug made it very obvious. Sometimes the stores would design the products themselves or would specify unique features and then submit bids to have them manufacturered by other companies. I think that RadioShack was one of the companies that designed their own stuff and then had others manufacturer it, but they also had some manufacturering capability themselves and they also did pure rebadge jobs as well.

    Sears still has a lot of house brands even if they aren't nearly as reliant on them (I remember the "Sears' Best" designations and stuff like that), but they have national brands too. I guess I find the house brands more interesting these days since they are mixed in with national brands. Also, it's a bit fun looking at older house brand products and reflecting on the product and retail history of the time they were made.

    A lot of national brand products aren't made by the companies selling them. Sometimes they may be designed by the brand even if it isn't made by them, like Apple stuff, but that isn't always the case. Sometimes, especially with electronics, brands are licensed out to lesser known companies and that makes things a bit difficult for the average consumer. There are so many companies using the RCA name, for example, for various different products. The company behind RCA TVs is different than the one behind RCA stereos. The company behind RCA's music label is altogether a different company from the others.

    That's interesting about the Memorial City Mall RadioShack. RadioShack is trying some new store concepts so it may be possible that the store is being redesigned for that, but it's just as likely that the store was liquidating. The Memorial City location always struck me as being a bit odd since there is/was a location right across I-10 from it. I would cherish the Deerbrook location while you still have it because it might be gone soon just like the Willowbrook and Baybrook Mall locations. It's been a little while since I've taken a close look at the Willowbrook food court, but I think they still have a Wendy's. I think the Willowbrook Wendy's used to be an Arby's years ago.

    Greenspoint Mall is certainly going to take a hit when Exxon leaves, but the biggest blow to the Greenspoint food court personally might have been when Brother's Pizza left. They have another pizza chain now, but I'm sure it can't come close to matching Brother's. Convenience type stores like RadioShack (had they stayed) probably would have taken a hit as well with the decreased lunchtime traffic.

    The receipt for the AT&T Phone Center indicates that it was Greenspoint store #642. That seems to have been right up near the Wards according to the Greenspoint site map on their website. I find it odd that Circuit City was using dot matrix printers when they closed because a couple of faded receipts that I have from them from 1999-2000 were on thermal paper. Maybe they changed back to dot matrix printing or maybe some stores used different printers.

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    1. I remember the 2600's from Sears but I owned a plastic second generation 2600 console that worked up until 5 years ago.
      The Brother's Pizza space is still boarded up at Greenspoint. The former Montgomery Ward wing only has 4 stores left now so it is a matter of time before that section of the mall is blocked off. One of those four is Footaction which is at the corner of the wing and the cinema wing. The other store is at the corner of the Macy's wing and Wards wing.
      The older Circuit City stores like the Galleria and I-10 East still had the old printers but the rest of the stores I visited had thermal paper.

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  28. I went to Sears and JCPenney at Willowbrook Mall yesterday and noticed that both stores have made changes that I didn't remember seeing the last time I went to those stores. The Sears changes were less dramatic. It looks like they have painted a brownish colored border around the clothing and some other departments like what has been done at other Sears stores like the N. Shepherd location. I think they also put in some kind of hardwood type floor in the shoe section. It's possible that these changes were done quite some time ago and I'm just now noticing them, but I don't know. I think the carpeting in the electronics section is also a fairly new development, but I noticed that some time back. All in all, the changes look pretty good even if they aren't a huge change. I think the brownish trim goes well with the yellowish colored tile they have in the linen and such departments upstairs. Also, the electronic price/product information tags they have in the appliance department might be new.

    As for the JCPenney, oh the humanity! The whole 2nd floor is completely different from what it was the last time I went there around February or March I guess. The biggest change is that they now have a mattress and sofa department. That seems to be new. It seems like JCPenney went wild with white paint because they seemed to paint everything white up there, but they already did that to some extent downstairs a year or two ago.

    The worst thing is that they removed the flooring cover and replaced it with, ugh, bare concrete. It has come to this now. Major mall stores with bare concrete floors. What a shame. It looks tacky too because there is still "tile scar" (or maybe grout scar would be more correct) in some places so there are visible grid like lines on the floor that are supposed to be bare. Moreover, since I'm guessing the people who built the store didn't expect the concrete to be seen by shoppers, it is kind of patchy looking in some areas. I've seen this at other stores that have converted to the bare concrete look. It does not have the smooth look of stores that were designed to have bare concrete floors. Bare concrete is such a hideous look in most types of stores even when it is done right, but it wasn't even executed well in this application. What a shame.

    If we ignore the flooring debacle, I would say that the new 2nd floor design still looks okay. That said, the old decor (especially in the housewares departments) was much better IMO. The kids clothing departments may or may not have needed a makeover, but the housewares section had a bit of class to it. Not so much anymore. The combination of the concrete floors and all the white paint makes it look like someone's garage. At least they didn't convert it to an open ceiling I guess.

    I don't know if other JCPenney stores are seeing the same changes or other changes, but hopefully they won't hit the Deerbrook Mall Penney's with the ugly stick because that is (or was at least) a very nice looking store with a pretty classy look.

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  29. Here's an addendum to my earlier post about JCPenney. I was flabbergasted when I saw the JCPenney newspaper ad this past Friday because it had the old style JCPenney 1971-2011 era logo on it. I went to the JCPenney website and that had the old logo on it as well. I did some searching and found some news articles from earlier in the week stating that JCPenney decided to go back to their old logo based on some research showing that shoppers "overwhelmingly" preferred that logo. I'm not surprised about that, but we normally don't see companies going back to old logos that they put in the garbage can (I know Tropicana and The Gap have reverted to older logos before, but those were much quicker re-dos than what JCPenney did).

    Anyway, we know that JCPenney has been going back to a lot of their older ways even aside from the logo. I wonder if store redesigns may take the same approach. Perhaps they will not remodel stores the same way that they planned to in the past. We'll see about that. I think the existing layouts of most JCPenney stores looks better than what they have done to remodeled locations like the aforementioned Willowbrook Mall store. Of course, if they want to put new departments like furniture in stores, there may have to be some sort of remodeling. Hopefully those remodels are done in the classy style that JCPenney had used before and not the "garage" look like what they did on the 2nd floor of the Willowbrook location.

    I'm not sure if any Houston area JCPenney stores got either of the now outdated logos signage that came after the time that the current logo was originally discontinued, but if so, those stores will be real oddballs. Perhaps some of the newer freestanding stores in the Houston area have one of those now outdated style logos. The stores with the old signage now have the current signage.

    I don't think the current Sears logo is all that bad, but I don't think it is as good as the various logos they had before. Perhaps Sears should consider using something like their 1994 logo again. A lot of their stores still have signage from that era or have the similar 1984 era logo. Those logos were a lot more distinctive than the current logo IMO.

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    1. I have not seen any stores in the Houston area that have the new JCP logo. I did not like it at all. The Sears at Baybrook has the new logo on the mall entrance and it glows blue from behind the letters. It looks really nice in comparison to the bland logo that they have used for a while now. I will have to see the second floor of the Willowbrook JCPenney but it probably looks like what I saw in Louisiana. I like the idea of small sections to break up a wide open floor plan, but it did not seem like there was a lot of merchandise on the sales floor in those revamped departments.

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    2. That is very interesting news about the Baybrook Mall Sears mall entrance signage. I am pretty sure that I have never seen a regular Sears with a mall entry based on the current Sears logo. Maybe I'm forgetting about something, but most of the Sears entryways that I have seen have the 1994 era logo on them with the white tile facade. Does the Baybrook Mall Sears still have the white tile facade on the mall entrance with a new sign? Were there any other renovations to the Baybrook Mall Sears aside from the mall entrance signage? I should have an opportunity to visit Baybrook Mall soon so I may have to stop to take a look at the changes.

      I agree that the "jcp" 2012 Ron Johnson era logo was quite odd looking. It was both too simple and too complex at the same time. It would have looked very strange as store signage. I'm glad that the classic JCPenney logo has returned. It may be old, but it is not outdated IMO. It is truly remarkable how much JCPenney is trying to press the reset button. It'll be interesting to see how things work out for them. I kind of wish that they would go back in the time to the early 1980s when they still had a Sears-like store, but I know they won't revert back to a period that far back.

      Sometimes logo changes can be helpful, but hopefully the "jcp" debacle will teach retailers to take their branding seriously and not to mess around with successful designs just for the sake of change.

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    3. Yes the white tile is still in place at Baybrook but you hardly notice it with the sign. The exercise equipment section is updated and the clothing areas at the front of the store appear to have been recently updated as well. I did not drive by the front of the store to see if the outside got the new logo so if you stop by let me know if they updated that as well.

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  30. Oddly enough, the Willowbrook Mall Sears currently has a Kmart logo up on their front mall entrance display. Well, kind of at least. They have a display of Fall season lawn and garden tools in the front display window in the entryway. Part of that display has a couple of these large paper lawn and garden waste bags that have the Sears and Kmart logos printed on them in large lettering. Anyway, I thought that it was quite interesting to see a decently sized Kmart logo greet me when I went to the Willowbrook Mall Sears earlier this week.

    This may not be new news, and perhaps it is something that I have noted here before, but it looks like Willowbrook Mall has redone the flooring in the "intersections" on the main concourse where anchor store corridors branch off from the main mall concourse. They have some kind of shiny white tile now on those intersections. I can't remember now what exactly they had before, but I remember there being some sections with black matte looking tile with small fountains and maybe some plants. I don't know if the shiny tile replaced those sections. For all I know, the black tile may still be there and I didn't see it or maybe it was replaced long ago. I don't think so though. The flooring aside from those "intersections" remains the same as they've had since ~1992 though.

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    1. The remodel at Willowbrook has held up very well in comparison to other malls that were remodeled at around the same time. Mall of the Mainland was built in 1991 and the mall looks much older on the inside. Maybe Sears and Kmart will start putting two logos on their stores but it is highly unlikely.

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  31. It really is quite remarkable that Willowbrook Mall has gone about 21 years since it's last resign. It certainly does not look that way. Whoever designed that 1992 remodel certainly had a pulse on the future of mall design. Granted, some luck might have been involved as well because any redesign done any earlier might have rendered the redesign obsolete by the late 1990s. Granted, the mall was only 11 years old by 1992 so it's not like it really needed a redesign yet even at that point. Anyway, GGP has done some little subtle changes over the last few months like the new "intersection" tile and adding some new anchor store signs within the mall. Perhaps we'll see some more changes when the Nordstrom Rack goes up, but we'll see about that.

    The new Baybrook Mall Sears mall entrance sign sounds interesting. I'll definitely have to check out the changes that they made to that store and report on what I see. I have not been to Baybrook Mall since 2005 so it might be hard for me to tell what is new and what isn't, but it should be obvious that stuff with new signage is new. I accepted a new job offer on the SE side of Houston that I will be starting soon so I will be spending a lot of time on that side of town again. It won't be a fun commute, but I should have lots of opportunities to check out Baybrook Mall, Almeda Mall, and the Mall of the Mainland.

    I can't imagine that Sears would want to affiliate the Kmart name too much with their stores. OTOH, affiliating the Sears name with Kmart stores might be a more positive move. I believe that some Kmarts have already done this especially with Kmarts that have expanded appliance sections like this store. Of course, Kmarts do sell a lot of Sears branded products like Kenmore.

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    1. I guess the Kmart stores that are far away from a Sears have this larger appliance department. Lake Charles had a large appliance department not too long after the merger but it only lasted a year or so. Now there are only a few display appliances at the front of the electronics department.
      Baybrook still has some classic signs such as neon Taco Bell and Arby's circa 1980 logos. The rest of the mall is semi-upscale with many high end retailers similar to Willowbrook. There are a few guy stores there including Sears which makes the mall a good place to shop. Good luck on the new job opportunity, now is the time to make changes while the economy is hot.

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  32. I came across an interesting article yesterday about Sears that has been published on a few newspaper websites. I guess some strategist took some photos of the inside of an unnamed Sears store and had a lot of unflattering words about the state of the store. I don't agree with all of his assessments, but there is no doubt that there are some less than flattering aspects of the Sears store that he photographed and most Sears stores in general.

    It probably makes the most sense to only emphasize appliances at Kmarts that aren't near Sears or Sears Hometown/franchise type stores. I remember that the Wal-Mart at FM 1960 and N. Eldridge had a GE Appliance showroom in one of the front stalls near the registers when it first opened in the early 2000s. That didn't last very long before it was closed and converted into something else. Discount stores, including Kmart, have tried appliances on and off again over the years, but it might not be the most natural product category for discount stores.

    On the topic of stores with potentially ill-fitting departments, it sounds like Kroger is opening a Marketplace store in Kingwood this week. We don't have one of those on the NW side yet that I know of (though one is opening in the next year) so I guess that's one thing (in addition to a Super Target) that you guys got before us. Granted, I'm not sure if I would want to buy a sofa with my bread. It sounds like a Kroger with an undisclosed type of format will be opening soon in Humble as well. A Marketplace store will also open soon in Spring, but unfortunately the Spring Cypress and I-45 store (next to Splashtown) closed earlier this month. That store was a early greenhouse style design with a cube sign out front. Newer style greenhouse stores still exist in Houston, but that was the only older style store that I know of that was still open. There may be other early style greenhouse stores that I don't know about though.

    Thanks, this job opportunity should be a nice upgrade for me with the potential for more upgrades in the future hopefully. Plus, it offers the fringe benefit that I will now be working near a Sears again! I used to have that before as well, but that hasn't been the case since The Woodlands Mall Sears closed earlier this year. I'm looking forward to checking out the SE side retail scene again. I spent a lot of time on the SE side in the 2000s so it is not unfamiliar to me. Of course, this means that I won't be able to check out the far North side retail scene nearly as often as I have been able to over the last few years. That's not really a big loss at the moment IMO (aside from the many thrift stores on that side of town, I'll have to create a new thrifting circuit), but I'm sure there will be a lot more retail growth in that area in the next few years with all the new offices going up in Spring and The Woodlands. I'll probably try to visit the thrifts near Spring every now and then at least.

    Baybrook Mall is kind of a weird mall IMO. Of course, things may have changed since my last visit there in 2005 so I will have to check things out there when I get the chance. It has that odd circular layout and I seem to remember that it didn't have quite the "luxury" feel that you would expect given it's location and the type of stores that it has. Maybe I'm not remembering that correctly though so I'll have to check it out again to see because I could be way off on my memories. I do remember that it had some retroish storefronts in the food court though. That's interesting that the retro storefronts still remain.

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    1. I saw that article earlier today, I guess they caught the store in the final part of the day. I just don't get some of the assessments especially the mannequins, who pays attention to those? It does look like that store has some inventory issues, but at this time of the year many stores are moving around merchandise to make way for the Christmas displays and clothing.
      Some Walmart's still have small appliance sections but mostly in smaller towns. I have seen the Kroger on Northpark, it looks nice but it is just down the street from where a Randalls moved from because it was probably not successful. The Town Center project is a little further South and in my opinion a poor location for retail. There is a shopping center almost next door to the town center site where the Randalls was located that mostly failed and now has mostly medical tenants and restaurants. Sears hardware recently opened there but there is not much else in that large center as far as retail anymore. The nearby shopping center where that Randalls moved to was supposed to be a town center type development but has never filled up completely. I am not opposed to the office development at the site, but I think the retail will not last and the site will become office or medical space in the future.
      Hopefully I-45 will get finished soon but I guess better late than never. I worked in the SE area a long time ago and I-45 South just past the Beltway was always a traffic mess and poorly designed. They spent a ton of money at the NASA intersection, but they did not improve the 5 mile area between Dixie Farm and NASA until now. Baybrook has certainly changed, they have several of the new trendy stores that sell higher end merchandise. The wine bar we were talking about is much smaller than I thought it was going to be and in an open space in the food court. I have wondered for a while why they did not expand the mall when they had chances to such as when Montgomery Ward and Mervyn's closed. The mall has been full for many years and I am sure that many more retailers would like to locate there, but there is no available space.

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  33. Yes, I thought some of those criticisms were a bit unusual. I do not understand the problem with the mannequins either. As far as the TVs on the football field goes, shouldn't the inference be obvious? Does Sears really need to spell out for people the connection between football and TV? Other things, like disorganized clothing racks, are an issue that Sears should try to improve. Of course, even Macy's isn't perfect in that regard and I think anyone who suggests that Sears should be taking cues from Ron Johnson era JCPenney is clearly delusional. One thing that I noticed while shopping at the Willowbrook Mall Sears recently is that they should make sure that their clothing departments have enough mirrors in them. Some locations may be fine in that regard, but I was checking out some jackets and I had to go to the dressing room stalls just to find a mirror. Maybe there was some that I didn't see, but it was just easier to go to the dressing room than roam around finding them.

    One thing that I found to be odd was that the Mall of the Mainland Sears already had their Christmas department stocked when I went there last month. I thought that it was a bit early for that, but maybe that is normal now.

    On the topic of Sears layouts, I did come across this article indicating that Sears Home Appliance Showrooms are currently undergoing redesigns. I'm not really sure what they looked like before, but maybe regular Sears stores can draw some conclusions from the designs of those specialty stores even though the appliance showrooms are part of a different company now. Of course, the new Sears Home Appliance Showroom in The Woodlands also has a mattress section. I've never heard of those stores having mattress sections too, but it's not a bad idea. Also, I noticed that the Hwy. 6 and West Rd. Sears Hardware store got new signage with the current logo.

    It'll be interesting to see how much of this new retail will stick and how much of it won't. As far as Randall's goes, we don't have many of those left on this side of town. The only ones around here that I know of are the stores on Barker Cypress and 290 and the Flagship store on 1960 and Champions Forest. I know most people don't like Safeway/Randall's, but I actually like the fairly traditional layouts of their stores. Their prices aren't as bad as they used to be, but they aren't the best either. Of course, Randall's used to be #1 in Houston even when their prices weren't the best (and that was during the Houston 1980s recession) so that may not be the only thing holding it back.

    Hopefully traffic on I-45 won't be too bad. I'll be going in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic once I get passed (or before I get to in the case of coming home) the Pierce Elevated. I know from past experience that traffic is always at least a bit slow around Bay Area Blvd. and NASA 1. I'm more worried about the parking lot that is 290 in rush hour traffic. That could be painful at least until construction is done. Hopefully my schedule will be such that I won't have to deal with rush hour traffic either way, but I don't know about that yet. There are times where 290 isn't totally clogged, but the rush hours are a nightmare.

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    1. Sears stores are all very similar in design and product mixes, but that article really tries to make Sears look bad. I know Sears has gotten a bad rap from a few recent stories and has not really made large scale store improvement across the company since the 1990's. Hopefully things will change and the company will understand the need to reinvent their image, but not a drastic change like at JCPenney. New paint and improved store fixtures is all that is needed to modernize their stores. Better commissions will help to motivate employees across the company to perform better. I don't think the current upper management will make any of the above happen, but we can hope. I noticed that Sears started pulling out the Christmas stuff around September in several stores. If they ran sales for some of these early seasonal items they would probably sell some items, but nothing was on sale in those departments yet. To me it is just wasted space in the store unless people are offered deals to buy now. Garden Ridge had their stuff out in July when I visited the I-10 West location though which was strange to me at a time.
      Randall's seems to be a store where you have to wait for sales to get good prices. Around 2005 they closed a bunch of stores in Southeast Houston.
      Good luck with the commute at least you can use the HOV lane now with a toll tag if you are by yourself. Some days when I don't feel like waiting in traffic, I will take the HOV lane but it is expensive so I don't go often.

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  34. I know that some crafts stores sell Christmas stuff very early so that people who make handmade decorations can get started on projects early. That makes sense and it might explain why Garden Ridge has stuff out early, but it does not really explain why Sears has been a Winter Wonderland for the last several weeks. Maybe they hope to sell stuff to people who want to buy their decorations well in advance. I know that Sears put their decorations on clearance pretty soon after Thanksgiving last year so maybe they want to maximize the time that they sell that stuff at regular price. I've heard that Christmas imagery puts people in a happy mood and maybe that leads to more sales in other departments. Either way, it's strange seeing the Christmas stuff out so early.

    I wonder if Sears has any plans on re-opening their portrait studios. I know the Internet was full of jokes when it was announced that the Sears Portrait Studios would closer, but I remember those being quite packed during Christmas season even last year. Perhaps there is still a market for them at least seasonally. I know that they would have to find another 3rd party provider, but I'm assuming that one can be found.

    It does seem like Sears has been a punching bag for retail critics for decades now. Having said that, their stores aren't nearly as bad as most Kmart stores for example. Plus, it seems like some stores are getting fresh paint if nothing else. It seems that some may be getting new flooring in some departments as well. Some work on department organization could make a big difference as well. The combination of changing product lines over the years and no renovations means that some departments feel a bit out of place. But, yes, they certainly should not do a JCPenney. That would be a disaster.

    I was checking out some posts on HAIF the other day and I came across this post indicating that two Sears stores had McDonald's in them at one point. It's unclear from the snippet if they meant two Houston stores or two national Sears stores, but a commenter indicated that one of those stores was the Baybrook Mall location. I don't recall those McDonald's, but do you know anything about them? I don't know what the other Sears/McDonald's location was if it was in Houston. I know it wasn't at Willowbrook Mall, but maybe it was at Deerbrook Mall? Maybe it was at an older Sears that used to have a Sears restaurant (I'm not sure which locations those would be)?

    The biggest problems I noticed with Randall's over the years aside from pricing is that A) they run out of advertised products faster than most other stores and that B) they keep food out for sale that is close to expiring or expired even. That said, Randall's closed a handful of locations near here in the last 3 years (in addition to the stores they closed earlier in the 2000s) and the stores that closed seemed to be the biggest offenders of both points A and B. As far as pricing goes, Randall's is not the best unless they have a sale. That said, I think their coupon doubling policy is better than most and I have found some good deals through their "just for U" personalized deals program. Most of their stores have a classic type grocery store layout that is easy to navigate and the decor is nice. Granted, their stores don't have a lot of customers usually so it's a pretty quiet shopping experience.

    I'm not sure if 290 has the paid HOV lanes yet. I think it will after the new construction, but I don't think that they have them yet. I could be wrong about that. Of course, the 290 HOV lane often gets congested during peak hours so I'm not sure if that would be of much help at the moment.

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    1. I see the point now in Garden Ridge putting out their decorations early. Target also put a limited amount of Christmas items out at the same time as Halloween items in the late summer also. With all of this Christmas stuff out early, I have really been thinking about adding more to my display once again this year.
      The portrait studio spaces should probably just be covered over in some stores like the failed hearing aid stores that were in some stores recently. At the Westwood Sears, they filled the former waiting area at the hearing aid center with merchandise and removed the sign. The portrait studio is not covered up, but the space no longer has a sign and is away from the main sales floor.
      The Deerbrook Mall had a huge McDonalds in the food court with a playground until it was closed to make way for the movie theater. Sears did not have a restaurant at the store unless it was in the earlier years of Deerbrook 1984-1989.
      I like going to stores where you don't have to deal with crowds as much as possible. I go to stores early in the day during school hours, or late evenings when the crowds are gone to save the hassle. Target is open an hour later now, so I don't have to rush to get out by 10 pm anymore.
      I visited the new Kroger Marketplace that you mentioned a couple weeks back. The grocery section is not much different than a regular Kroger store but has more lines of each product to fill the spaces. The furniture and home decor is in the back of the store near the milk, but far enough away that many people may not notice the area and walk back to the front of the store to check out.
      The other additional departments such as Baby goods, Toys, Kitchen appliances were mostly empty when I was passing through while the rest of the store was packed. The future Humble Kroger land is being cleared, but I am not sure if the store will be a Marketplace or regular store.

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  35. There has been a lot of Sears news today, but I'll start with some local Sears news first. I know we talked about the Baybrook Mall Sears signage earlier, but I can now confirm that the Baybrook Sears does indeed have new exterior signage (at least on the South and East ends. I did not see the North end, but I would imagine that it has new signage as well) with the current logo. I did not have the chance to go inside the mall to see the new mall entrance sign, but I look forward to doing so soon.

    It was announced today that Sears is considering spinning off Lands End and Sears Auto Centers in order to raise money. This could lead to some interesting situations if that does occur. Of course, Sears Auto Centers are commonplace in or around Sears full-line stores and some Sears full-line stores have Lands End shops in them as well. I suspect that these would continue if they are spun off as Sears/Lampert would still probably hold a lot of power within the spun off company, but you never know what might happen. It seems like the spun off Sears Hometown and Hardware/Appliance stores still have a close relationship to Sears, but who knows what might happen in the future to those stores as well. Regardless, spinning off those divisions may be more beneficial than Sears selling them off, but it does still indicate that Sears is willing to rid themselves of valuable divisions just to raise money for Sears itself.

    We saw before that Sears' Seritage division has a couple of Sears Auto Centers listed for possible redevelopment. Those locations were the Westwood Mall Sears and the N. Shepherd Sears Auto Centers. The Pasadena Town Square Sears Auto Center might be on that list as well, but Sertiage's listing of the Pasadena location does not indicate much. Does this mean anything given today's news? I don't know, but it is interesting.

    Also, that same article indicates that Sears plans on continuing to close underperforming locations. It's unclear if that will have any impact on Houston area stores, but I suspect that nothing has changed from Sears' previous strategy of closing some underperforming stores in addition to selling off valuable stores.

    As far as the 290 HOV lanes go, it does look like one can pay to ride there solo. Of course, it is a good thing that I didn't pay that coming home today because there was a stalled car in the HOV lane that literally turned the 290 HOV lane into a parking lot. I saw people in the HOV lane getting out of their cars and going for a walk so traffic must have stayed still there for quite some time. Unfortunately, the main lanes also slowed down because of the stall so the main lanes were more of a parking lot than 290 normally is, but at least traffic was moving a little. Ahh, the joy of 290.

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    1. I am glad to hear about the Baybrook Sears having the new signs, it looks like they are planning to keep that store for a while. I wonder if that store is the start of new signage all across Houston. Hopefully they will not mess with the Main or Shepherd (street sign) stores and put up new signage. I read that article a few days ago about the new spin-offs. I wonder how long it will be for Sears to spin off their most popular brands at this rate. Hopefully that will not happen because Sears maintains their competitive advantage in home appliances and tools with their exclusive brands. I can't imagine the Pasadena location getting much interest because there are many abandoned buildings on the two main streets that the mall is located on.
      Hopefully some relief is coming soon to 290, well hopefully before the end of this decade.

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  36. I am actually a little bit surprised that the Baybrook Mall Sears got the new signage. I am pretty sure that I have not seen another regular full-line Sears in person or in photos that has the new signage. Given that, I'm not anticipating that Sears will update the signage at the other Houston area stores, but I could be wrong. There are Sears stores that I have seen photos of in other cities that have very faded looking outdoor signs. Perhaps those stores should have the highest priority for new signage, but I don't know if that will be the case given that Kmart has re-used faded signage at some of their stores.

    I doubt that the Deerbrook Mall Sears had a cafeteria in it. I don't know which ones (if any) would have had them, but it would probably be older stores that had them. Perhaps something like the Memorial City Mall Sears would have had one, but I don't remember that being the case. It's hard to say.

    Sears' assets dumping is very concerning. We know that the core retail business for Sears and Kmart isn't very healthy and it's hard to forecast a healthy future without some major changes. Stuff like their brands and prime real estate is what gives them hope, but now there are fears that those assets will be going away.

    I saw some photos of the Kingwood Kroger Marketplace store on the Houston Chronicle website. I'm not surprised to hear that some of the unusual departments aren't very busy. Even the bigger HEBs around here, which are very busy otherwise, have a department for kitchen appliances and stuff like that which is usually very quiet. Perhaps the unusual departments have high profit margins so they don't have to sell a lot of stuff, but I don't know.

    Some grocery stores can handle large crowds better than others. The best example that I can give are the HEB and Fiesta stores on 249 (the Willowchase Fiesta and The Vintage HEB). Both of those stores stay very busy and both are larger sized stores, but you can usually walk around the Fiesta pretty easily (the produce section can be packed though) and the store is laid out in a logical grocery store manner. OTOH, the HEB store is a mess. The store is not laid out in a logical manner and so it's hard to know where stuff is and people are always crashing into one another because the main corridors aren't big enough. The decor is also much better at the Willowchase Fiesta. HEB may have a more upscale reputation, but I prefer to shop at the Fiesta.

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  37. Here is another quick Baybrook Mall Sears update. I noticed today that there is a sign indicating that a Sears Outlet will be opening soon in the shopping center near Baybrook Mall that has the Garden Ridge and the Goodwill store in it. I guess the old Fiesta used to be in there. Of course, that stretch of I-45 has a lot of Sears/Sears affiliated stores already with the Baybrook and Mall of the Mainland full line stores, the Appliance and Hardware store between Almeda Mall and the Beltway, and the Sears Appliance Showroom in League City.

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    1. I wonder what the Outlet store has, I have seen one on Westheimer but never stopped by. It sounds like Sears is cannibalizing their stores in that area. I went to the Longview Sears last week and the store there is very similar to the San Jacinto Mall Sears with a small second story. They finally had some deals on the Christmas stuff because now is the time when they can make the most money from Christmas items.

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  38. I came across an interesting article that discusses some proposals that Sears is talking about regarding their Ubiquity division. One of the initial ideas for Ubiquity was to convert closed Kmart and Sears stores into data centers. Well, it looks like there may have been some flaws in those ideas. Now Sears is proposing converting some Sears Auto Center locations into data centers. Of course, there has been a lot of talk about the future of Sears Auto Centers themselves. Anyway, this may help explain why some Houston Sears stores have their auto centers listed as being available for redevelopment on the Seritage (another Sears division) website. It certainly seems that Sears is exploring internal and external ways to increase profits from Sears Auto Center locations.

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    1. I was surprised that not many of the Sears anchors have not been converted into data centers especially the Greenspoint location. With all of the business growth in the Houston area, I was thinking that some of the properties here would be the first to be redeveloped. I also realize that many companies are building new buildings as opposed to using re-purposed structures. I can see many of the old Sears auto centers sitting empty for years similar to many Wards and JCPenney auto centers that have been empty for years. The only advantage that Sears properties has is that the buildings are being used and should be in better condition than the Wards and JCPenney auto centers.

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  39. Sears Outlet stores mainly sell scratch-n-dent, floor model, and returned appliances. They also sell lawn & garden stuff out of season that probably didn't sell during the season, floor model/returned exercise equipment, tools, and a few open box type electronics. They usually have mattresses as well (I'm not sure if they can sell used mattresses) and I think they have some clothes too. It's probably not the kind of store that you would want to go to unless you're specifically looking for a bargain on something like an appliance, but perhaps some people find it to be an interesting store. I know that I have brought scratch-n-dent appliances before and they represent a tremendous bargain. I know that I got a scratch-n-dent dryer from the Memorial City Mall Sears some years ago for a pretty big discount and you can't even tell that it has a defect. In fact, I can't even remember where that dryer was scratched. I think it was in the back corner somewhere.

    Sears is probably cannibalizing their sales with all those stores on the Gulf Freeway, but maybe they feel that it is necessary given all the Conn's, Best Buy, Lowe's, and Home Depot stores in that area. Also, perhaps Sears is typing to appeal to shoppers who don't want to deal with Baybrook Mall area traffic. I think most of those franchise type stores opened before Sears spun off the franchise type stores, but the cannibalization may continue to grow now that they are separate companies.

    It seems that Sears/Ubiquity found some flaws with their initial plans and are now looking to open smaller data centers in auto center type locations that perhaps have some distance from their affiliated malls. One might think that the Greenspoint Mall Sears Auto Center (or the main store itself even) and the Westwood Mall Sears Auto Center would be perfect targets for this, but maybe there is a concern that those areas already have enough data centers as it is. It's hard to say.

    The Sears Auto Center situation is very hard to figure out. Sears seems to be spending a lot of money marketing their auto centers and they have come out with some new auto product lines, but at the same time, they seem confused about the future of the auto centers. Maybe they will pull a JCPenney and get out of the auto service business, but it's really hard to say at this point. It does seem like some auto center locations will close/be converted into other things at the very least. To that extent, I'm glad that the Willowbrook Mall Sears Auto Center is attached to the store because I think that setup has better synergy with the stores themselves. Hopefully that will be enough to keep that location open if nothing else.

    One of the problems with former auto centers is that they require a lot of environmental clean-up to be converted into other things. The JCPenney Auto Centers that were converted into Firestone Car Care Centers or other auto shops probably didn't have to worry so much about this, but it is probably a bigger factor with former Montgomery Ward Auto Centers since many of those were not converted into other types of auto centers. It will probably also hurt Sears' efforts to convert former auto centers into other types of buildings.

    Of course, Sears had a lot of experience operating auto centers aside from their own stores not so long ago when they owned NTB and Western Auto. I'm not sure how much that experience helps now though. One would think that Sears would have to maintain some kind of automotive presence to maximize the potential of the DieHard brand unless they want to spin the DieHard brand off into some kind of national brand. Of course, store brands have a large piece of the auto battery pie so I'm not so sure if that is such an electrifying idea. Then again, maybe there is a lot of potential in that realm.

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    1. I think that Sears losing the auto centers would be a big mistake for the company. The Mall of the Mainland, Willowbrook, and Deerbrook locations that are attached to the stores help drive extra sales to those stores. The ones that are across the mall parking lot from the retail stores does not help though. If Sears starts taking away more departments such as the auto center, tools, and electronics what will be left? I would probably not go to Sears anymore if all that was left was clothes and soft goods. I hardly ever step into Dillard's, Macy's, or JCPenney stores because of the lack of departments outside of clothing and soft goods.

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  40. I think the Sears Auto Centers drive traffic to the mall in addition to the Sears stores in general. Thus, the potential loss of auto centers must be (or at least should be) a concern for mall operators. It must be a dream situation for stores and for malls to have potential shoppers for several minutes or hours who have no way to leave the mall.

    Of course, as you say, the attached auto centers (plus some of the freestanding ones that are very close to the main Sears stores) probably benefit the Sears stores more than some of the freestanding auto centers that are quite far from the mall itself. Sears Auto Centers like the West Oaks Mall location, which is actually across Hwy. 6 from the mall, probably don't benefit the main store all that much. Of course, the West Oaks Sears wasn't built as a Sears so that location has an excuse, but it's a bit surprising that Sears didn't build more attached auto centers. We're lucky that the Willowbrook and Deerbrook Mall Sears stores have attached auto centers. Sometimes I will look at stuff like wiper blades while I am at Sears so I certainly see the benefit of attached auto centers. The Mall of the Mainland Sears has a bit of an odd attached auto center in that the auto center is a bit separate from the store even though it is attached. Still, that is better than a freestanding location.

    Sears Auto Centers, especially the attached location, may also help to bring shoppers to Sears stores who otherwise would not shop there nearly as often. There may be people who get routine car maintenance done at Sears, like tire rotations or oil changes, that otherwise would not stop at a Sears store except when they need an appliance or something. Those are important sales opportunities for the rest of the store that can't be ignored.

    I'm very concerned about the future of some Sears departments. Malls would lose a lot of variety instantly if Sears eliminated departments like automotive and electronics. I also agree that I have little use for most stores in the malls these days, but Sears is one store that keeps me coming back because of their variety of departments. Hopefully Sears and malls in general won't ignore shoppers like us and will continue to strive for the "something for everyone" ideal.

    I can't really imagine Sears as a soft goods only retailer. That would be a disaster I would think. Their soft goods departments aren't a source of strength to say the least. I could see Sears transforming into an appliance and tool store kind of like the Sears Hometown stores, but hopefully that won't be the case.

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    1. I drove by the Baybrook Sears and saw the new signs which one fittingly had a letter already burned out. They look bland at night compared to the mall entrance sign inside. I noticed that the road sign to the mall still has the older Sears logo.
      It seems that many Sears stores have now painted their electronics and clothing departments over the past year or so. I am also noticing less inventory in the clothing departments and more department organization in most stores. I have noticed the same in my visits to both Texas and Louisiana Sears stores. Kmart stores still have not changed much from what I have seen with the exception of some new aisle signage. I think Sears needs both soft and hard goods to be successful, but their clothes need to be more appealing especially to younger customers. Sears could work out some deals to bring popular clothing to their stores from companies that may or may not be in the same areas where the Sears store is located. For example, many of the small towns that Sears is located will not have an Abercrombie store. Sears could feature a limited amount of clothing or a mini store such as JCPenney was doing. Just bringing in a couple of popular clothing lines or mini stores would help to drive traffic to their clothing departments. What JCPenney did was attempt to revamp their whole stores at once and scared people away. Sears could succeed where JCPenney did not, but it is highly unlikely they will invest money to make this happen.

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  41. I have also noticed the new brownish colored paint that Sears is using in their clothing departments at many stores. The Willowbrook Mall Sears has received that facelift along with new shoe department flooring and I believe new carpeting in the electronics department (though I could be off on that last point). I'm not sure if Sears stores have less clothing than they used to, but it might not be a bad idea for them to use the floorspace that has been assigned to clothing for other purposes as their clothing departments aren't all that strong.

    Sears has tried bringing trendier clothing products into their stores, but I'm not so sure how that has turned out. Sears either does or did sell Structure clothing, but I don't know how good the sales are/were for those. I don't know what Sears plans on doing with Lands End, but I wouldn't mind seeing more Lands End stuff in all Sears stores. Some Sears stores have a lot of Lands End stuff, but others don't have so much. I think Lands End has a good reputation for quality and selection even if it isn't the trendiest label. Of course, you could say the same thing about Sears' reputation so maybe it is a good fit. I would think that there are a lot of people who want durable and traditionally styled clothes at a decent price especially since many retailers try to ignore those shoppers (JCPenney is probably the best example of this). That seems like a niche that Sears should excel at.

    Sears does have some trendy celebrity women's fashion lines, but I'm not so sure if Sears chooses the right celebrities. There are probably a lot of girls/women who do not want to buy anything affiliated with the Kardashian family for instance. I'm not sure how Sears can fix their reputation for women's fashions, but hopefully they will have better ideas in the future.

    I'm not sure if it would be better for Sears to prioritize Sears stores or Kmart stores when budgeting for renovations. Obviously, those of us in Houston would probably choose Sears. I think Sears may be the more logical choice though as I think that Sears is a more cohesive national brand now, it has a better reputation and history, and stronger Sears mall stores may help improve the malls themselves. Plus, Sears stores probably have more sources of strength than Kmart stores do. Then again, there are probably more Kmart stores that are in desperate need for a renovation than there are Sears stores.

    The new Sears signage at Baybrook Mall is like a lot of older Sears signage in that it is blue during the day, but it glows white during the night when the lights are on I guess. It does look overly simplistic (especially when it is white), but oh well I guess. At least that location is getting renovations. I'm really wanting to see the new mall entrance at the Baybrook Mall Sears, but I have not stopped there yet. Traffic around Baybrook is bad even under normal circumstances, but the I-45 feeder road construction around Baybrook Mall is making traffic even more of a mess. Christmas shopping season traffic won't help matters much either.

    But, yeah, the mall sign on I-45 still has the older Sears logo. I guess that is one instance where Sears is ahead of the mall operators. I think that Sears or the Mall of the Mainland should put up a Sears sign on 1764 because the Sears store there has really bad visibility. It's very easy to overlook it when driving by it. It's a real shame for the Mall of the Mainland that two of it's large operating anchors, Sears and the Cinemark, have the worst visibility on 1764. The Palais Royal does not have a lot of visibility either, but the former Dillard's, JCPenney, and Macy's are visible. Some people may just assume that the mall is closed since the open stores are hard to see.

    As a side note, I have been noticing that the Almeda Mall parking lot (at least the I-45 facing parking lot) has been really packed at night.

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    1. I remember Structure being a popular mall store in the late 80's and early 90's similar to Abercrombie stores but not as dark. I also think the clothing celebs are not exactly the right choice for Sears, I guess Lindsey Lohan must be next, lol. I can't recall seeing one of those stores in a few years. It is good to see some Sears stores getting touched up. The last major remodels to the stores were back in the late 90's and early 2000's and even some of those were just new signs and small paint touch ups.
      The years of not improving Kmart and Sears stores has caught up to the company. They need to probably focus on improving the top 25% of their stores that generate high sales. The one issue is that Sears/ Kmart is selling off their best stores which will not help the company.
      I-45 South of the Beltway has been a traffic nightmare for years. The freeway improvements are way overdue, but at least they are doing the work now.
      When going onto the exit for Mall of the Mainland the first building that catches your eye looking at the mall is the boarded up Macy's. If there is a location that Sears should move out of and rebuild down the highway on this is the one. Someone is not going to drive by and see this location. Hotels and Ryan's are blocking the view from one angle and the height of the store is much smaller than the mall structure. There is also a very good possibility that the store will be the last one open at the mall in two years.
      A new bar/restaurant called Ojos Locos opened in front of the mall next to Exclusive Furniture. I am not sure exactly what the place is, but it looks like a Hooters/ Twin Peaks type of place which probably attracts a large crowd.

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  42. I absolutely agree with you about the Mall of the Mainland visibility problems. The old Macy's sticks out like a sore thumb, but the currently operating anchors are quite hidden. It would be nice if Sears relocated to one of the more visible locations like the ex-Macy's, but we know that probably won't happen. If nothing else, it would be nice if Sears put up some signage to make up for the store being so hidden. A rooftop sign like the Midtown Sears would probably overcome the store height issue, but I don't know how that would look on a newer store.

    Sears quarterly results were released last week and the results were not good. I guess that isn't shocking news at this point especially since Sears is selling off some of their better performing stores. Hopefully the Sears store renovations will be well-received even if they are just modest renovations.

    It does seem like all that Sears is missing these days is a Lindsey Lohan line. I can understand making Kmart fashion a bit low-rent since that might fit the store demographics, but I think Sears should aim for something a bit higher or more traditional. The problem is that Sears may want to have some commonality with Kmart's clothings, but I don't think that is such a great idea. Kmart's reputation in the fashion world (even during Kmart's best years) is quite pathetic to say the least.

    I don't know if the Willowbrook Mall Structure store (or any Structure store for that matter) is still open, but one funny thing about it is that one of the columns on the store facade was always missing so that they could put up a sales sign near the front door. I think I saw Structures at other malls that were designed the same way. That always seemed very odd to me. I guess those facade columns weren't weight bearing!

    Hopefully the I-45 improvements will ease the congestion in the Baybrook Mall area. It is a total mess for now though while the construction is going on. Perhaps the Mall of the Mainland could have gained something from this had it maintained most of it's anchors, but we can only speculate about that now and I don't know if it would have been enough. There is evidence even from the past to suggest that people would rather sit in traffic to go to Baybrook than go to the same stores at the Mall of the Mainland.

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    1. I read earlier today that Sears is spinning off Lands End so it is losing another profitable brand.
      I visited a Sears store last night that had a Playstation 4 in their game case. That will probably be the only one I see in a retail store before Christmas for sale, but it shows that shoppers overlook Sears. Every other store would laugh at you if you asked for a Playstation 4 on a busy Friday shopping night, but there was one at Sears ready to go. Since they drastically reduced their selection of games and eliminated them from smaller stores, I am not surprised that people are not shopping there for games.
      Kmart was the place you would not admit your clothes came from especially in your school years. I don't think Sears has that reputation, but Walmart does now for sure.
      Mall of the Mainland never had the selection of stores that Baybrook had. Every time Mall of the Mainland seemed to gain stores, other stores left, and the empty store spaces were never filled. All of the covered up store spaces near Sears and Macy's never had stores and were never used during the lifetime of the mall. The closed off wing had several sections that were never used as stores either. The mall never had a chance since they could never fill those spaces.

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  43. Part I:

    It is interesting that you were able to find something so hard to find like a PS4 at a Sears because I went to a Sears earlier this week to buy a couple of not so rare things (a shirt and a tool) that were advertised and I wasn't able to find either of them in stock at the store that I went to. I was able to get one of the items ordered in-store through the website and I suspect that I will be able to find the other item in another Sears store, but it would have been nice if they were in stock. Oh well.

    Yes, it is interesting that Sears still had a PS4. Perhaps people don't know that Sears sells video games still. Perhaps it is because not all Sears stores sell video games now. I don't know. It probably makes more sense to buy something expensive like a PS4 from Sears since one can get a lot of reward points from Sears especially if one has a Sears Card (I think they are giving 10% back in points during the Christmas season with a Sears Card, but the points have to be used pretty soon after Christmas). Granted, other stores have loyalty programs too, but I'm not sure if the deals are as good as what Sears has right now.

    Perhaps a reason for Sears still having that PS4 is that Sears does not promote it's electronics departments enough. Electronics (TVs mainly) get on the front page of Sears ads sometimes, but that's about it. They never run TV ads promoting their electronics departments like they used to once upon a time. I don't really blame them for this though as the electronics department probably won't make them a ton of money even if they were one of the biggest players in the electronics retailing game just because of the nature of electronics market these days. Plus, it's hard for Sears to promote their video game sales when not all stores have them.

    One thing that I seem to remember about Sears back in the day is that they were one of the last stores to move video games from the children's departments to the electronics departments. I seem to remember Sears selling video games in the kids department during the early 1990s (and maybe even later). By then most other stores moved video games to electronics if they didn't start out there to begin with (not counting toy stores, but that's a different matter). Perhaps Sears stopped selling video games before restarting at some point, but I can't really remember now. But, yeah, perhaps Sears has some issues moving video games that go back many years.

    I was at Sears earlier and the person I was with noted that Sears didn't seem to be as busy as Macy's since we were there just before. Granted, the Sears store was busy (more so than usual because of Christmas), but it wasn't quite as buzzing as Macy's was. I guess that just goes to show the problems Sears has with generating shopper traffic. Perhaps more people would know that they sold stuff like PS4s if they could just get more shoppers in the stores.

    I came across an interesting article about a Sears store in Oakland, CA, that was damaged several months back during rioting and still hasn't been repaired. Some of the residents there aren't happy that Sears are dragging their feet and I'm sure the store's condition is pushing shoppers away. Some of the pictures are pretty sad.

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    1. I also remember the video games being with the children's section for many years. I think they moved the games there just after the Atari era in the late 1980's.
      The Oakland location is probably going to close soon, I can't see Sears sticking around with that damage unfixed. They will have to fix the windows if they are open of closed so they might as well get it done. The Midtown Houston location does not look much better though and has graffiti on some of the windows and walls on the outside of the store.
      I probably should have picked up the PS4 and turned a small profit on Ebay but I am not in the mood to ship and deal with any extra hassle from an Ebay transaction. I have noticed the vacuum section encroaching into the electronics section since the beginning of the year at all stores, and from your description of the Willowbrook store since I have not been there for a while. I wonder how the store that you informed me about several months ago without an electronics department is doing well?

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  44. Part II:

    The news about Lands End is not surprising, but it is disappointing. I think that Sears never integrated Lands End with their stores properly. Hopefully the spun off company will maintain a relationship with Sears so that customers can order and return stuff to Sears stores if nothing else, but it would not shock me if Lands End tries to distance itself from Sears.

    I don't think that Sears clothing has an overly negative perception in schools today, but I'm sure the "cool kids" don't go around promoting the fact that their clothes are from Sears either. It's probably like JCPenney clothes. It won't win you bonus points towards coolness, but it won't make you the embarrassment of the class either. Sears clothes were considered embarrassing for many kids once upon a time though. Sears Toughskins might have been durable, but they were a fashion faux pas in the 1970s. Interestingly enough, I think Sears still sells Toughskins kids clothing. I'm sure their reputation isn't nearly as bad today since they aren't as common.

    Kmart's fashions have always had a negative reputation as far as I know. They did have some success (at least for a while) with Jaclyn Smith's lines and stuff like that (I think she still has lines at Kmart all these years later), but otherwise it was pretty negative. Of course, Kmart's clothes were portrayed in a very negative way in the popular movie Rain Man. Maybe some of the trendy names that Kmart is using for their clothes now will help their reputation with the kids even if it won't help (or may hurt) sales to Sears' customers. Some of Kmart's commercials may be popular with the kids too. Kmart's clothes may be more hip than Walmart's, but that isn't saying much I guess.

    You're right that the Mall of the Mainland didn't have all the stores that Baybrook Mall has, but it still had a very respectable lineup during the mall's "prime" days. Of course, the mall always seemed like a "dead mall" since it had in-line stores that were never used. Still, it did have Sears, JCPenney, Dillard's, Palais Royal, and Foley's/Macy's at one point. Even with all of that, shoppers preferred going to those same stores at Baybrook.

    It is interesting that Sears was smart enough to build a small store at the Mall of the Mainland while just about everyone else including the mall developers themselves had super sized dreams. I guess Sears knew the Galveston market better than anyone else since they had a store at the Galvez Mall (though JCPenney had a store in Texas City before the mall as well). Also, Sears was very strong in the real estate and mall development market back then so they may have had a better sense of things than everyone else.

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    1. One thing I noticed with Kmart, Sears, and Walmart is that Reebok makes NFL clothing lines for their companies but makes a much lower quality jersey than you will find at any other retailer. I am sure people notice the difference like I do, they just don't look good at all. I have not purchased one of their jerseys so I cannot tell if the quality matches the price. A good jersey will last a few seasons as long as you hand wash it and air dry the jersey.
      Speaking of clothes I noticed that two Fiesta Markets that I visited earlier this week 1960 & 249, and Reliant both have downsized their clothing departments. I am not sure if I-10 East or 59 North also downsized their clothing departments but I will see next time I go down there. They had several items I bought over the years that were good quality items and probably overstock from department stores.
      Both Sears and JCPenney have/had small stores at Mall of the Mainland. I am not sure why JCPenney left when they did and then came back a few years later down the road. I guess they gambled with Baybrook getting all the sales from the Galveston County area and it did not work out. They have a prime location now near Dickinson.

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  45. Part III:

    I posted some links a couple months back of two similar former Montgomery Ward stores in Ohio that were converted into a Sears and a Kmart. Someone has recently posted indoor pictures of the Sears store in Sandusky, OH. One of them is a general picture and the other is of the electronics department. It really doesn't look much like a Montgomery Ward inside (at least not the Wards stores that I'm used to), but they are interesting pictures nonetheless. The electronics department one shows that store's selection of Maxell video cassettes as well. There is also a close-up picture of the auto center sign that is probably a Wards re-use. I know we discussed this earlier, but now there is a new photo of it. Interestingly, the Sandusky Mall still has a RadioShack in it next to the Sears. I wish that Willowbrook Mall still had a RadioShack next to the Sears.

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    1. That auto center sign has to be from the Montgomery Ward that was there before. The two former Montgomery Ward auto centers with labelscars I captured have the exact same font. You will see one of those auto centers in my upcoming Southpark Mall in Shreveport post. Deerbrook still has their Radio Shack for now, but we will see.

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  46. Part I:

    I think the JCPenney that you are talking about is actually in League City, but it is very close to Dickinson. I am sure that the intention is to draw customers from League City, but I don't think Penney's would complain if people south of League City shopped there too. Although I knew about that store (I've shopped at the Goodwill in that shopping center a few times), I never really thought about how close that store is to the Baybrook Mall location. It's quite odd that Penney's would put two stores so close together, but perhaps they wanted a piece of the League City pie. Although Baybrook isn't too far away, maybe they wanted to counter competitors like Kohl's who are closer in to League City.

    As for the League City JCPenney shopping center, it is certainly a "powercenter." That said, I wonder if the idea of mixing in traditionally B and C level tenants like the Goodwill and Dollar Tree with big name stores like Wal-Mart, Penney's, and Best Buy was done on purpose to add variety or if they had to do that to fill up spots. If it is the latter, it may add to the evidence that the area south of Baybrook is over-retailed and/or a difficult retail market for developers.

    I think that you are right to say that the Mall of the Mainland JCPenney was smaller than some of their other Houston mall locations. Then again, I believe that the Baybrook Penney's is also on the smaller side. I'm not sure why they decided to do that, but perhaps that further explains the need for another nearby store.

    Speaking of Baybrook, I did get a chance to go inside it. I saw the new Sears mall entrance sign that you were talking about. It's not a huge difference, but it does look pretty nice. It is interesting that the mall entrance sign glows blue when lit, but the new outside signs glow white when lit. As for the Baybrook Sears itself, I didn't realize that it is as nice looking inside as it is. Has it always been that way? I was pretty impressed how the clothing departments look like those of other department stores (maybe not as much so as the old The Woodlands Mall Sears, but it's still pretty nice). Also, the sporting goods department is large and designed to look like a gym. It's very impressive looking and I've never seen anything like it in person or in photos. I don't know if you noticed that on your last visit to the store. The mattress department upstairs also looks more like a mattress department at a nicer furniture store than what you typically see at a Sears. It's hard to say, but it seems like the Baybrook Sears electronics department location has not suffered as much from "appliance creep" as other locations. It actually seemed like that location didn't have that many appliances out on the floor. Maybe that is why there is a willingness to open things like a Sears Outlet and Sears Appliance Showrooms relatively close to the Baybrook location, but that is just pure speculation. But, yeah, the more "department store" looking layout of that Sears may be a bit more confusing to navigate than the relatively open styled Willowbrook and Deerbrook Mall Sears, but I actually think that it is a nicer look.

    As for the rest of Baybrook, it actually wasn't as busy as I thought it would be. They also seemed to have some event where people could get their dog's photo taken with Santa so there were a lot of dogs in the mall. That was strange. Aside from that, the mall looked nicer than I remembered it looking during my last visit in 2005. Then again, that was so long ago that my memories of the place may be unreliable. The retro styled food court facades were definitely an interesting sight. The somewhat circular layout of the mall was just as confusing to navigate as I remembered it being last time though.

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    1. In addition to JCPenney I also noticed the Palais Royal on the Dickinson exit that I forgot existed. It is really close to their Mall of the Mainland location, so Palais Royal will probably have to locate closer to 146 near the old Kmart. It would not make sense to move across the street unless they are going to combine the two stores. I visited the mall a couple of days ago and I noticed a gate in between the food court and the cinema that I have not seen before. Security was watching the gate and they were closing it off at around 9pm to block access to the mall from the cinema. I am not sure if that is what they are going to use to block access when they close the mall or if they are going to build a wall. The stores did not appear to have any going out of business sales yet, but we will see after Christmas.

      The Baybrook JCPenney is very small for what I thought they were going to build there when they acquired the site. The Montgomery Ward that was there was a large two story building and the JCPenney is not much larger than the Mall of the Mainland location was. You are right it is small.

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  47. Part II:

    I do not know much about replica jerseys since I have not brought one since the time that Weiner's was still around in Houston, but does Reebok still make NFL replicas? I know that Reebok stopped providing real NFL jerseys to teams after the 2011 season. I'm not surprised that Kmart and Wal-Mart sell lower quality apparel, but it is disappointing that Sears would do that too. I know that Sears has had trouble dealing with athletic apparel companies before so maybe they don't have a choice, but hopefully they aren't selling lower quality stuff just because it is cheaper to get a bulk discount on it since they can sell it at Kmart too. I think people shop at Sears because they expect them to have better quality stuff than Kmart and company. Then again, with free agency, the salary cap, and players that decline quickly, maybe it makes sense for fans to buy the cheap stuff since it really doesn't need to last unless they plan on collecting the stuff.

    I did some more research about that Sears Canada store that eliminated electronics and it seems like Sears Canada planned on eliminating electronics departments from other, if not all, their stores as well. I don't know if Sears US will do the same thing (I can't imagine the US Sears reducing their tool departments), but they are probably watching how things are going. Sears Canada has been selling off and closing stores just like Sears US though so I know they are struggling a bit right now too. Obviously I hope that Sears will keep their electronics departments, but it'll be interesting to see how Sears Canada does with their plans. It could end up being a Ron Johnson-JCPenney like failure and they may have to revert back to their old style.

    I found an article from 1999 or 2000 through a database at work that talked about some concept store redesigns that Montgomery Ward opened. It indicated that the new concept stores used the electronics department less as the store centerpiece and emphasized the clothing departments (and maybe other departments) more so instead. The article had photos of the redesigned electronics department, but they were low quality black and white scans unfortunately. I'll have to see if I can pull that article up again sometime, but perhaps even Wards saw the writing on the wall regarding electronics. Then again, I don't know how much luck Wards would have had with fashions either and they could have made some big-time cash off HDTV fever in the mid-to-late 2000s if they kept their focus on electronics. Of course, it's not like Wards was planning on eliminating electronics back then so perhaps they still could have taken advantage of the boom days.

    I'm glad that you finally made it to the 249 and FM 1960 Fiesta. I hope that you enjoyed it. I don't know if they have reduced their clothing department. I was last there in late October and I didn't notice anything hugely different, but I don't know. I last went to the Astrodome Fiesta in 2005. I remember that location looking quite nice inside as well. That store may have a similar layout/design to what the Kuykendahl and FM 1960 ex-Fiesta had, but that's hard to remember at this point.

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    1. Nike makes the jerseys now, but I keep referring to Reebok for some reason. Some places like JCPenney still sell the old Reebok jerseys on the shelf. Nike is probably the company making the NFL stuff for Sears and Kmart because of the agreement. Speaking of Kmart the movie Grown Ups 2 has a scene about 20 minutes into the movie of a newer looking Kmart location that is worth looking at. In the movie the Garden center has green turf down the aisles, the exercise section had blue carpet, and there are some home displays that look similar to the new JCPenney home sections.
      It seems like Wards was trying to work out some store redesigns but they were well behind what their competitors were doing already.
      The Astrodome Fiesta still has 80's style fonts, neon lights, and wood paneling throughout the store so it is a real treat for an old school enthusiast like myself.

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  48. Part I:

    The Dickinson Palais Royal store is very close to the Mall of the Mainland Palais Royal. Stage Stores, Palais Royal's parent, does tend to focus on small town stores so perhaps they can justify having stores in both Dickinson and Texas City especially since the rent in both of those places isn't likely to be that high. Then again, putting two stores right on I-45 just a couple of exits apart from each other (in a not so densely traveled part of I-45) does not make a ton of sense like you say. Maybe the Texas City store will close and not be replaced, maybe a new store will replace both of the older ones, maybe a new store will open closer to Texas City proper, or maybe a new store will open further south. It's hard to say. I would suspect that the mall store won't stay there long term, but who knows.

    I went to the Mall of the Mainland twice last week. I was there in the evening during my 2nd visit during the week, but I wasn't there that late to see this gate that you are talking about. I'm not really sure how the theater will operate once the mall closes. Does the theater have ticket offices near the outdoor entrances? Are there exterior entrances that lead directly to the main existing ticket offices near the mall entrance? If not, the theater might require renovations to allow it to operate once the mall closes. I can't see that happening if the location will be shut down in the next year or two, but then again, who knows. I'm not really sure how that theater is designed since I've only seen it from the mall food court. Maybe I'll get a better look at things during my next visit to the mall. I'm hoping to go there at least another couple of times in January before it closes.

    One thing I noticed during my evening visit to the Mall of the Mainland last week was that there were a handful of women sitting in the hair salon next to the nail salon over towards the Sears talking to each other in a casual way even though the gate to the store was closed. That struck me as being a bit odd. I don't think I've seen that salon open during my visits, but maybe the owners of it use it as a social hang out? Maybe it was open that day but had closed for business by the time I got there and there were still some people hanging out after the store hours? I don't know. OTOH, the nail salon was open for business and was quite busy.

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    1. There are entrances on both sides of the box office at the cinema. All they have to do is close off the access to the mall and customers can use the entrances in the back. I also wonder if the Affordable Furniture store will stay open because they have an outside entrance, but it looks like they may have cancelled their lease also. On my visit I was able to get a bunch of photos and I will sift through those for my article, and since there were virtually no customers I was able to walk up to some of the closed stores and get good photos. I wish I could get a tour of the closed wing so I could get more photos there, but I had a feeling that they were about to close off that section of the mall. I took several pictures of stores there the last few months that corridor was still open and the neon was still on at that point also. I am hoping to make it down there as close to the last day as possible and maybe in early January.

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  49. Part II:

    This Kmart that you are talking about in the movie sounds quite interesting. I wonder if it is a real Kmart or something they made just for the movie. Kmart references in movies in the past usually weren't a good thing for the chain, but maybe this is a positive thing. Between this movie reference and some of their popular commercials that air on Houston TV, I wonder if there are some Houstonians who are interested in shopping at Kmart again. I'm sure those who live where Kmarts still exist know that Kmart isn't quite as cool as the media references make them out to be (unless you're into the retro thing), but most Houstonians wouldn't know that.

    Along the same lines, I wonder if the Baybrook Mall Sears is some kind of concept Sears. The updated signage is quite unusual for a Sears, but the inside design (like the gym looking sporting goods department) are quite nice looking and could go a long way towards updating Sears' image. Of course, I don't really expect most other Sears to get all the features that the Baybrook store has. At least most stores are seemingly getting the new interior paint and stuff like that.

    One odd thing that I've noticed at Sears even in the last few years is that occasionally I will see a Sears price tag (usually on clothing) that says Sears using the 1970s Sears logo typeface (or something very similar to it) without the rectangle that surrounded the written part of the 1970s era Sears logo. Maybe it is just a coincidence since the 1970s Sears logo used a pretty generic serif typeface, but I don't know. Maybe that logo is used mostly on clearance stuff, but I think I've seen it on regular price stuff too. I'm sure that the products that these tags are on aren't from <1984 so it isn't that.

    I was reading an article about Sears Hometown stores today and it seemed to indicate that the Hometown stores (and perhaps the Outlet stores as well, but it's hard to tell from the story) may be getting rid of consumer electronics departments. That's a real shame if it is true as some smaller towns don't really have electronics stores (though I guess they could always order stuff from Sears' website through the store), but it'll be interesting to see if Sears themselves are keeping an eye on the results. Of course, the Hometown stores and Sears itself are different companies these days, but they are still very much linked so they know what is going on.

    Some Montgomery Ward stores were stuck in the 1970s, but others were updated fairly regularly. The Willowbrook Mall store, which didn't even exist in the 1970s, was updated only a few years before it closed and I thought it looked pretty nice. It wasn't fancy of course, but they put in new carpeting, new vinyl floors too I think, and some new signage. It's hard to remember for sure, but I'm thinking that it probably looked more modern/upscale than what many Sears stores look like today. Anyway, their new concepts probably would have gone to the better performing stores and some of the other stores (probably the ones that were stuck in the 1970s already) might have stayed untouched. It's hard to say.

    It sounds like the Astrodome Fiesta has not changed since my last visit ~9 years ago. Although the layout/shape of that store is a bit different from the 249 and 1960 Willowchase Fiesta (I think at least), both stores still have the neon type lighting, wood paneling, and 1980s signage. The Willowchase store still looks like it did when it opened in around 1988 for the most part in fact unless it has changed significantly since my last visit in late October. But, yeah, the 1980s style big Fiesta stores are very interesting because they are untouched, but still look very clean.

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    1. The Kmart from the movie is a real location, per several sources here is one of them, http://www.yelp.com/biz/kmart-stores-tewksbury
      It was a Kmart turned into a Sears and back into a Kmart. There are some other retro references in the movie including an 80's party at the end of the movie. The movie presents Kmart in a modern way, so many people have not seen a store like this one.
      I am not sure taking away electronics will help the Hometown stores to improve sales. I really hope this is not the end of electronics at Sears, but I would think they can still make a good profit because of their buying power. I wonder if there is a huge surplus of old price stickers that Sears is still using. Maybe some manager out there added too many zeros to an order and ordered 10,000 instead of 100 and they are still using them up.

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  50. The Kmart-Sears Essentials-Kmart cycle Kmarts tend to be the nicest ones. I think the conversion to Sears Essentials got rid of a lot of the "retro" elements that linger on at many Kmarts and the conversion back to Kmart meant that those stores got most of the latest design ideas.

    Some months back I came across a YouTube video that was taken inside a Kmart store in 1990. I couldn't find that video again and I feared that it was deleted. Well, I happened to find it again today. Here it is. I think you'll really like it. It even has a quick scene of the TV viewing rooms that Kmart used to have. It seems that the person who posted video of the Kmart in-store cassette tapes filmed this video too. Well, if nothing else, you'll have some idea how to dress if you go to a Kmart dressed retroly.

    On the topic of retro Kmart videos, Kmart had some memorable Christmas commercials 20 years ago in 1993. I thought that you might like to look back on some of those. I like this one because it discusses the fear of programming VCRs that many people had. The uploader of that video seems to indicate that that VCR was overpriced, but that was probably a normal going rate for a Hi-Fi VCR in those days. That RCA VCR was probably made by Panasonic so it was probably a decent model, but I believe that might be a model that didn't have the LCD front panel display/clock. I never liked VCRs that were designed that way. Then there is this commercial where the guy is afraid that all of Kmart knows about his pink underwear. Well, that wouldn't be so much of a problem these days since there generally aren't a lot of people in Kmarts!

    Kmart may not get rid of electronics so perhaps it helps their buying power to have Sears sell electronics too. It's hard to say what will happen, but hopefully Sears will keep the electronics departments.

    Perhaps Sears is still using price tags from the early 1980s. I know that they are still using bags with the previous logo because I was buying something at Sears a few weeks back and the guy in line in front of me got his purchase in a bag with the old logo. I doubt that they are still printing those so I guess they have a lot of old stock of those. On that topic, it seems like the Sears that I go to didn't use the Christmas bags with the maroon print until a week or so after Black Friday. I noticed this last year too. It might have been this way in 2011 too, but my memory is a bit fuzzy on that.

    I'm glad that you were able to get more photos. I look forward to seeing them even though I have been to the Mall of the Mainland quite a bit lately. Perhaps we were at the mall on the same day late last week, but we probably weren't there at the same time. It seems like maybe we have crossed paths in Texas City a couple of times lately. Anyway, I was wondering about the furniture store too. I have not heard anything about them staying open, but it seems like the store is configured in a way that it could. I guess we'll see what happens there. That is good to hear that the box office will still have access even after the mall closes. I wonder if they will build a wall to separate the mall from the theater or if they'll leave it open so that we can continue to see the mall even after it closes. If they do build a wall, hopefully they'll paint up some faux storefronts on it and put the Nikki-Gloria postcard on there just for the hilarity of it! That postcard has to be the lasting memory of the mall.

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  51. I will post a reply to the other comment at a later time.
    The Kmart commercials were interesting, and I saw a part of the old Kmart video from Ogden but I did not finish the video the first time I watched it. Lots of perms, mullets, and mustaches in that video, not too many of those around these days.
    The fake storefronts are very funny on the still open half of the mall. The ones on the other side of the mall were not as interesting. There was a bicycle store, a camera store, and a large empty store space with pictures of food pointing to the food court. The now closed section of the mall did not have as much unused store space as the side that is still open. I have a bunch of pictures of that side of the mall also. I am hoping to have all items up on the blog for the post that I plan on having up by February. I still need to do more Chron archive research since the Galveston news is locked out to us non-subscribers. I did compile a store list from January 1999, April 2001, November 2011, and a list I made in February 2013 walking through the mall. I will see if I can get a list around 2005 or 2006 from the Internet Wayback machine. 7 stores/ kiosks from the 1999 list are still open now, not including Sears, Palais Royal, or the Cinema. I am glad I was able to capture these sections of the mall that are now closed off to the public.

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  52. Part I:

    There has been some buzz this week about a new Sears soft lines commercial that has Sears seemingly admitting that people use their store because it has plenty of available parking. It's a bit odd that Sears would seemingly admit in a commercial that their store isn't popular, but maybe it is a good strategy. There's no point lying and stating that Sears is popular with the fashion crowd. Maybe the commercial will get people to look around the store more when they use Sears for the parking space. The one thing that made me laugh was the fine print at the end of the commercial where it says that the image on the phone is simulated. Perhaps they should have put some fine print in the middle of the commercial stating that the store is simulated too because I'm not sure if there is a Sears store that looks that modern and well organized. Maybe there is one, but I'm not aware of it. The Baybrook Mall Sears looks nice and modern, but perhaps not to that level.

    Some other 1993 Kmart commercials of interest are the ones that featured Kmart's then chairman, Joseph Antonini. One discussed Kmart's commitment to building new Kmarts and renovating old ones while the other took on Wal-Mart's claims about always low prices. I suppose that we can say that the combination of the quality of the stores and the prices weren't good enough to stop Kmart from getting trampled in the 1990s.

    Yes, the fashions from that video and the 1991 San Jacinto Mall video are quite jarring. It's a bit hard to believe that those videos are less than 25 years old because they seem a lot older in many respects. Mullets and skinny ties are out of fashion for the most part. The male Kmart employees had ties on in that video. I don't really remember if that was true here too or not, but they must have gotten rid of them by the time the new Kmart logo came on and the employees started wearing the red vests.

    On an unrelated note, I found a picture of a RadioShack at Menlo Park Mall in New Jersey (seemingly a rather nice mall) that still has 1970s era signage. It's pretty funny to see that old logo right next to RadioShack's newest logo on the stand-up below it. I'm not sure how many RadioShacks still have signage that old, but that logo does remind me of Radio Shack's glory days when I used to really enjoy going there.

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    1. Sears ad's have been comical recently and I think it is a good method to bring attention to their brand even if they are making fun of themselves. Who knows if it will translate into more sales for the company though.
      The Radio Shack logo is a very familiar one for me, but I cannot think of any locations that still have it. Even the small city malls of Northeast Texas had updated 1990's Radio Shack logos before they were shut down.

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  53. Part II:

    My first visit to the Mall of the Mainland was only in September so I have only seen the eastern half of the mall in photos. I've visited the mall several times lately, but it would be nice to see what the mall looked like when it was fully open and when it had more stores open. I did find a 2011 video of Family Feud auditions at the mall that seemingly shows the exterior mall entrances to the theater box offices. It also shows some stores around the food court that no longer exist at the mall. The fake storefronts and the overly optimistic postcards on the walls of stores that never opened are probably the most memorable aspects to the mall. It really separates this mall from other struggling/dead malls across the nation (in addition to the fact that the mall was essentially a born loser). They even had a relatively recent video commercial that was overly optimistic. It's quite funny how the mall tried to convince people that the mall was successful when it was totally obvious to the shoppers that it wasn't. Maybe they should put up one of those faux storefronts and the Gloria-Nikki postcard in the Texas City Museum that is in the old pre-mall Texas City JCPenney.

    It's hard to imagine the Mall of the Mainland having 7 total stores aside from the anchors today much less 7 that are still around since 1999. Anyway, I do look forward to your post about the mall. It certainly was a strange mall and it deserves some kind of retrospective piece done about it now that it will be a dead mall for sure. Perhaps the Galvez and Port Holiday Malls should be mentioned too, but I don't know how much info you will find on those without access to the Galveston Daily News archives. Speaking of which, the photos the Daily News took for the mall closing article last week are online to view.

    One thing that I find interesting about the Mall of the Mainland is that the Sears there must have gotten new signage at some point. The store must have opened with 1984 era signage, but it must have been replaced at a young age (by Sears standards at least) with 1994 era signage. The mall entrance signage must have changed too, but it didn't get the white tile treatment that most Sears got. That may have been a good thing though as I think the Sears mall entrance looks nice even if it is a bit basic. Unfortunately, I guess we won't get to see the mall entrance there for much longer.

    I don't know if this is new news or not, but it seems like there are plans to build a new amusement park called Adventure Pointe in Texas City next to the Tanger Outlets. Who knows if the park will actually get built or not, but if it is built, I wonder how it will impact the outlet mall. Also, I wonder how it would have impacted the Mall of the Mainland if it lived longer. We can only speculate about that. But, yeah, I guess the Buc'ees may not be the only new attraction to Texas City.

    Take your time with the replies. I should mention that the "Top comments" widget on the right side of your blog isn't working for me anymore. Anyway, it is nice that you are planning on adding more articles in 2014. I'm sure that you have a backlog of articles that you started in 2013 that you have yet to publish if nothing else.

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    1. When Boxer properties was managing the mall in 2010 to 2012, they really did a good job of marketing the mall. Commercials, radio ads, mall events, and billboards were used to help drive traffic to the mall. Sadly once the plan for the outlet mall was finalized, all hope for a retail revival vanished. I will have some Galveston county mall information to add to the post, I might even see if a local library there will be able to help out with some dates.
      If I remember correctly Sears replaced the Houston area mall location signs around the same time in the late 1990's, but I may be wrong.
      There are a couple of theme park proposals floating around, but so far none of the projects have began. There was one near New Caney that fell apart a few years ago, and they are trying to get a new project going on the same plot of land. I don't know if a theme park will do well in that area because of the Kemah Boardwalk and the Pleasure Pier in Galveston that are both nearby. The other two parks are located near the water and other tourist attractions, but the outlet mall is an attraction also.
      Thanks for letting me know about the widget, from time to time those stop working.

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  54. Sears and Kmart have both used comedic TV commercials lately. Some of Kmart's commercials have been controversial, but it seems like Sears' commercials are just good natured fun. I know that Sears Optical has been using funny commercials for quite some time now too. While it's not unusual for a comedian to use self-deprecating humor, it is quite unusual for a company to do that in advertising no less. We'll see how that approach works for Sears. Maybe they'll start quoting Rodney Dangerfield in their future commercials.

    I do remember the Mall of the Mainland radio commercials earlier this decade. I would like to say that those ads did not work, but who knows. Maybe those ads kept the mall as viable as it was the last couple of years. Maybe it would have closed down even sooner otherwise.

    The proposed Texas City amusement park (as well as the NE Houston one) could just be "paper" amusement parks. The owners may just be floating around ideas in the hopes that outside investors or local government bodies will throw money at them. That would not be unusual. You are right to say that the Fertitta amusement parks would offer some competition for any park in Texas City. The ease of entry and parking may help a Texas City park, but it is strange to think of Texas City (especially the part by I-45) as being a tourist destination. The dog track never really made it that, the Mall of the Mainland never made it that, and I don't think the outlet mall has made it that even if it is popular. Perhaps Buc'ees and the amusement park, if it opens, might make it a tourist destination though. If so, it might be a case of cruel timing for the Mall of the Mainland, but I don't know if it could compete with the outlet mall even if there are a lot of tourists in the area.

    I think you are right to say that Sears replaced the signage at some of their stores in the late 1990s, but I believe most of those stores had pre-1984 era signage. I'm not sure how many Houston area Sears that had 1984 era signage got 1994 era replacements. The Woodlands Mall and West Oaks Mall Sears didn't get new signage on the outside, but for some reason the Mall of the Mainland Sears did. That just seems odd to me.

    I can't imagine that there are many corporate RadioShack stores with the old, old logo like that one in New Jersey. There may be some rural area independently owned Radio Shack Dealer stores that still have the old logo like this store, but I guess that's a bit of a different story. The combination of the old signage and the mall location really makes me want to visit that New Jersey store as it brings back a lot of memories of the glory days of Radio Shack. Unfortunately, that store still has phones right up front so there is no denying that it is a modern RadioShack behind that vintage sign.

    I did like that "Top Comments" widget because it is hard to know what comments have been posted to your blog otherwise. Hopefully you'll be able to get that up again.

    I think you may have no choice but to get access to the Galveston Daily News archives. Maybe one of the libraries in that area has database access to that paper and maybe they'll give you a library card so you can access it from home. Who knows. I think you'll have to use that paper because the Chronicle provides very spotty coverage of Harris County malls much less the surrounding county malls. I don't think the Chronicle even mentioned that the Mall of the Mainland is closing. This website did cover the story though and they also used one of your pictures in their story.

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    1. The top comments widget is broken and I was unable to find a new one for now. I think this same widget had problems not too long ago so Blogger should replace it.
      Speaking of the Mall of the Mainland I just uploaded my pictures from 2012 and earlier this year. Just from those batches I have over 150. pictures not including the Macy's. I have my work cut out for me on this one, lol. I still have partial access to many bookmarked articles from the mall that I can use. I was able to get store lists from 2004 and 2008 to fill in the gap from between 2001 and 2011 that I had on those lists. Gloria from the postcard will be happy to relive her great shopping trip from years past.
      The retro Radio Shack sign is strange to see in use because many malls require that stores keep their storefronts updated. I guess the sign will stay in better shape in a climate controlled environment than outside.
      Speaking about old storefronts if you look at my La Gran Plaza Mall article, there is an old Foot Locker storefront complete with wood paneling from probably the 1980's still in use at that mall. The Footaction there also had a retro logo, but I think it was newer than the Foot Locker logo.
      Speaking of Sears, this is the time of year that many department stores make their cuts to unprofitable stores. I wonder if they are going to stay at the Mall of the Mainland since it looks like they are potentially going to be the last business left at the mall. I also wonder if Macy's will close any more stores here. For the past two years Macy's has announced store closings in the Houston area in January.
      I am not sure about the status of the new theme parks in the Houston area, but for 8 years nobody has been able to replace what was lost when Astroworld closed. We have more than enough residents in Houston to support a theme park and keep it profitable.

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  55. Part I:

    It is interesting that you bring up the point that this is the time of year where retailers announce store closings. I just now remembered after reading that that today is the 13th anniversary of the announcement that Montgomery Ward would go out of business. What a memorable and sad day that was in 2000. I still remember where I was when I heard the news.

    But, yes, Sears (and Macy's too I guess) have announced closings at around this time in the past few years. The Mall of the Mainland Sears is probably the most likely Houston area Sears store to get cut due to underperformance (stores closing due to the value of the property is a different story). That said, the mall has been practically dead for quite some time now so I'm not sure if the mall closing really changes much from Sears' perspective. Plus, the store is probably right-sized as it is and it's probably in pretty good physical condition relative to other Sears stores (it is the 2nd newest remaining Sears store in the Houston area). Then again, the Baybrook Mall Sears (not to mention the League City Sears Appliance Showroom and the upcoming Clear Lake Sears Outlet) make the Mall of the Mainland Sears a bit redundant. The fact that the Baybrook location was recently renovated probably doesn't help things much either for the Mall of the Mainland location.

    Hopefully the sales will be okay for the Mall of the Mainland Sears relative to the store size. It's not like Sears is going to strike it rich selling that real estate if they close that store unless there is a buyer for the mall who desperately wants Sears gone (as far as I know, there aren't buyers of any kind) so it might be worthwhile for Sears to keep that location open for now unless it is losing money. We'll see though. It could go either way and it would not be surprising if the store stays open or closes.

    I came across an interesting article discussing Sears' strength in the online sales game. It seems that they are the 3rd largest online retailer in the US behind Amazon and Wal-Mart. That's pretty impressive even if the difference between them and Amazon is probably bigger than huge. That article kind of contradicts itself by implying that Sears should deemphasize their stores, but then discusses Sears' advantage over Amazon by saying that the store pickup option gives Sears an instant gratification advantage. I think Sears should continue to emphasize their online sales, but they need retail outlets too for some products like appliances that are harder to sell online and so people can pick up and return online orders. Granted, stuff like this can be done with Sears Hardware sized stores instead of mall anchor sized stores, but I would like for the full-line stores to remain. It gives shoppers a lot of options. Of course, Sears has copied a lot of Amazon's online ideas like having 3rd party sellers and having a subscription service that enables free shipping.

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    1. We will see in the next month if any store closings will happen. The Sears, the Cinema, and the restaurants away from the hotels are going to probably struggle even more when the mall closes. All of the retail is shifting to the other side of I-45 and to the exit North of the mall.
      It is interesting that Sears is such a big player in the online sales category. I have used their store pick up option a few times to save some money, but there are a few issues that I have found with that option. Hopefully they will get those worked out as the company continues to grow this part of the business.

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  56. Part II:

    Earlier we discussed a blighted urban Sears store in Oakland that you thought would be closed down soon. Well, you might be right. There are new reports indicating that there are negotiations going on that Sears will sell that location to developers who plan on using that building for a large retail hub. The developer states that Sears would be welcomed as an anchor tenant in the development, but I'm sure some kind of low lease price would have to be negotiated into the sale price because I can't imagine Sears wanting to pay high rent (or even a moderate rate rent) these days.

    Menlo Park Mall seems to be a higher end Simon mall so it is particularly surprising to see the old signage there. Maybe the mall operators value the heritage of the sign, but I kind of doubt that. The old wooden basketball court style Foot Lockers were one of the most memorable 1980s/early 1990s mall stores so it's good to hear that some of these stores still exist in one form or another. A lot of shoe companies use retro designs so it only makes sense for shoe stores to use retro designs, right? Well, retailers seem to disagree, but at least there are a few holdouts.

    I'm really looking forward to your Mall of the Mainland article. I just looked up the Zip Code of the address that Gloria "mailed" that postcard to and noticed that it is Greenspoint Mall's Zip code (77060). I'm guessing they made up some kind of fake city name, but I wonder if the Greenspoint reference was intentional or not! Maybe the Mall of the Mainland was saying "Hey, at least we aren't Greenspoint!" Of course, Greenspoint has many more shopping and entertainment options than the Mall of the Mainland has had in recent years especially even if the physical condition of the mall and the perceptions of crime are better. Anyway, in the epic battle of Greenspoint vs. Mall of the Mainland, I think the win goes to Greenspoint. Sorry, Gloria! At least she will have Sears (maybe). Well, if noting else, she will have your pictures to remind her of the glory days!

    Hopefully Blogger will have a replacement widget. A lot of your viewers reply to old comments so it is nice to see when a new comment has been added.

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    1. I appreciate your continued comments and news links, I don't have much time to keep up with all of the news lately. The Menlo Park Mall Macy's signage is probably around 30 years old. The Macy's that opened here in the mid 1980's all had the logo that appeared to be cut into the side of the store. The former Deerbrook Macy's still has a visible labelscar of the Macy's logo that was partially covered up by Dillards.
      The zip code for the postcard is interesting, I wonder why they used that zip code. I think the fake storefronts were added a few years after the opening when it became apparent that the mall was not doing as well as they planned. I am still surprised that the mall opened with so much empty space in the first place. I guess many retailers were turned off by the location of the mall.

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  57. I was surprised to read that Sears was the 3rd biggest online store in the US when I saw that. A lot of people who have Sears on their deathwatch list say that online shopping is hurting Sears big-time, and that may be true to some extent, but it may also be a way out of the hole too. Of course, Sears will still need a physical presence for stuff like appliances.

    I think there are a lot of gains that Sears can make to their e-tailing effort. It would be nice if one can ship Kmart orders to Sears stores for free (and vice versa) and if one can return Kmart orders to Sears stores (and vice versa). Also, there are quite a few things that I've seen that are sold by Sears, but they aren't eligible for free shipping to a Sears store for some reason. They should fix that. That said, and I don't know if this is universally true, but I've noticed that Sears clerks can give you free standard home shipping if you order something online through the in-store computer kiosks even if it wouldn't have qualified for free shipping normally. Also, you can pay with cash or whatever at the register if you order through those computers (at least if the clerk helps you, I don't know if it would work if you did it by yourself) so that is good for those who don't want to or can't use cards online. I don't know if the free shipping thing is always true of if the clerks have been extra nice to me. Maybe it is an unadvertised thing. I'm sure there are limitations on it though for stuff like appliances.

    Also, Sears really needs to improve the search feature on their site. I have not tried Sears' store stock pick-up option, but I have been tempted to do so with some of Sears' good online daily deals.

    The Menlo Park Mall Macy's became a Macy's in 1986 according to Wikipedia. That's from the same era as the Willowbrook and Deerbrook Mall original Macy's. I don't think there is any Macy's labelscar on the Willowbrook Dillard's, but maybe I have not looked closely enough.

    The Texas City retail scene is certainly trending toward the west side of I-45 (though some of it, like the Wal-Mart, is technically in La Marque I think). I'm sure restaurants will open on that side of the freeway eventually, but most of the Mall of the Mainland outparcel restaurants are fairly inexpensive places that may have enough customers from the locals even without relocation. It's hard to say. I think those restaurants should do okay (if they're doing okay now) as long as the theater stays where it is. They may be in trouble if/when the theater moves. Let's face it, most of the mall goers are going to Sears, Palais Royal, or the theater. Those will still be there for now at least.

    The Mall of the Mainland has a bad location for visibility, but it has a bad location for business even in a broader sense. The area south of League City just has not grown much in size or wealth relative to other Houston areas. Plus, Baybrook Mall has always been a tough competitor. To some extent the Mall of the Mainland was a bit of an overachiever just to get 2 big department stores in Foley's and Dillard's (not to mention the other anchors), but clearly there wasn't much hope for them once they were built. I don't know what made them think that Texas City needed a mall that big given the competition up north and the failure of the Galvez Mall, but DeBartolo usually picked the dumb option over the smart one. Maybe the mall was able to get so many anchors because mall construction became so rare in the early 1990s that the anchor stores were willing to take a chance on questionable projects that were going to be built just so they could open more stores. That may have given DeBartolo and company a false sense of interest for a big mall. Perhaps the in-line stores were more judicious since in-line store openings come up at successful malls more easily than anchor spots. That's just a guess, but that could be way off.

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    1. I have had problems in the past returning items from one Walmart to another. The store I was returning the item at which was closer to me did not carry that item so I wound up having to go back to the original store. I guess Sears may have issues like that with products from one store to another especially if you buy something at Baybrook and try to return it at Mall of the Mainland which has a much smaller inventory of products. The free shipping is something I have not tried to get, but I will see if I can make it happen next time I need to buy something for an online price. The mobile version of their website is not user friendly at all and I switch to the web version while on my phone.
      The Baybrook and Willowbrook Macy's stores were extensively remodeled and expanded after Dillard's took them over. Deerbrook was remodeled on the inside but the outside was never changed, except for the sign. I am surprised that they did not remodel the outside of that store and it is beginning to look old in comparison to the other anchors at the mall.
      I think Hurricane Ike set the Mall of the Mainland area back a few years and development has been further north until recently. The area still has good potential, but many of the new good paying jobs will be closer to Baytown and the Ship Channel area or in West and Northwest Houston.
      I can see the mall coming down in a few years or faster if someone buys the property. The company that owns the mall now is dealing with the termination of the store leases to make the mall more attractive for a sale. A buyer will be able to go in and demolish the structure easier with the interior of the mall closed. The Palais Royal is the wild card which will still be open until 2015 and is fully attached to the mall. The Sears and the cinema can still operate if the mall structure is demolished.
      I wonder if the anchors came because of the money spent to build the mall and anticipated the owners would fill the mall quickly with stores. I know the Foley's came two years after the mall opened, and was supposed to help to complete the mall. The mall gained some of the popular, trendy stores in the 1990's, but no new ones came in after 2000. I know the vision for the mall was to operate a regional center that would be a good fit for the area, but the mall was built too big. If they had made the center smaller and filled the mall with stores the perception would have been that the mall was successful. Having one or two less anchors would have made the sales at those two anchors good enough to keep the stores in business. Since the mall was never more than 80% leased the mall was never considered a successful mall. Baybrook was not affected greatly by Mall of the Mainland and the perception was that Baybrook was better. Even in the first years of Mall of the Mainland the owners knew that the mall was going to be a challenge.

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  58. Part I:

    I visited the Mall of the Mainland yet again. There still aren't a lot of indicators of the mall's impending doom, but there are some. The nail salon has already closed and there is a sign saying it has moved to a new location (oddly enough, the hair salon next to yet had women talking in it yet again even though the gate was shut. It's like those women use that store just as a social hang out). The Asian relaxation store has a small going out of business sign on it. Also, all the "space available" signs in the empty stores are gone except for one spot by the food court (next to Palais Royal I believe). I'm not sure why that store still has an available sign. The other stores are seemingly operating just as usual without special sales. Some of the stores were surprisingly busy today. The Bath and Body Works seemed as busy as one of those stores at a successful mall.

    It's hard to say for sure, but it seemed to me that some of the vacated storefronts that were perhaps boarded up last month may have been unsealed. It just seemed like I saw more storefronts today than I saw before, but I could be imagining things.

    I noticed that the Mall of the Mainland Sears store hours are now quite strange. I think it said that they close at 7 on Tuesdays and 6 on Wednesdays. I figured that was a bad sign, but I looked at the Sears online store locater on their website when I got home and noticed that quite a few Houston area Sears stores have early closing times on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (I think the Deerbrook and Baybrook Mall locations were the only two with 9PM closing times during all 5 weekdays). Perhaps those are special New Year's hours for this week? Surely the Willowbrook Mall Sears does not close at 6PM on Wednesdays normally, right? There's nothing online or on the Mall of the Mainland hours listings that indicated that they were holiday hours that I can tell, but who knows. We'll have to see what the website says next week.

    I also noticed while checking Houston Sears hours that there is a Sears Hometown store in Alvin. Maybe you mentioned that to me earlier and I'm forgetting it, but I didn't know that there was a Hometown store so close to Houston. That's somewhat interesting.

    I wonder if Foley's was stuck with building the Mall of the Mainland store before the mall opened or if they had a chance to back out once the early returns were disappointing. Surely the developers were expecting the Texas City and surrounding area to grow more than it did or else it was really foolish for them to build such a big mall. Of course, it might have been equally foolish for them to expect that area to grow significantly. The eastside petrochemical plants may provide for well-paying jobs, but people have strong aversions to living near them for obvious reasons. That's why it's a bit surprising that San Jacinto Mall and the Mall of the Mainland were built as big as they were. Anyway, the idea of waiting for the population to grow backfired because the mall opened empty and that gave the mall the "dead mall" stigma from the start even though it did actually have a decent roster of stores in the 1990s AFAIK.

    I think the anchors were so happy that someone was building a new mall that they ignored that DeBartolo was quite incompetent at building malls. I don't think that was a secret even in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but maybe they were hoping for a turnaround. Sears and JCPenney perhaps didn't have much to lose by going to the Mall of the Mainland since the former was stuck at a dying mall (Galvez Mall) anyway and the latter had a very old in-town store that needed replacing. I'm not so sure what Dillard's and Foley's were thinking though.

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    1. I passed through the mall the other day and noticed the same signs at those businesses. The kiosks in the food court were zipped up at around 6pm, but they still had products in their displays. The store with the lease sign was an EB Games which was taken over by Gamestop but kept the name. I think all of the cars in the parking lot were people shopping at Bath and Body works when I was there also, the place was packed. The cinema had a ton of cars also, but hardly anybody was in line for tickets. I did not notice any strange hours at Sears, perhaps it was only for New Years. I did notice new stickers on the entrance doors to Sears with the new logo. I know Dillard's was in a heavy growth phase that started in the 1980's and continued until the early 2000's. New stores and acquisitions killed off much of their competition during this time. Foley's was a part of almost every mall in the Houston area, so I am sure they did not want to be left behind.

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  59. Part II:

    Ike probably didn't help matters, but I'm not sure if the mall would have faired any better even without the hurricane. It was a struggling mall for years before the storm. Maybe some tenants would have stayed a little longer, but they probably would have left sooner or later anyway.

    I'm not sure what the new owners (if there are new owners) will do with the mall. They may not need to tear down the exterior walls of the mall if they turn it into an office, warehouse, or hospital. I think the old Sam's next to the mall will be turned into a warehouse. I think the Sears will be ok if the rest of the mall is demolished, but the theater has an odd location there in the back. It would be strange for someone to have to build around that (and other abandoned anchors if they don't have the rights to them). Either way, hopefully the building won't just sit there and rot. That would be a real shame.

    I have heard that Wal-Mart is picky about returning stuff to different locations. It would seem strange if that is true, but maybe their logistics are so lean that they can't tolerate cross-store returns. I'm not aware of Sears having that issue (though they don't take back Kmart online orders, but they do take Sears online orders), but maybe they do too. I know I returned a Willowbrook Mall Sears purchase to the Memorial City Mall Sears a year or two ago and I didn't have any problems with that. I don't know if this is still true or not, but I think Sears had one of the weaker return policies for electronics and small appliances a couple of years ago. Maybe that has changed, but they should look into changing that if it is still true. The old "satisfaction guaranteed" slogan for Sears is still salient for many of their shoppers. They shouldn't jeopardize that.

    I also visited the Clear Lake area Fry's store this past week. Wow, that was a disappointment. That store is so poorly organized now. I needed a couple of things (a cable and a memory card), but I could not find the advertised memory card and I only found one type of the cable I needed even though they probably should have had at least 5 or 6 different varieties of it. It's quite possible that they had the stuff I wanted spread out in different locations across the store, but I made 2-3 rounds through the store and didn't see them. The aisle signs were vastly inaccurate too. There were cables in aisles not marked as being cable aisles and the aisles marked for cables had other stuff in them (though some aisles had mostly empty shelves). I could have asked a clerk for help, but I was pressed for time so I just left. I probably should have justed asked first instead of going around the store, but I had not been in that location for a few years so I wanted to check it out. Anyway, it's a good thing that I did leave because I was able to get some awesome clearance bargains (>80% off regular price) on stuff I use at a local RadioShack that I happened to stumble upon by accident (the price tags weren't marked with the real sales price). Granted, the regular price was very expensive, but the sales prices were very, very good. They are better than online prices even without counting shipping. Plus, finding the stuff there was a lot easier than the easter egg hunt at Fry's. Maybe RadioShack does still have a useful purpose after all, but one can't expect to find those kinds of bargain surprises all the time.

    I did notice that Fry's was selling exercise equipment. Is that new? Maybe that is one use for their excess floorspace. I wonder if more furniture will be next for Fry's.

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    1. I noticed the same with both of the Fry's locations that I go to. West Rd. and I-45 is the other. I don't know what is going on, but I hope they are not going to pull out of Houston. Half of their former Music and Movie section is being used for weird odds and ends and "As seen on TV" stuff. Yes the exercise equipment is new to Fry's.

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  60. Part III:

    I came across pictures of a very interesting retro mall, the South Shore Mall in Aberdeen, WA. The pictures are from 2011, but I doubt the mall has changed much since other than it seems that the JCPenney has closed. That mall had a Kmart anchor at one time, but the store was demolished. You can see where the store was in some of the pictures. It's too bad there isn't a picture of the Sears mall entrance because I'm curious about what kind of signage it has. Could it possibly have pre-1984 era signage inside? Perhaps it has newer signage or else the photographer probably would have taken a picture of it.

    Sorry about the long-windedness of some of these replies. One more thought about the Mall of the Mainland for the night. I'm guessing the Gloria-Nikki postcard was put up in around 2001-2002ish since that's when First Class stamps were 34 cents. Of course, postcard postage have yet to cost 34 cents, but they will become 34 cents on January 27, 2014. Gloria will have a few days to send that postcard with the correct amount of postage while the mall is still open, but will it be delivered in time for Nikki to plan a visit before the mall closes? Oh, the intrigue of that postcard continue!

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    1. I have seen that mall before, a friend of mine sent me some info and links to the mall. I am surprised that the JCPenney closed there. I think the Sears also has the old signage just like outside, but I can't find the pictures that I had. I would like to visit there someday, but I have not traveled more than 400 miles away in about 10 years.
      My first visit to the mall was in 99 or 2000, I don't remember much about that visit except that several parts of the mall were vacant. I don't remember if any of the fake storefronts were there yet. The food court area seemed busy as it was during the best years of the mall. Between Foley's/ Macy's and JCPenney in the mall concourse, most store spaces were occupied. Once you walked past Foley's/ Macy's towards Sears it was almost as empty as it is now. Once you walked past JCPenney going towards Dillard's it was more of the same, emptiness. I guess the fake film store near the old JCPenney was the best one on the other side with the claim of one hour photo. I wonder if anyone actually asked where those stores were in the mall anywhere thinking that those were advertisements for real stores.

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  61. Part I:

    I just checked the Sears website for the hours of the Houston stores and they seem to have returned to normal hours now. The Mall of the Mainland Sears closes at 8pm during weekdays just like it did before Christmas. Those oddball hours must have been a New Year's thing. It does seem though that the West Oaks Mall Sears closes at 7pm on Tuesdays (9pm otherwise) and that Main St. store closes at 7pm Monday-Saturday.

    Sears have these stickers on their entrances now that says "Welcome to your Houston Sears" (or whatever the name of the city where the store is) and then on the back side it says to people leaving "This isn't goodbye." Well, in the case of the Mall of the Mainland mall entrance, it might be goodbye (for that entryway at least) because I would have to assume that the mall entrance will close permanently here soon.

    Sears has been a hot topic today. Retail analyst Brian Sozzi, who is often quoted saying negative things about Sears in business articles, decided to photograph disorganized Sears stores again. Someone wrote a story about those photos today and decided to visit a Sears (the Santa Monica retro store) to see if it was as bad as Sozzi was making it out to be. The author found that the Santa Monica store was quite well organized actually. Anyway, that story has generated over 700 user comments in just a few hours and most of the comments are slamming Sozzi and are even accusing him of having a beef against Sears and some are accusing him of staging the photos. Others are saying that of course some shelves are empty and messy during and right after the holiday season. I'm a little surprised to see so many comments defending Sears as usually people are ready to slam Sears, but maybe the trend is changing a bit. Who knows. I would not say that Sears has the best organized stores, but this isn't the best time of year to judge things like as the comments say and some of the photos seem like nit-picking that one could find at every store if you look hard enough. Either way, it's impressive that a Sears story could generate so many comments in just a few hours. You can see some pictures of the retro Santa Monica Sears in page 3 of that story.

    I found a news video talking about the decline of that mall in WA and it showed the Sears entrance briefly. It looks like a typical white tile 1990s entrance. It seems like maybe that mall declined quickly in the last few years according to that story. I don't know much about it, but it looks very interesting. I have not been able to do a lot of traveling in the last 10 years either. I did get to go to the Rust Belt a couple years ago and visit some areas where a lot of dying retail photographers live like Cleveland and Western New York, but I didn't have enough time to visit some of the famed dead and vintage malls up there. I did go to a couple of successful malls up there including a rare successful ex-DeBartolo mall, the Summit Mall in Akron. That mall isn't very big (perhaps DeBartolo should have built more smaller malls), but it is a bit unique in that it had a Cleveland Indians store in it (I believe Memorial City Mall had a Rockets store in it at one time), and both Firestone and Goodyear have mall showrooms in the mall to go with service centers. Of course, Akron is the city of tires so I guess it makes sense. That mall also had some kind of local Fox affiliate studio in the food court. I didn't quite understand that.

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    1. I did see many of those pictures from Sears and JCPenney to be too much of a finger pointing session. Most of the competition has the same exact issues going on right now. I can also see kids moving things around at stores and leaving things on the ground. Employees are not always available to pick things up off of the floor every minute of every day.
      Tire stores inside of the mall, that is a new one for me. Some of those Northern malls I have seen featured on Labelscar and Deadmalls, and I would like to make a trip there someday.

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  62. Part II:

    I may be wrong about this, but I think the Mall of the Mainland used that ex-EB Games location as their gift wrapping station during the Christmas season. Maybe that's why they forgot to take the sign off it, but who knows. You are right that Dillard's and Foley's may have opened stores there just to have a presence at the mall and to prevent any competitors from getting a presence in the area.

    I do wonder if those fake stores fooled anyone into thinking that the mall was successful. A lot of the fake stores are for things that wouldn't be at a mall anyway (like sailboat supplies), but photo processing was a mall staple for many years. Maybe some people were wondering where the photo lab was. The odd thing is that photo labs became outdated quickly (though they still do exist) so that fake store must have made the mall look even more ridiculous and outdated in the latter days of when that side of the mall was open.

    I think the decrease in products at Fry's is happening at all their stores. I was reading a forum comment recently and user spiralscratch commented that his Fry's (it does not say where he lives) is now using shorter racks that don't have as many products on them. Fry's has always sold oddball stuff like the As Seen On TV stuff (maybe we need As Seen On TV type mall stores here in Houston like this one, this one, or this one), but it does seem like they have more of it now. Maybe it's seasonal stuff, but maybe not. I don't think Fry's is planning on leaving Houston, but they need to up their game. I can understand why they don't have as many products to sell given the current state of consumer electronics, but they should at least improve their store organization and signage. They should have enough room now to find good spots for everything.

    I was looking at the Northwest Mall Facebook page and someone left a message there on Jan. 1st saying that the exterior Macy's signage was removed (or something like that, I can't read the while comment since I'm not a member). I have not heard any updates about the Palais Royal there, but hopefully it is open. There have been a couple of other small mall fires in the Southeast Texas area recently. The Deerbrook Mall Casa Ole had a tortilla warmer that caught on fire on Black Friday causing a mall evacuation (though a user comment said that it was a partial evacuation). The Macy's at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont had an odd fire a couple of days ago. A worker was vacuuming when the backpack vacuum cord shorted causing her clothes to catch on fire. She had to be transported by helicopter to a burn unit in Galveston.

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    1. Yes the EB Games was the gift wrapping store during the Holidays. It was a Gamestop for a short time before it closed, but I am not sure if the signs were changed.
      The Woodlands Mall has or had an As Seen on TV store on the first floor near Macy's, but the prices were much higher there than buying from the TV or another store such as Walgreens.
      Fry's will probably continue to experiment with new departments and try to find a way to profit without decreasing store size.
      I may have to pass by Northwest Mall in the near future to check that out. The rumor a few years ago was that the mall was going to come down and become a lifestyle center, but so far nothing has happened. I know the freeway construction has played a part in the lack of progress at the property.
      The two fires in a short period of time for two nearby malls is strange and I hope the lady in Beaumont is okay. I heard about the Deerbrook Mall incident, but I was glad that nobody was reported as being hurt.
      Have you been to the Mall of the Mainland this week. I may have a chance to make it there next week, or for sure in the next three weeks. I guess the rest of the stores should start packing up soon or running sales to clear out merchandise. I don't think any of the stores will be able to move to the Outlets down the road which is sad. The Finish Line and Lane Bryant closed at the mall and opened at the Outlets shortly thereafter. Claire's had a store at the mall until just recently, but opened at the Outlets and kept the two stores open for about a year.

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  63. Part I:

    I have not been to the Mall of the Mainland this week (not yet at least), but I will visit it again sometime in the next week or so. I will be sure to report my findings. I did visit Northwest Mall this week though to see what was going on there. I went at night so I couldn't see much and I only saw the Hempstead side of the mall, but it does appear that the Macy's signage is gone. The signage is gone from the mall entrance as well, but the Macy's President's Day Sale ad is still up there from 2008. The good news is that the Palais Royal is open. I did not go in the store, but the store appeared to be in good shape when I looked inside it while walking past it and the mall entrance looks perfectly normal. I did not have enough time to go fully down the antique mall wing, but the ex-Macy's wing and the center of the mall look about the same as it did when I last visited the mall maybe 6 months ago. There were a decent number of people at the mall especially considering that a number of the tenants were already closed for the day. I'd like to visit Almeda Mall soon just to do a mental comparison while my recollections are still fresh.

    I'm not sure if Bath and Body Works and Footaction would fit in at an outlet mall. My guess is that Texas City will lose those stores once the Mall of the Mainland closes, but we'll see. I have not been to the outlet mall yet and I really don't have any intention of going there even though I do drive by it to get to the Mall of the Mainland.

    I don't remember an As Seen on TV type store being at The Woodlands Mall, but you may be right. It seems pointless to sell that stuff at prices higher than they are elsewhere since that stuff is easy to find, but maybe there are desperate gift buyers who are willing to pay. I figure that stores like that would make more sense at B or C tier malls and not top tier malls, but maybe not.

    Yes, I'm not sure what those photos prove. Just about every large store has some sort of disorganization to it especially at this time of the year. Walmarts tend to be quite messy, but it hasn't stopped their progress. A lot of it is caused by careless customers. I've seen photos of some Kmart stores that are tragically disorganized, but I don't think Sears stores are much worse than their competitors (and perhaps they are better than some competitors especially in tools/hardware). I'm glad that many people are calling out Sozzi though. It just seems like he had a predetermined opinion and then found photos to support that instead of letting photos speak for themselves when compared to other stores.

    Sears announced their holiday sales today and they were quite bad to put it lightly. I'm not sure what Sears can do to rebound, but perhaps these results will spur on changes. Hopefully the changes won't just be asset sell-offs like what has been the case for years.

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    1. I made it to the Mall of the Mainland earlier, not much has changed. During the afternoon all kiosks were closed but still appear to be stocked. The Jewelry store at the end of the Food Court was open, but the rest of the stores looked the same as they were 2 weeks ago when I last visited. I guess the rest of the stores are going to just pack up and leave sometime between now and Jan 31st. All of the Christmas decorations were down, but the fountain is still covered up. I don't see Footaction going anywhere new, but Bath and Body Works and Affordable Furniture may go into nearby shopping centers. The mall was nearly empty, but there were a few people there. A vendor was emptying the candy machines in the mall and placing the candy in bags to probably take to a different mall.
      I have not been to Northwest since late summer and I just went to the antique store. I don't think much has changed and the mall seems to be hanging on well for now.
      The Sears in Lake Charles has the new signage now. The mall entrance letters glow in white and not blue like at Baybrook, but I am glad to see a smaller metro area store get the new signs. There was also a new Sears Outlet a couple miles down, so it looks like Lake Charles is a good market for Sears/ Kmart. The Kmart just had the front of the store refreshed.

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  64. Part II:

    Some of the most famous "dead malls" are in the Cleveland-Akron area. Perhaps the fame is because those malls have so many locals blogging about them, but maybe there are so many dying retail bloggers in that part of the country because of the amount of dying retail there. It's hard to say. Some of the Rust Belt cities were notoriously overmalled though so tales of "dead malls" are to be expected I guess, but that area does have some interesting successful malls as well. Randall Park Mall near Cleveland was perhaps DeBartolo's crown jewel when it was built, but it might be the biggest case of failure and incompetence as well. I know it's hard to imagine the Mall of the Mainland's developer having an even worse plan, but it happened. DeBartolo wasn't the only one who made mistakes though. Rolling Acres Mall in Akron has been extensively covered by bloggers and photographers as well. As for the tire stores, Firestone used to be based out of Akron and Goodyear still is. I guess that's why Akron takes their tires seriously, but it was odd to see tire showrooms in an otherwise relatively upscale mall. It probably helps the other stores in the mall though to have a lot of auto service customers wandering the halls with nowhere else to go.

    One interesting Rust Belt "dead mall" is the Penn-Can Mall in Syracuse, NY. The mall was closed and turned into a large car dealership "automall" called Driver's Village with several new car brands being offered. They turned the anchors into things like an indoor used car lot. I'm sure that you've heard about this mall. This website has many historical photos of the mall that shows off some very, very 1970s looking mall storefronts.

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    1. Those are some very famous dead malls indeed. There are just so many failed malls especially in Ohio that one has to wonder why do they keep building retail in that area? I don't know if you had mentioned Garfield Heights of if it was someone else, but that is a very interesting quick failure of a new major shopping development. I am looking at the Penn-Can Mall site, those 1980's photos and the inside photos from 2002 are awesome. I wish I had the idea back in the 80's and 90's to get pictures inside of many malls that are gone. There are almost no photos from the inside of Town and Country Mall online, and that is just one mall I should have filmed.

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  65. Part I:

    This is quite weird because I also made it to the Mall of the Mainland earlier. I also saw the guy packing up the candy machines by the furniture store and taking them to the white Dodge Sprinter van parked in front of the entrance between the furniture store and Sears. I wonder if we were there at the same time? That would be quite odd because it seems like maybe we have had other trips to Texas City retail spots on the same days. Odd.

    But, yes, I noticed the same things that you did. Most of the shops are not showing signs of closing. Perhaps they will just operate normally until the mall closes and then their inventory will be moved to other stores or whatever. It's hard to say. It does seem like some shops, including at least one kiosk, already have plans to move to other shopping centers in Texas City. All of the kiosks I saw were closed today, but as you say, it looks like they had inventory under the covers. One of the kiosks did have a sign saying that they were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays though.

    The ex-EB Games still has the for lease sign on it. I don't know why. I don't know if you noticed this, but it continues to seem to me that there has been some activity at some of the empty storefronts. For example, the food court space towards the end of the food court towards the Sears end of the mall (next to the oddly abandoned juice place with the running fan) had the doors and windows open so that you could see into the kitchen. I don't remember seeing that before.

    I wonder if the Affordable Furniture store may be one of the stores that stays at the mall. They aren't one of the stores listed as staying, but they don't show signs of closing either and they do seem to have an exterior entrance as well. We'll see I guess.

    I made another trip to Northwest Mall after the visit I made in my previous post. I wanted to see the part of the mall that I didn't have time to see during my previous visit. I don't know if I've noticed this before in any of my visits to NW Mall since it was renovated in the 1990s, but there is a hallway next to the antique mall that seemingly was never renovated. I went back and looked at your old photos and you did have a picture of it. I don't know how I missed that or don't remember that, but yeah. That's kind of interesting. I'm thinking that maybe the old Woolworth's cafeteria was near there, but I can't remember for sure. I also came across this interesting article about the mall. It's about a year old, but I don't think much has changed.

    The mall is struggling even compared to something like Almeda Mall, but in some ways it's doing better than I would have expected it to do. It had a decent number of visitors to it during my two recent visits and it seems to have a discount niche to it. I can see the appeal to bargain hunters, but the stores at the mall aren't very diverse in their offerings. It would be nice if they had an electronics store or two or something like that. One bargain that I found was the pizza place there. I was able to get a 4 topping 12" pizza there for $6 I think. That's very cheap for mall pizza and it was quite good I thought and not too greasy. They also had some kind of independent burger/chicken strip place that might be interesting to try sometime. So, yeah, the mall does not have big name stores, but maybe it does have a value niche. Hopefully that is enough to keep it relevant. At least the mall is kept in pretty good condition. It's good that the owners have not neglected it. One thing that is interesting is that it seems like that mall still has all of it's old pay phones. I don't know if they all work, but they are there.

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    1. I was leaving when I noticed the guy taking apart the candy machines so we were probably there at the same time. I had not talked to any of the vendors to see if they are going to continue to operate elsewhere, but I hope as many of them as possible can continue their businesses. I think I mentioned this earlier but 7 of the businesses there were listed in the 1999 directory. 5 of those are not corporate businesses.
      I was able to drive by Northwest also, but I did not stop in. That area is a serious mess right now with the road construction. I had to try and remember where the signs were because not much of a labelscar is visible. I wonder if Macy's is going to demolish the store and start over, or if that is it for them at Northwest. I guess I could look at Loopnet to find out if the property is for sale. Northwest does look more modern on the inside compared to Almeda.

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