Friday, March 28, 2014

Blockbuster stores in December 2013


Blockbuster Video corporate stores closed on January 12, 2014. Franchise stores still open are located here . The closing of Blockbuster marked the end of retail video rental stores for most communities in the United States. About 300 stores were left at the end of the Blockbuster era, but there were several thousand stores in the heyday of Blockbuster. The final video rented from Blockbuster was fittingly The End. In a matter of just a few years Redbox, Netflix, and Youtube eroded the sales from Blockbuster and changed video rentals forever. At one point in 2008 Blockbuster almost purchased Circuit City which would have been a disaster and probably killed the Blockbuster stores faster. Dish purchased Blockbuster from bankruptcy in 2011 and proceeded to close the stores until finally the last company owned ones were finished off. 

 Here are two Houston area stores in the final weeks of the going out of business sale. RIP Blockbuster








198 comments:

  1. I never had much use for Blockbuster Video. We usually rented VHS movies and video games from the grocery stores and Phar-Mor since they were cheaper. Often I found that the grocery store tapes were less worn out and the game discs there were less scratched than what was found at Blockbuster. Of course, we used the public libraries as a free option as well. I remember the great times when the Harris County Public Library checked out Commodore 64 software and games, but obviously the era of libraries checking out software for free is long gone.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad that you were able to document a piece of home video history. Plus, Blockbuster had so many locations at one time that they were a significant retail real estate force. Netflix and RedBox crushed Blockbuster, but the Redbox situation at least is kind of a repeat of the past before Blockbuster when just about everyone had video rental services like Circle Ks, grocery stores, Sound Warehouse, FotoMats, and more. There were also small local and regional video stores too all over the place that Blockbuster and Hollywood Video mostly crushed out of existence in the 1990s.

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    1. Hollywood Video had the 5 day $5 rentals of all new releases which helped them compete with Blockbuster. Once Blockbuster started competing on price, Hollywood sunk. Blockbuster's changes came too late to save the company, but they at least tried to match up to Redbox. Blockbuster machines had different prices for movies which did not help them capture market share from Redbox.
      I forgot to mention libraries, I rented from several libraries over the years for free. The late fees are no joke though and you better have those movies back on time.

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  2. Both Greenspoint and San Jacinto are both stuck in limbo right now. The store counts are remaining steady, but the properties could be so much more. Both malls had ambitious plans to add and renovate large parts of the properties but so far only Greenspoint added the theater and that is all. Northwest is in a similar position, but filled a vacant anchor which always helps even though the property still looks the same.
    It is interesting to see stores from other places, but I have never been overseas to see what they do in other countries.

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  3. Part I:

    I will post my replies to your recent posts from the Sears Midtown post here since that post is getting full. I apologize in advance for the long-windedness, but there are a lot of topics to get to today. I read the Sears articles that you linked and I have some thoughts about them. As for the ones about customers hating Sears, I wonder if some of that is just the nature of what Sears sells. Many of Sears' core lines are not "sexy" products that people want to buy. Stuff like appliances, tires/car repairs, mattresses, and home repairs aren't things that people want to spend thousands of dollars on, but people do tend to go to Sears when the need for those things arises. People rarely get excited when they spend big time money to get something that they didn't really want to buy (like getting a new washer when the old one breaks) so they aren't going to get happy about a good purchase experience. OTOH, they are going to fume if their are issues with the purchase. Of course, with things like repairs and delivered goods, the chance of a bumpy purchase experience is elevated.

    It seems like it is inevitable that every popular story about Sears will have several user comments with people saying that they will no longer shop at Sears after an issue with an appliance purchase, repair, or car repair (often times the incidents that caused the protest happened 5, 10, 20+ years ago). The assumption might be that Sears is somehow incompetent. I'm not saying that those user comments are fabricated (not all of my dealings with Sears over the years have been great), but Consumer Reports customer surveys about appliance and mattress stores (I'm not sure about car repair places) shows that Sears is about equal to other stores like Macy's, Best Buy, Lowe's, and Home Depot. On top of that, Sears branded products tend to score near the top of the product ratings and those are only offered at Sears affiliated stores. Perhaps the difference is that stores like Lowe's and Macy's are better known for "sexier" products that people actually want like home improvement products and clothing fashions.

    To that extent, Sears' "Softer Side" campaign to reframe the image of the company may have been a good idea, but we know that it didn't work out so well. I know that Sears is still trying to push their soft lines, but it seems like a futile effort so far. Things like tools may be sexy for some and Sears is well known for them, but perhaps it isn't enough to change the predominant thoughts about Sears being an appliance store first and then everything else after that. Of course, it really does not matter if Sears has a legitimate consumer service issue because perceptions are more important than reality and the perceptions about Sears aren't always good. Sears needs to try to change that perception somehow.

    I have conflicting thoughts about whether it would be smart for Amazon to buy out Sears or not. I do think having each store act as a mini-distribution center for online purchases is a good idea. Plus, Sears is pretty strong in a lot of areas where e-tailing isn't so strong like appliances and mattresses. Sears would also give Amazon a lot of exclusive house brands. Amazon does not really have that now and it could open the door to a competitor stealing sales from them. Also, Sears is a pretty formidable online seller (and their online sales strategy is quite similar to Amazon's) so a buy-out would eliminate one strong competitor in the field.

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    1. I still have not been able to get to the last comment you posted on the Sears Midtown article despite approving and having the comment showing on the approved tab of the blog. I messaged Blogger, but they never respond.
      I wonder if models holding tools and wearing Sears fashions would help out the new clothing campaign. I am thinking that Sears can continue to keep their male following and gain more female customers if they advertise the new clothes in the next month before Summer really gets started. I don't get those comments about people holding a 5-20 year grudge against the company for a simple issue with one product. If that is the case, people would not buy from any store especially Walmart. I still think you have a much better chance of getting a great product from Sears than you do at many competitors.

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  4. Part II:

    OTOH, Amazon does not have experience running a massive physical store operation. Will they be able to manage that smoothly? Plus, a lot of Sears/Kmart locations are in less than prime locations these days and some of the stores need a lot of reconditioning. Why would Amazon want those burdens? I'm also not sure how Kmart fits into the strategy. I can understand how Sears would benefit Amazon since they sell stuff that isn't easily sold online like appliances, but does a Kmart type store offer the same utility? Or would they be converted to grocery type stores or Sears type stores? Perhaps the biggest issue is how they will price goods at the physical stores. Can they sell products at stores with the same prices they have now with the added overhead costs? It's possible that they could with the added buying power. If not, will Amazon shoppers use the stores if they cost more? Will the higher store costs give shoppers the impression the website is also expensive even if that isn't really true?

    It's hard to say if it would be wise for Amazon to buy out Sears. Perhaps the best strategy would be to buy them, but operate them separately so that they can balance the positives and negatives. This may all be theoretical though as I'm not so sure if it'll happen. Amazon is usually a pretty forward looking company so I'm not so sure why they would want to spend so much money on old B&M retail properties.

    Sears' stock did well today thanks to one of their directors buying a large amount of their stock. The interesting thing is that the director who did that, Thomas Tisch, is cousins with the co-owner of the New York Giants, Steve Tisch. With that in mind, I wonder what is up with all the Dallas Cowboys stuff at Sears and Kmart stores. Perhaps Steve needs to have a talk with his cousin.

    I've been looking at some Kmart news lately. Most of it are local stories about stores that are closing. One interesting story is about a Kmart store in Ohio that is closing due to the shopping center owner not fixing a bad roof. It seems that some of the Kmart shoppers are very upset about the situation and are trying to convince Kmart to stay. I thought the video in this link about the story is quite interesting. It seems unusual that some people are so upset about Kmart closing, but hopefully the shoppers will be able to keep their Kmart. Another store closing story is about one of the 2002 green and grey concept Kmarts that is closing in Michigan. There are some interesting photos of that store including this one, this one, and this one. Finally, there was some news about the Killeen Kmart a few days ago. It's not a store closing story, but it is a weird story. Then again, Killeen has had a number of serious situations over the years including some recently so perhaps we should not be surprised.

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    1. I am sure Amazon would shrink the company down by at least half if a deal happens. Some stores like Deerbrook would possibly be subdivided because both floors have easy parking and mall access.
      I really like those Green Kmart stores, there is just not enough Green in stores today. Most stores have the boring cream, white, and red colors. Walmart is actually one of the most colorful stores, but it is not a fun place to go. Did you hear about the Walmart in Kemah and the crazy guy there who made a bomb threat also. It is scary to have these events happening and retailers will probably start increasing security which will increase the cost of goods.
      On the Dallas Cowboys note, there have been some recent sporting games where Tony Romo attended that the team he was rooting for lost the game. There was a meme that I can't seem to find that had 3 games on it including a Duke Basketball game. I guess it only matters for the Giants in the Football season though.

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  5. Part III:

    Both Greenspoint and San Jacinto Malls are too big. I don't know how big they should be, but perhaps they should both be half the size that they currently are. Of course, both have closed corridors, but they both need extensive renovations that keeps the malls small, but in a more continuous way that does not make the malls feel like "dead malls." I'm not sure if that is really possible without moving anchors (and I doubt the anchors would want to spend money at those malls).

    Levcor has done some upgrading to Northwest Mall's exterior. I believe that the entryway signs and such are relatively new. The mall is in pretty good condition inside and the mostly 1990s style interior is still relatively modern by current mall standards. The mall is small enough that it does not feel as dead as some other struggling Houston malls. That said, it really needs a major anchor and/or junior anchor to drive traffic to the mall. The antique mall is better than nothing, but it probably isn't a huge traffic driver to the mall's other stores (aside from the food court perhaps). Perhaps something like a Burlington Coat Factory would help. Anyway, I think Levcor is doing a pretty good job keeping the mall going as well as they are given all the hurdles facing that mall right now. Hopefully the 290 construction will be kind to the mall in the long run, but it's hard to say right now.

    As far as the concrete floors go, home improvement stores and warehouse clubs have an excuse for using them since they drive their forklifts out on the salesfloor. The forklifts would probably tear up or mar regular flooring cover, but it's probably fine on concrete. That excuse does not explain why JCPenney and others use concrete floors though. I know that Ron Johnson did his best to drive a bulldozer through JCPenney stores, but that does not count. I am glad to hear that the Deerbrook Mall JCPenney is mostly intact though if nothing else. Hopefully the concrete floor thing is just a design fad and will pass soon, but I do wonder if some stores are using it just because it is may be cheaper to operate. I don't know if it is cheaper to build and maintain, but perhaps it is. I'm not sure. Either way, it is not attractive.

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    1. If San Jacinto and Greenspoint are reconfigured I am sure it would result in the mall getting torn down and a boring "lifestyle plaza" would get built. I think that there should be a rule in our area regarding the outdoor malls, make the developers go out in August and spend an hour walking around in the afternoon heat. Indoor Malls should continue to be built in South Texas as future or replacement developments. I know we stay away from the outdoor malls as much as possible from May-September because of the heat. It is bad enough to walk across a hot parking lot to get to a store, but to have to walk down a corridor and a parking lot to get to a store is too much especially on busy days.
      I think about 3 years ago is when Almeda and Northwest received the facelift. Almeda hopefully will get an interior remodel in the near future, the mall is beginning to age.

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  6. The closing of video rental stores also happen outside US, and nowadays employment opportunities have shifted to online marketing. That's why lots of retail stores now are making ways to survive in the market despite the popular online stores.

    The Retail Signs Blog

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    1. Many areas in the US have too much retail space for the demand and will continue to see closings. There is still a need for retail stores and malls seem to have shifted to have mostly clothing stores in the past 10 years. With the exception of Sears all department stores carry only soft goods and have left the hard good sales to specialized and online retailers.

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  7. Part I:

    It seems like just about all retailers now are trying very hard to woo female shoppers. Female shoppers control a large amount of the buying power and that is only growing. I know I read a couple of articles a few months back discussing how Lowe's is significantly outperforming Home Depot with female shoppers and how that is having a major impact on the bottom line for each company. For whatever reason, it seems that Sears is also struggling to attract female shoppers.

    The famed "Come See the Softer Side of Sears" ad campaign was actually quite effective in driving female shoppers to Sears back in the 1990s, but Sears' research indicated that it really didn't matter because the shoppers weren't finding the clothes that were showcased in the ads. I guess that is always a tricky situation for companies. They can have the most brilliant ad, but they ultimately won't work if the shoppers come to the store and are unimpressed. To that extent, Sears has to make sure that the products and store itself has to meet standards if they start to advertise their women's fashions and things like that.

    I know that some of the lyrics to some of the Softer Side of Sears ads combined messages about tools with messages about fashion. Another interesting thing about those Softer Side commercials is that they often featured older women (older in the sense that most of the women in them were older than what is typical for female fashion commercials). That also must be a difficult balance for retailers like Sears. Everybody wants a younger demographic, but Sears probably does not want to lose their loyal older customers by shifting their product lines too far towards youth. Ron Johnson almost killed JCPenney in part by doing that. Marketing to an older demographic may not be sexy and the media critics like Brain Sozzi and such will be sure to grill Sears if they do that again, but the reality is that Sears is a store for a more mature demographic. People in their teens and 20s for the most part (and even more so these days) aren't buying major appliances, lawn tractors, home renovations, and other things that Sears counts as being their core lines. Older people are more likely to have the money and the need to buy these things though since they own homes. Of course, it's also important not to make Sears seem like a store for the dinosaurs or else younger people will avoid it and they may never come back. I guess there is a balance there. Hopefully Sears can find that.

    One thing that I've noticed about Sears commercials/marketing these days is that they almost always focus on one department. Perhaps it would also help if they showcased the store as a whole sometimes. I think one of the most effective Sears commercials was this "Come See the Many Sides of Sears" 1990s commercial. Many of the "There's More for your Life at Sears" 1980s commercials also did a good job showing off the whole store. Of course, we know that Eddie Lampert likes to have each division of Sears compete with one another and this may mean that each department has their own marketing budget and so we may never really see a cohesive storewide marketing strategy as long as Lampert is around.

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    1. The look and feel of Home Depot is not as inviting as Lowe's for female shoppers. Both stores carry mostly the same merchandise except Lowe's has more of a showroom feel and seems cleaner. If Sears can fully support the fast fashion initiative and run a lot of TV ads it will help Sears bring back some female shoppers. The older look of many of Sears stores is what keeps many people from going there. The perception especially with the younger generation is that nothing new and fresh is in the stores. Many young people especially in Houston are moving into more dense developments that do not require lawn and garden items and tools to keep up with the property. Sears is going to have to get the fashion part of their store going and carry smaller appliances that appeal to this demographic of young professionals.

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  8. Part II:

    Perhaps another reason why people hold long-term grudges against Sears is because of their house brands. If someone gets a bad Kenmore appliance, for example, they may blame Sears as a manufacturer (even though they don't really make anything) more so than they will blame them as a retailer. Best Buy, Lowe's, and others don't really have that issue. I guess that is the other side of the coin when it comes to house brands, but not all of the grudges are from house branded products so there's more to the story as to why people keep these grudges against Sears even though there really isn't a lot of evidence that Sears' customer service is worse than that of companies with better reputations like Lowe's (Best Buy also has a pretty negative reputation even if there aren't as many 10-20 year old grudge stories about them).

    Well, I'm sure Tony Romo is used to losing by now! I noticed something very weird a few weeks back when I looked at a Macy's coupon. Macy's is a bit infamous for having coupons that say they are for anything but then they have about a million exclusions printed in fine print at the bottom of the coupon. I was reading the fine print on this coupon and it excluded the discount from Dallas Cowboys items. No, not all NFL stuff, just the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe that is just a regional exclusion and I don't know if all of their coupons exclude Cowboys stuff (or other teams), but even then it does not make a lot of sense. I know that the Cowboys are one of the more popular teams, but I don't understand why retailers seem so obsessed with them. Are they really that popular even though they have not won anything in a long time? Perhaps the retailers keep buying into media hype that the Cowboys are going to be Super Bowl contenders even though (thankfully) that has rarely been true in recent times.

    I never really warmed up to those green and gray Kmart concept stores. First off, green and gray is a bit of a weird combination. You don't normally see those colors together. Also, Kmart is synonymous with red (and blue to a lesser extent) so the use of green was a bit odd especially since they were reusing the 1991 era Kmart logo. Red is probably overused by discounters and other retailers and green is underused, but I'm not so sure if Kmart should have been the one to use the green.

    I did hear about the situation at the Kemah Wal-Mart. Of course, it's not totally unexpected to see things like that happen at Wal-Mart as we've seen before. There was a situation at the FM 1960 and N. Eldridge Wal-Mart about a year ago where thieves set off fireworks within the store to create a distraction while they tried to steal goods (TVs I think). That must have been scary for the shoppers. Why someone would target a Kmart is a little more questionable given the lack of people at most of their stores, but who knows.

    The Chronicle had a recent article about Willowbrook Mall. There's nothing groundbreaking in the article, but it may be a nice update for those who have not been following things closely. It seems that the mall is getting new furniture. I wonder what that will be. West Oaks Mall has some nice seats in the mall. I noticed a few people sitting there while reading or using electronic devices. Perhaps Willowbrook will go in that direction, but we'll see. I did drive around the mall on my way to Sears today (it almost seems like I live at the Willowbrook Sears these days) and the Nordstrom Rack is progressing quickly. It looks like the walls of the store are pretty much fully built now.

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    1. I come from a family that shopped at Sears and Marshalls a lot. I never have really known anyone to have such a bad view on Sears like some of the people do that comment on the Sears articles. Most of my Lawn and Garden, Kitchen appliances, and tools are from Sears. They sell items that work much better than many other stores, but they are not perfect every time.
      I guess Jerry Jones will not sell Cowboys items for anything lower than his price. He has to pay Tony Romo's salary somehow I guess. The new Macy's at the Galleria has a Lids Locker Room section which is great except they only sell items from Houston/ Dallas teams. The Lids Locker Room stores carry items from all teams which is how the stores should be, but I guess not in this case.
      The Sav A Center markets that were in the New Orleans area had Green color schemes which were interesting. I hope to visit one of those Kmart stores one day before they are all gone. Hopefully they will continue to keep at least a few of these open and untouched.
      I have not been to Willowbrook for about a year now so I look forward to seeing the changes there. That empty lot where Nordstrom is being built seemed like such a waste. I wonder if the old anchor was left standing, would Nordstrom have built a full line store there at Willowbrook. They probably would have just demolished the building like they did at the Woodlands Mall but you never know.

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  9. Part III:

    I am not sure if you've been thrifting lately, but I'm noticing some trends at Goodwill stores lately. While it was once very easy to find a VCR at a thrift, that's not so much the case right now. Perhaps Goodwill is not selling all the VCRs they get in now or perhaps the supply for them as donations has slowed down. A couple of stores that used to have a lot of VCRs a year ago had zero of them during my last visit. OTOH, I'm seeing a lot more stereo gear in the thrifts right now (though CD players have been plentiful for at least a while now). Perhaps this is because Goodwill can sell them for more than VCRs. This almost never happens, but both of the Goodwills that I visited this week had tape decks for sale. Neither of them worked unfortunately so I didn't buy them (I suspect bad belts on both of them), but it's weird how things trend in the thrifts. The good news is that VHS cassettes are still plentiful at the thrifts.

    Cassettes have made a lot of news this month due to a couple of things. One is a video that went viral about kids trying to use a Walkman. The other story is out of the UK where a survey there found that 1 out of 10 young people there brought an audio cassette recently. It seems that physical media sales are still strong and perhaps even booming amongst young people. It seems that many of the buyers aren't even listening to the physical formats, but they buy them because they want to have a physical copy to go along with the digital copy. I don't know what to make of that. It's good that young people appreciate having a physical format, especially cassettes, but it would be nice if they tried to listen to them too. They may be surprised by how good it sounds (though perhaps they know), but I'm sure a problem that a lot of them have is that they don't have access to decent equipment to play the stuff on since good new tape decks are hard to find these days. Anyway, perhaps the Kmart Walkman woman would be a pop icon in the UK these days. Perhaps Kmart's road to becoming popular again should start with them selling cassettes again and then they will become a hip store that everyone wants to shop at and be seen in. Ok, maybe not.

    One of my favorite stores is Micro Center. Well, it came as a surprise to me to read this week that Micro Center is relocating their 20 year old Houston location. It sounds like an office building will be built where the current store is now. The current store is on prime real estate so that isn't too surprising. The new store is certainly in a less convenient location for me (and most people) so I'm not too thrilled about this news. I hope this won't impact their sales too much. Perhaps the progression of the relocation of the store may be something that you can cover/photograph for the blog if you're ever brave enough to spend a decent amount of time on the West Loop. Of course, there is always the construction events at The Galleria that may also be something that you would cover, but I'm not as interested in that.

    I did not realize that you did not get one of my comments on the Sears Midtown post. I'll repost it here below my current comments so you can see that post. Yes, it's a shame that Blogger can be unreliable sometimes. I'm really missing the gadget you had on the site that showed the latest comments. I know that people are providing updates to some of your other posts, but I never see them because I don't know where they are. Hopefully Blogger can get around and fix that for you, but it seems like their support isn't so good. Anyway, I'm glad to see that you are continuing to post new content to the blog.

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    1. I have missed out on thrifts lately, I have mostly purchased the VHS and music cassettes that I was looking for. I may be in the market for a cassette player with A/V connections sometime soon though. It would be a good thing if some newer bands came out with cassettes to supplement their album sales. Kmart would be ahead of the curve if they brought back cassettes and young people could follow the walkman lady for a run. It does not seem likely after watching that video with the kids trying to use a walkman though.
      I still have not visited the Micro Center store, I have been in the area numerous times but never made it there. I keep forgetting that store is there and Fry's seems to be the first place I think of going if I need some computer items. The office and condo market is very strong in Houston and many shopping center sites in that area will be lost in the near future to make way for large towers.
      I have been finding good cassettes at Half Price Book stores lately, it seems that people are dumping their collections and I have had a lot of success in the last few visits.

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  10. This is a repost of a message I made on April 17, 2014 in the Sears Midtown post since it apparently isn't visible to all users there due to a technical issue.

    For some reason I am just now able to load your most recent replies even though I looked earlier. I suppose that we have to click "Load more" twice now to get all the current replies in this thread. I'll have more comments about your replies in a day or two as I don't have a lot of time right now to write out a full response.

    I'm not a big fan of concrete floors in most retail settings. I don't have a problem with it at warehouse clubs and home improvement stores, but the expectation for ambiance in those stores isn't very high anyway. I'm not a big fan of concrete floors in grocery stores, discount stores, and certainly not in department stores. It makes stores look like a garage or a jail cell. I suppose I could accept it in a deep no-frills discount/grocery store, but it is just strange when a store that isn't a no-frills store does it.

    Concrete floors can be problematic even under the best circumstances, but it tends to really be a problem when stores remove a previous floor covering to create the concrete floor look. There are a couple of 1980s built grocery stores here in my area that recently took tiles out to leave the concrete floor. One is the Jones Rd. and West Rd. ex-Randall's that was converted (and expanded) to a HEB. The Randall's looked nice before, but the HEB is quite ugly looking. A big problem is the concrete floors. Either they did a really bad job removing the tiles or the concrete was poured in a way in the 1980s that makes it look very patchy. There are large patches with bumpy stones and little craters in the concrete. Perhaps it was done that way because there was no expectation in the 1980s that the bare concrete would be seen by the customers.

    The other floor convert is a later style greenhouse Kroger on Hwy. 6 and West Rd. that was recently renovated. The tiles were removed and the floor is also a bit patchy (though less so than the HEB). I think Kroger put down some kind of translucent paint on the concrete, but that made the flooring surface very slick. Perhaps it's not as bad now as it was around the time the work was done, but I was not happy with what they did to that formerly somewhat vintage looking store. The floor looks ugly and it also seemed dangerous to me. Of course, as you say, the bare concrete floors may become damaged easily which will make those stores look even more ugly down the road.

    But, yes, hopefully only a few Houston area JCPenney stores were converted to the jail cell/garage look. JCPenney usually isn't high on my visit list when I go to malls. Of course, a lot of the malls that I go to don't have JCPenney stores in them (at least not now) anyway. I go to the Willowbrook Mall store sometimes if I am shopping for something they sell, but they aren't very high on the list of stores to check out especially after the Ron Johnson debacle and the uglification of the 2nd floor of the Willowbrook store.

    I also have been shopping at Sears more in recent times. Part of it may be me wanting to support the kind of endangered department store format that I have always liked, but I think there is more to it than just that. They do have some pretty good deals and I think their online prices have become even more competitive in recent months especially with them matching Amazon's prices automatically on at least some things. Plus, the quality/price (value) of the products tends to be higher than what is available at the discount stores and even some other department stores. That isn't always true, but often it is. I'll have more to say on this topic in my next reply that I will write in a day or two.

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    1. Thanks for reposting the earlier comment. The floors of many of these stores may have been stripped to create a more open looking store. I also think it makes the stores look like a Home Depot. I am hopeful companies will soon drop this look and use tiles or at least paint.
      I am also giving Sears the first chance when I need to purchase a large ticket item and even some other items. I am having a hard time like most consumers finding clothes that I like at Sears. I have actually purchased a years worth of clothing and then some at the Macy's at Sage closing sale. I am also working on a blog post as I shop, but the prices are much lower right now than you will normally find. I need to spend more time on the Sears online page to see if I can get deals like on Ebay and Amazon. I hope more people start going back to Sears and keep the company running.
      In other Sears news, The Woodlands Mall has a Sears Home Improvement kiosk close to where their store was located. It is good to see the Sears name at the mall, but losing that store without a replacement in the area was a bad idea. The Nordstrom is set to open in September at the mall as well.

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  11. That is very interesting that Sears has a presence at The Woodlands Mall with the home improvement kiosk. I didn't realize that they had that kiosk there. I'm glad that the former Homart mall still has a little bit of a Sears presence, but it's not the same as having the department store there of course. There is a relatively new Sears Appliance & Mattress Showroom across I-45 from the mall as well so it seems that Sears/Sears affiliates are still trying to profit off the hot The Woodlands housing market even without a full line store in the area. There is also a Sears Outlet store on Cypresswood and I-45, but that was there before The Woodlands Mall Sears closed I think. I used to see a lot of home improvement promotions at Sears stores a few years ago (replacement windows and AC displays and such), but I don't see those often now for whatever reason.

    There are some good deals to be found on the Sears website (I recently purchased a pretty good digital camera from the Baybrook Mall Sears for ~$40 that I saw online), but sometimes the online and in-store hot deals are in various places that are spread out in different sections that may or may not be hard to find. Also, Sears clerks have allowed me to match Sears.com prices in the store a couple of times recently. I don't know if that is official policy or not, but I've also had clerks order things for me off the website through the in-store kiosks and they've given me free home shipping. These are great things especially given that Sears.com is seemingly matching Amazon's prices automatically on many items that I've looked up. These may be unadvertised policies to prevent everyone from getting the online prices, but the free ship-to-store/in-store pick-up options are publicized and give Sears a big advantage over Amazon even otherwise. While Sears.com is one of the most popular e-stores, I think many shoppers are unaware of their competitive prices.

    I have actually found more men's clothing items that I like at Sears recently than I have in the past. I like Arrow brand shirts and Sears has a pretty good selection of them and I find their prices to often be better than places like Kohl's that sells similar Arrow shirts. Sears also has some house brand synthetic polo shirts in some nice colors that are priced right and are durable. One disappointment is that Sears rarely has slacks in my size (even online). My size can be hard to find even at other stores, but I usually have better luck elsewhere. That said, Lands End has slacks in just about any size. Sears does not own Lands End now, but I guess there is still some level of relation between the companies now.

    I'm sure that you've taken some good pictures of the soon to be former Macy's at Sage. That is a pretty vintage looking store as well. That is interesting that they have some good prices during the closing sale, but I rarely find clothes that I like at Macy's even with their massive men's department at Willowbrook Mall. The prices aren't great either. OTOH, I do find some good finds at Dillard's every now and then and they have some good clearance sales. I'm not a huge clothing fan so it's not something that I look at often unless I need something, but I have received some nice Sears promotions for clothing lately so I do often look at clothes when I go to Sears now.

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    1. I need to stop by a Sears store soon, I have not been to one in several weeks it seems. Every few days there seems to be new stories about Sears or someone else making speculations about what will happen to the company. I have been spending most of my free time enjoying retro video games and have not had the need to visit a Sears store.
      I am pleased with the Macy's Sage photos that I was able to collect. The store closed today and had very little left yesterday on my final visit. They are wasting no time with the demolition of the mall corridor and have most of the interior completely hollowed out. I have some photos of that old section of the mall as well before it is gone. The Macy's dropped their prices quickly because the store must have had a lot of inventory. They were 60-80% off two weeks before they closed which does not usually happen until the last 7-10 days of so of a closing sale.

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  12. Part I:

    It is interesting that you have not visited a Sears store in a while because it seems like I have been living at Sears lately. I would say that I have made at least one stop at a Sears store every week for around the last 8-10 weeks or so. I made a lot of Sears stops during my visits to the Mall of the Mainland when the mall was closing, but a lot of those visits were just stops to see the store. Most of the recent visits have been visits with the intent to purchase or research a purchase. This has been strongly aided by some extreme promotions that I have been getting through SYWR. Even though I have made a lot of purchases lately, I wonder if Sears has actually made money off me here lately due to all their promotions. That said, the promotions are getting me into the store and I usually visit other departments aside from the ones with promotions during my visits.

    One thing that I have not done in a long time is purchase from (or even visit) the Sears appliance department. However, a family member was wanting to buy a major appliance from Sears and asked me to help out on the research side. I did some research on fridges and noticed that there are a lot of horror stories out there now about almost all the brands. This does not surprise me, but it is probably fueling some of the contempt that some have for Sears/Kenmore. The family member ended up buying a LG-built Kenmore fridge, but that particular model has a lot of negative user reviews regarding reliability (including many people saying that they would never buy from Sears again), but it was hard to find a model that didn't have bad reviews. Sears has the most comprehensive extended warranty program and that was purchased so hopefully that will at least cover any expected break downs.

    It seems like many of today's computer controlled appliances are not so reliable and the parts availability and cost is more than it was in the past. It seems like many people are blaming Sears when their Kenmore appliances break down, but they likely would have had the same experience if they brought a Samsung from Lowe's, an LG from Home Depot, or a Whirlpool from Best Buy (or whatever combo). The difference is that the LG/Home Depot buyer will probably blame LG if their LG breaks down, but the Kenmore Sears buyer will blame Sears for a break down even if LG is to blame for both breakdowns. I suppose one could say that Sears has such buying power in the appliance market that they could demand more reliable products from the vendors, but Kenmore appliances still are near or at the top in Consumer Reports reliability rankings so they are seemingly trying to use the most reliable suppliers that they can. Of course, a lot of people don't realize that Sears does not manufacturer their products so that probably adds to the confusion.

    I actually overheard a conversation between two young women about six months back about Sears fashions. One woman, who is a Kardashian fan I guess, was saying they were disappointed that the Kardashians were selling their lines at Sears because they viewed Sears as being a place to buy dryers and not clothes. Obviously this is a perception that Sears would like to reverse. The only way that they can do that is to have the products people want and then market it effectively so that people will come to the store and like what they see. It seems like Kmart has had some home run commercials here lately so I guess Sears does have access to top notch marketers. We'll see if Sears tries to push their fast fashions, but I think that they are going to have a hard time with that concept.

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    1. We have a Whirlpool fridge from Sears that is about 2 years old. It has been reliable so far, but when we first started using it the water filters which cost $50 went out twice in the first 6 months. Since then we are on the fourth one. Many of the recent negative stories about Sears are showing up on the Yahoo homepage don't help with the image of Sears. Sears really needs to spend money updating their stores, but how much can they spend and weather the financial storm?

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  13. Part II:

    Sears does have a bit of a demographic issue right now. They really don't have much for young people. Retiree aged people probably have a more favorable view about Sears, but they probably don't need to buy as many major home related goods as they did when they were middle aged. Everyone wants those young shoppers in their 20s, but perhaps Sears' best strategy is to just keep marketing to the middle aged shoppers. Eventually those in their 20s will want to buy a house when they are older (whether it be in an older suburban area like the Heights or an outer suburb) and perhaps the marketing about Sears being the place to go to for home goods will stick in their heads over the 10-20 year conversion from youth to middle age. Of course, that strategy may not help their fast fashion idea much.

    I looked at the Macy's website again just now and their coupons are still excluding Dallas Cowboys gear. I don't get why this exists, but perhaps Jerry Jones is against markdowns. I don't think that other stores have Cowboys specific exclusions though, but maybe they do and I just have not seen it. Anyway, Macy's is known for their regional merchandising so I'm not surprised that the Macy's Lids only sells gear from local teams (though I'm not sure if those are merchandised directly from Macy's or not). I don't like that they only sell local team stuff, but oh well I guess. I'm pretty used to not finding my favorite team's stuff in stores here. The Macy's at Sage photos should be interesting. I look forward to seeing them. Those may have been the last vestiges of the "original" Macy's in Houston.

    Micro Center is an interesting store and I'd rate them above Fry's for computer stuff. Both of them have good sales prices. Fry's sales are sometimes better than Micro Center's, but Micro Center usually advertises a lot more stuff and their sales run for longer. The employees are a lot more knowledgeable at Micro Center than Fry's usually, but sometimes you'll find someone at Fry's who actually knows what they are talking about. The current Micro Center has (AFAIK, it's been a couple years since I've actually been there) some vintage aspects to it. Normally mid 1990s aspects would not be considered vintage yet, but they had some old computer company logos on their windows. Some of those company names (or logos at least) are long gone. I have a lot of good memories about the current Micro Center so it is sad to know that it will be relocating. Of course, I'm not thrilled about where the new store will be located Anyway, hopefully you'll be able to stop in the old store before it closes. I think you'll like it. I know a lot of people in other cities are jealous that we have Fry's and Micro Center in particular as many places don't have anything like either store.

    I'm guessing that GGP was hoping to turn that Willowbrook Mall Lord & Taylor anchor pad into a lifestyle center so that is why they tore the old store down, but the lifestyle center never happened. Perhaps Nordstorm would have built a full store if the old building was still there, but I kind of doubt it. Willowbrook is a strong performer, but it may not be so strong to support such higher end retail. Obviously Lord & Taylor wasn't able to make things work there. Of course, I suppose that the Rack store could always be leveled and a new store can be built on top of it if there is ever the need for a full-line Nordstrom there.

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    1. The 30+ demographic usually holds on to clothes longer and looks for quality more than name brand. My average age for clothes including shoes is 3 years old right now and growing. The younger generation goes through clothes much quicker and every few months you are out buying clothes or shoes especially for grade school aged youths.
      I think the only Macy's built store left in Houston is the 2006 Pearland Town Center now. The mall attached to the former Macy's is completely gutted with chunks missing from the walls near the Macy's. It looks like they have not started on the Macy's yet, but the new Saks will be open in 2016 so it will be going down soon. I wonder if Jerry Jones is scared someone many fumble the coupons and lose out on the deals. I have seen Cowboys jerseys in Sears stores in areas where another team is dominant such as in several parts of Louisiana and I wonder how many they actually sell.
      I wonder if Microcenter or Fry's sells rubber bands for walkman players. I have seen some on sale on Ebay, but I would like to compare sizes in person before buying. Are there any stores in Houston that I could go to that you know of?

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  14. Part III:

    The anchor shuffle at some of the shopping centers surrounding Willowbrook Mall is continuing to take place. I earlier mentioned that Bed, Bath, & Beyond moved from The Commons across 1960 from the mall to the AMC shopping center across 249 from the mall. Well, now Conn's is moving into the old Bed, Bath, & Beyond spot (which was a Sports Town USA initially). Conn's was on the mall side corner of 249 and 1960 before that (though they were in the shopping center directly next to the mall before that). I wonder what will happen to the old Conn's location now. Also, the Willowchase Fiesta shopping center renovation seems to be taking place now. It looks like they have put up some light colored masonry over the brick facade on a small part of the shopping center already (the part near the Family Dollar). I'm sure that the rest of the center will get the same treatment here soon enough. I'm not a big fan of the change, but we'll see how it looks when it is done. Of course, I heard that they will be tearing down the part of the center facing 249, but that has not happened yet and I'm not sure if that is still planned. Anyway, hopefully you'll be able to visit the Willowbrook area sometime soon because you're missing out on some pretty significant changes.

    It seems like Kmart opened a new concept store format without the Kbloggers picking up on it or any other major fanfare. At least one store, the Norridge, IL, Kmart, opened up a "K-fresh" grocery/fresh food department within their store. Details are sparse as far as I can tell, but there is this video of the opening of the department. I would say that this is a clone of Target's "Pfresh" fresh food conversion. We'll see how quickly Kmart expands this concept and hopefully we'll find out more about it. It is interesting that Kmart is doing this at the same time that they have been reducing Super Kmart stores.

    Speaking of Kmart, I really like this 1992 article about how Kmart was targeting women shoppers with their Builders' Square II stores. It seems that they saw that Home Depot was weak with female shoppers even then. Builders Square II stores were quite nice (for a hardware store at least) even compared to Lowe's. I remember being surprised to see designer type lamps and other things there because it certainly wasn't what Home Depot, Furrow's, and older Builders Square stores were selling. Lowe's does sell some of that stuff now though too. One thing that I especially remember about Builders Square II stores is the tiled "race track" that is mentioned in the article. It was kind of odd having the tiled walkways with the rest of the store being concrete. Even back then Kmart thought that tiles (at least in some places) were a better look than bare concrete, but some stores seem to disagree these days.

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    1. Speaking of Sportstown USA, there is a location in the original Problem Child movie and you can see most of the store which was located in Dallas.
      The K-fresh market idea is a great one in my opinion. If they roll it out nationwide it should help them out because the current grocery aisles are not very inviting. Target rolled theirs out in one area at a time so they could advertise on billboards and radio ads in the area.
      I don't think I ever went into a Builders Square location. I was in a family that went to Home Depot or Furrow's. I missed out on many of Kmart's businesses such as Builders Square and Designer Depot.

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  15. Part IV:

    I'm glad to hear that you're finding cassettes at Half Price Books. I still have not gone to one of their stores to look for cassettes, but I'm sure that I will at some point during the summer. I'm still finding a lot of audio and video cassettes in the thrifts, though I have not found many of interest to me here lately. In the past I never had to compete with other shoppers when browsing audio cassettes on the rack, but I've had to do that a couple of times lately in the SE side thrifts. Trends from the UK often make their way here so perhaps cassettes will have more of a comeback here soon enough, but we're probably not there yet. It'll be interesting to see if mainstream bands ever get their music released on cassette here again.

    I revisited the two thrifts last week that I mentioned earlier that didn't have VCRs and one of them did have a VCR for sale last week. It seems like they still sell them, but they certainly aren't as numerous as they were before for whatever reason. I don't know if you are still in the market for a thrift/flea market VCR.

    Hopefully you'll be able to find a good component stereo cassette deck if you look for one. There are a few models of new ones that are being sold, but the only reputable one AFAIK is the Teac W-890R dual cassette deck (Teac also sells a professional version of the same deck under their Tascam brand). The prices on those seem to be rising a bit here lately so perhaps you should jump on that ASAP if you want one. The deck has some nice features like HX Pro, Mic input, recording in both wells (most dual decks only recorded on one well) and pitch control. OTOH, it only has Dolby B support. That's fine as Dolby C is quite bad (IMO), but hopefully you don't have Dolby C tapes to playback. Almost all commercial tapes were recorded with Dolby B if they have Dolby so that really should not be an issue unless you want to playback some Dolby C tapes that you made on your own. Teac also has a couple of cassette/CD combo decks that are probably about the same if you'd rather have a CD combo instead of a dual cassette deck. $200 for a dual cassette deck is pretty steep, but it may make more sense to just pay that instead of sorting through thrift/flea market decks that generally don't work (or fully work at least).

    Perhaps the Sounds Good to Me store at Traders Village may be a good option if you want a used cassette deck that has been tested. Their item list on their website has not been updated lately, but it sounds like they had some decent used decks for around $50 a couple years ago. Perhaps they still do, but I don't know.

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    1. Half Price Books seems to be a 50/50 shot for cassettes, I have been to Northoaks, Copperfield, and Deerbrook to find cassettes. Some of the other stores have a terrible selection of cassettes, it seems they will accept any cassette and have several multiple copies of the same crappy cassettes and a few good ones mixed in. The Copperfield store had large packs of multiple VHS cassettes for $5.00 and they have a huge selection of video games compared to the other locations I have been to.
      It looks like there are 4 advertised stores in the Houston area that I can get that dual deck player. It might make more sense to get a CD/ Cassette deck instead if I am going to shell out $200. I would like to make CD copies just in case my tapes go out. I only currently have commercial tapes and probably will keep it that way.
      I forgot about the Sounds Good to Me store I wonder if they have increases their prices if the demand has picked up for cassette players.

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  16. Part I:

    My apologies in advance as this post is going to be very long-winded.


    A lot of major Sears news came out last week at the Sears annual shareholders meeting. One of the news items is that Sears will continue to close and sublease stores. When the article mentions Sears, I assume it to mean both Sears and Kmart stores. Obviously we’ve seen many Sears stores and even more Kmart stores close around the country here in the last couple of years.

    Another interesting piece of information is that Sears may try to sell “marketplace” items from 3rd party sellers in the stores themselves just like what they do on their website. Of course, Amazon is famous for having 3rd party sellers on their site as well. I’m not so sure how this would work in the stores themselves though. Would it be a store within a store type concept or would 3rd parties sell things alongside Sears items? Would 3rd party products have the same return policies and such as Sears products? Would this lead to price savings for the consumer? It’s hard to say, but it is an interesting thought. We’ll see if it ever gets implemented.

    Eddie Lampert says that he sees Sears being a smaller store in the future. Some of that may be that the stores will be physically smaller due to subleasing and perhaps the 3rd party marketplace may make the stores smaller. Lampert also indicated that Sears may dedicate too much space to clothing. That’s interesting. That, combined with fast fashion and smaller, quicker clothing purchasing, may reform Sears’ clothing strategy. We’ll see. Sears' stated goal of selling more "connected" goods may mean that they will continue to sell electronics, but perhaps it is a stretch to assume that. One can sell Wi-Fi wristbands in sporting goods and Wi-Fi locks in hardware without having an electronics department I guess. How well those products will sell to Sears' base especially is a different story altogether, but we'll see.

    We just discussed whether Sears should focus on their older shopping core or if they should try to appeal to a younger crowd. Lampert indicated that they try to cater to all demographics right now, but it is being evaluated if they should continue to target all shoppers or if they should be more focused on one area. On a related note, Consumer Cellular said last week that they will be adding larger displays to the Sears stores where they sell products (on an unrelated note, the Sears Outlet store pictured in that story may actually be the Houston Griggs store). Consumer Cellular is a cell phone service that targets older customers and they are known to do very well in customer satisfaction surveys (of course, most phone companies don’t do well in that area so that is impressive). Consumer Cellular probably knows that Sears electronics departments still attracts a lot of loyal older Sears shoppers and Sears is probably happy to be able to sell phones backed with quality service. Sears’ older loyal customers expect Sears to sell quality goods so I think that the Consumer Cellular-Sears combo is a good one for both. Of course, younger customers who may not have the most demanding cell phone desires/needs may be enticed by Consumer Cellular’s displays at Sears given that they will have better visibility now.

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    1. I had the chance to visit a Sears store finally and they had the fast-fashion display at the front of their store at the mall entrance. The section had different signage and the clothes were more spaced out than in the rest of their clothing sections. The signage indicated that each month new items will be featured in the section, so we will see how that works. I did not venture too far into the store because I was going to visit some mall stores with only about an hour to work with. They did have a free 2014 Lawn and Garden catalog that I grabbed near the outside entrance to the store. The recent commercials for Consumer Cellular don't help to attract younger shoppers, but maybe that will change. Smaller companies such as AO wireless and Straight Talk market to younger consumers so we will see what happens.

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  17. Part II:

    I think that it is true that people buy clothing less frequently as they get older. Things may be different for women though, but it’s hard to say. I was not big in fashion even when I was in school (a lot of my clothing came from Montgomery Ward, Sears, JCPenney, and other low-key clothing stores and I was perfectly happy about that), but for sure I don’t buy a lot of clothing now. A lot of my clothing is at least 3 years old and a good number of items may be over 5 years old. I still wear a pair of New Balance shoes on the weekends that I brought in 2005 from Palais Royal. So, yeah, my fashion isn’t the hippest around, but it works fine. While older shoppers may not buy as much for themselves, they do buy clothes for their kids/grandkids and stuff like that. I believe that Sears’ kids clothing department still does pretty well and I’m sure a lot of it has to do with grandparents and stuff shopping there.

    I don’t know if you purchased a Sears extended warranty with your Whirlpool fridge, but I believe that Sears gives you a 25% discount on filters purchased from their stores if you have their warranty. Perhaps that will save you some money on those filters. My fridge is quite old and I think it has a water filter, but I’ve never replaced it. Oh well. Do the newer fridges make you replace it (or at least annoy you with messages about replacing it)? Appliances seem to be more annoying and less reliable now than they were in the past. This will probably continue as “smart appliances” become more popular, but I have not seen the networked appliances gain a lot of traction in the market so far. Whirlpool used to make a lot of Kenmore appliances, and they still do AFAIK, but they don’t make as many as they used to. I know that some Kenmore products are made by Frigidaire/Electrolux (though they’ve been making stuff for Sears for a long time as well) and LG now.

    I think that a lot of the Houston area Sears look pretty good on the inside. Some look better than others, but none of them look really dated, dirty, or anything like that. Some of them do have pretty dated looking exteriors. Perhaps new signage would help that especially when the signs are faded and such, but then again, the 1984 and 1994 era logo is quite synonymous with Sears. Kmarts, OTOH, are a different story. I know that there are some around the country that desperately need remodeling inside and out. Lack of maintenance tends to show up more at Kmarts than Sears also it seems from the photos that I’ve seen.

    Perception is reality and the perception is that Sears is a dinosaur store. While the fiscal health of the company seems to confirm that Sears is on a deep downward slide, I think the company (Sears stores themselves especially) can do well. Their online performance is underrated and I think Sears would have done better if Lampert was never a factor and they were allowed to fully try concepts like Sears Grand and The Great Indoors. An independent Sears probably would have maintained the stores better than Lampert has done. Regardless, there are business writers who continue to bash Sears (sometimes with good reason and sometimes not) and those stories continue to be popular reads (perhaps so angry Sears customers can vent in the comments section, but sometimes people defend Sears as well). The perceptions about Sears will probably continue as long as bad headlines stay on the big websites.

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    1. I still have clothes from Steve and Barry's and others that are over 5 years old that still are part of my regular rotation. The only clothes I seem to buy regularly are sports clothes, every year something new comes out that I have to have.
      I don't think we have an extended warranty, but I will remember that next time. The fridge has a light that changes colors when the filters need to be replaced, and luckily no sound.
      I wonder how the 3rd party items would work in the stores, perhaps similar to a consignment store. It seems like too much trouble though and what happens if someone buys an item online and an in store customer picks up the item to buy only to find out someone purchased it online. I doubt sales clerks would be able to grab items off the shelf as soon as someone purchases the item online.
      It almost seems as if merging with a company such as Amazon may be the only way for Sears/ Kmart to be able to afford store remodels. With the way the company is headed, someone will eventually pull the company into bankruptcy and the stores will completely close or be downsized significantly.

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  18. Part III:

    The K-fresh concept is an interesting one. A lot of discount type retailers are trying to add fresh foods to their stores. Of course, at the same time, grocery stores are trying to add clothing and hard lines and stuff like that to their stores. Perhaps the biggest thing that K-fresh can do is force Kmart to remodel their stores from the Big Kmart era to something more modern. I don't know much about K-fresh since it is getting very little coverage. I'm really surprised that the Kbloggers aren't all over it. I know that Illinois isn't far from where some Kbloggers are. Hopefully we'll learn more about the store here soon enough. The SYWR website has some photos of the store, but that's about it aside from the video.

    I'm a little surprised that you never went to a Builders Square store since they were quite prominent in the Houston area up until they closed in the mid-to-late 1990s. There were two Builders Square stores in this area. One was a regular Builders Square store on Hwy. 6 and Hempstead Hwy (very close to 290 and the Hwy. 6-Fm 1960 border). It was located next to an Academy store and both are now a self-storage place. Both Builders Square and Academy ended up moving to the Willowbrook Mall area in the early-to-mid 1990s. The Builders Square II opened up at the NE corner of the FM 1960 and 249 intersection. It's currently a Sam's Club. Academy ended up opening a store on 290 and FM 1960 just a short walk away from their old location, but that store opened up long after the old store closed so it wasn't a direct replacement. I believe that there was also a Builders Square next to the Cypresswood Deauville Fashion Mall.

    Furrow/Payless Cashways was an interesting store. It was a bit of a hybrid between the current concept of a "home improvement center" and a regular old hardware store, but I would say that it leaned more toward the home improvement side of things. I remember them having a large outdoor lumberyard, but the inside of the regular store was pretty crammed because it was stuffed with bathroom displays and stuff like that. I liked Furrow's, but I can see how the more modern hardware stores pushed them out of the market. There were a few Furrow stores in this area. The one I went to the most was on 249 near Spring Cypress (I believe Home Depot is on the land that Furrow used to be on, but it's a new building). Another one was on Hwy. 6 near 529 essentially next to where the Lowe's and Home Depot are now. That building still exists as a self-storage place now I believe. I see ex-Furrow stores every now and then that still kind of look like a Furrow's. Here's a 1985 Furrow commercial.

    I think I saw Problem Child way back in the day, but I don't remember the Sports Town USA scene. Maybe I'll see that movie again and see it. We actually shopped at Sports Town USA quite a bit during the short time that they existed so it was a bit of a shame that they closed. I have a few shopping memories from there. I'm pretty sure that the last purchase I had there was a pair of Asics Gel shoes that fell apart within two weeks and I had to return them. I didn't hold that against the store obviously, but that was a shame.

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    1. You are right about the Deauville Spring Builders Square location, it was talked about in several articles I researched.
      One thing I noticed at the start of the Furrow's video is Payless Cashways Inc. It seems that there may have been other businesses under this corporate name. There is a short Wikipedia article with some old newspaper references. Home Depot and Lowe's did not come to the Humble area until the mid 1990's/ early 2000's right around the time that Furrow's was forced into bankruptcy. Furrow's in Humble was always busy and cramped from what I can remember. The location is gone and has a Saltgrass and Joe's Crab Shack on the land where the store sat. A small sign and part of the parking lot remain at the back of the property surprisingly after all of these years. I only went to Sportstown USA once or twice, but I don't think I bought anything.

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  19. Part IV:

    I have been noticing some Houston retail changes here lately. I noticed just the other day that a Five Below store is opening up in the shopping center across from Baybrook Mall. I then read an article in the Chronicle the same day about Five Below's entry into the Houston market. Five Below is a discount store oriented towards kids and teens so it isn't something that we'd get too excited about, but YouTube user vwestlife (the guy who did the video about that really long ex-Kmart/Circuit City shopping center in New Jersey) did a video review of some $5 Five Below headphones that was quite interesting. I like how he has a Sony Metal XR cassette in the background while he is doing his review! Also, I walked by the Clear Lake Garden Ridge store while on my way to the Clear Lake Sears Outlet store and I noticed that they had signs on their door saying that Garden Ridge is becoming a store called At Home. I don't know what At Home is if it's an existing company or what or if all Garden Ridges are becoming At Homes. If so, that might be interesting news for the Fry Rd. Garden Ridge. As for the Sears Outlet itself, well, they have the Mall of the Mainland Sears beat. Not only did the Sears Outlet store have one air dancer, but they had two! Also, not only did they have Wal-Mart house brand clothing for sale, but they also had a lot of Target house brand clothing for sale this time too. It's very odd.

    Are you looking for belts for your Walkmen? I'm pretty sure that Micro Center would not have that, but Fry's may have them. I kind of doubt it, but maybe they'll have it. As for local places that sell them, I'm not sure actually. I reckon that a TV-VCR repair place (which still exist) should be able to get them for you, but they may be expensive. EPO Computers & Electronics in Clear Lake may have belts. You may want to check with them. EPO on Fondren (which may be a different company from the Clear Lake EPO) may have them too. There used to be an EPO next to Willowbrook Mall, but they are long gone now. Sounds Good To Me might be able to help you with those belts too. As for buying them online, Studio Sound Electronics (which is a great source for VCR parts) has a pack of the 10 most popular Walkman belts for $17.95. Also, it might be a long shot, but the Sears Parts Direct page may have the belt for your Walkman. They have Walkman parts for some models, but I don't know about belts specifically. Have you ever changed a Walkman belt before? Sometimes it's not too difficult, but sometimes they can be tricky since they are so small and flat and since there are so many small parts involved in the disassembly of the unit.

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    1. Why does it not surprise me that none of the Five Below stores are in the Northeast/ East area of Houston. Oh well, at least they are trying out the Houston market unlike some companies which are all over Texas but not here.
      I guess now would be time to buy stock in the companies that make those air dancers since Sears is giving them lots of business these days.
      Thanks for the links to find Walkman Cassette belts. My model is easy to take apart and I actually have two of the same Walkman's, one I use for parts since the battery port is corroded. Both of the belts keep slipping off the rollers and a rubber band worked until it dried out so it is the belts. I never thought of using Sears parts direct, but they actually have the belt. Thanks for informing me about the site it only advertises basic lawn and garden and appliances from their basic search bar. I looked at the brand names on a more advanced search to find Sony and narrowed it down from there. The belt is less than $10 and I may as well get two since the shipping will be high.

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  20. Part V:

    I wonder who the four stores are who sell cassette decks. I'm not really aware of any aside from Sounds Good to Me (and thrifts of course, but I'm not counting that). Teac has two CD/cassette combos. One is the AD-800 CD player/cassette recorder combo and the other is the AD-RW900 dual recorder combo. Both of these units have USB ports to allow for easy transfers to a computer without having to use CDs first, though the USB implementation on the two models are slightly different it seems. I need to do more research on that. One thing to keep in mind about CD music recorders though is that they need special "music CD-Rs" instead of the regular computer CD-Rs. Essentially they are the same thing, but the music CD-Rs include royalties that go to the recording industry since it is assumed that people will be recording copyrighted music with music recorders. They are harder to find than regular CD-Rs and they are a bit more expensive, but it's not like they are expensive and you may be able to find them locally. They can be brought online. I don't have a CD music recorder so I never look for them, but perhaps some stores sell them locally. The AD-800 CD player/cassette recorder is about the same price as the Teac W-890R dual cassette deck so I guess you could always consider the two options. The W-890R does not have USB capability though, but you can always connect it to a computer sound card line-in jack if you have one.

    Something from Sounds Good To Me might be the cheapest option though aside from getting lucky at a thrift. Perhaps their prices are higher now, but I'm sure that you can get something for under a $100 from them. Perhaps they will keep an eye out for a ~$50 deck if you ask them to, but I have no idea if they'll do that.

    I've been noticing that the cassette selection at various Goodwills is also varying from having a lot to having almost nothing at all. I was at a Goodwill today that had probably over 100 cassettes, but I was at another last week that had just a few. Actually, the one that had a few is the FM 1960 and Jones Rd. Goodwill that just moved within the shopping center. The old store was in an old ex-Weingarten/Safeway/TJ Maxx store. It ended up moving down the center to an ex-Bealls/Palais Royal store. Palais Royal is still in the same shopping center, but it is in a downsized location now that is much less fancy looking. Anyway, the old store kept the TJ Maxx theme so it didn't have the standardized interior that most Goodwills have, but the new location has the standard interior. I guess it's also bigger, but the old store usually had a decent number of cassettes. The new store didn't, but hopefully they'll have more once the move is complete. Of course, Goodwill will sell just about any kind of cassette including religious ones, self-help ones, kids ones, and stuff like that. Perhaps Half Price Books sells only music cassettes (which is what I want), but I don't know. I really need to check them out, but I've been saying that for a long time now.

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    1. A USB port is a nice addition to the updated cassette decks, but there are Audio to USB adapters that you can use. I am guessing the quality should be higher on these newer machines, but I want my copies to sound like the cassettes as much as possible.
      I will probably take a trip down to Traders Village sometime before it gets too hot and check out Sounds Good to Me. I may check out some thrift stores before then to see if I have any luck, maybe some of the thrifts not run by Goodwill will have cassette decks.
      Half price has their cassettes separated by department which eliminates the hassle of digging through the other types of cassettes.
      I know this is off topic but I wanted to share that I visited a Fred's store finally. They have some good prices and their own store brand. The store I visited is located in Lafayette near the Drug Emporium and is located in a former K & B drugstore building. The store has a variety of items and some really good sale prices. I am not sure if they are looking at Houston, but I think they could succeed where Alco failed in the market.

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  21. Part I:

    I am glad to hear that you were able to get the belts for your Walkman through Sears Parts Direct. Those should be a perfect fit since they are matched to your model. It's probably a good idea to order extra belts just to have a spare or two. It’s really critical to get the right size belt for an audio cassette device because the wrong size may cause tapes to play/record too fast or too slow and it may also cause wow and flutter. Generally these aren’t as much of an issue with VCR belts and audio cassette counter belts and stuff like that. Rubber bands or belts that are anywhere close to being the right size would be fine for those applications.

    I’ve seen tape decks at all kinds of thrift stores. The only thrifts that I have not seen them in are the Salvation Army ones. Of course, most locations won’t have one in stock, but sometimes you’ll get lucky and find one. The bigger problem is that a lot of thrift store cassette decks don’t work or don’t fully work. Probably over 50% of the cassette decks that I’ve seen in thrifts have bad belts or some other major issue. You definitely want to check out a thrift store cassette deck before you buy one. You definitely want to make sure that it is playing tapes back, that it is rewinding and FFing them correctly, and you may want to also check to see that the auto reverse is working if the deck has that feature. Most thrifts will have tapes that you can test the decks with, but the exception to that is usually the Family Thrift Centers. Some of those sell tapes, but some don’t. Sometimes you can find a tape by looking in the all-in-ones and boomboxes for sale because sometimes people will donate those with tapes still in them.

    Tape deck prices at thrifts can vary significantly. I’ve seen them range from anywhere from $2 to $50 (though the one that was $50 was a very nice 3 head JVC from the early 1980s and it probably deserved to be priced at least that much). I’ve actually come across 4-5 tape decks in thrifts (mainly Goodwills) in the last month or so, but I think all of them were broken. I think there was one that I didn’t test and it was cheap, but it was a low end Sony and I just wasn’t interested in that. Sony made some nice tape decks and we used to have a nice mid-1970s top loading cassette deck way back in the day that was okay, but Sony quality varies significantly. I don’t know if I’ve linked YouTube user Uxwbill videos here before, but he took apart a lower end Sony cassette deck (he wonders if it's from 2003, but I think that is a 1990s model) that he brought from a thrift and found that it was basically a boombox cassette deck deceivingly being passed off as a component cassette deck. Anyway, just make sure that you don’t buy anything too low end because it may not meet your standards. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what is low end and what isn’t, but you can usually tell by measuring the age of the unit and comparing that to the features that it has.
    You may want to call or e-mail the Sounds Good to Me people and see if they will tell you what they have in stock at the moment and what their price list is for that stuff. That may save you a trip to Trader’s Village. Perhaps it will also allow you to research model information ahead of time so you can decide which deck is the best to buy if they have multiple ones. I assume that you have some kind of receiver and speakers or a shelf system with a line-in jack that you will plug your component cassette deck to. Most mid-level decks and higher will have a headphone jack that you can listen to directly (or that you can plug in computer speakers to with a 1/4” to 1/8” adaptor), but those probably aren’t the ideal way to use a cassette deck. Perhaps you mentioned before what kind of audio system you have, but I don’t remember.

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    1. When I order my belts I will make sure to get my moneys worth because the shipping and handling is expensive. I am sure there is some dusty old warehouse somewhere that these parts are hidden in that they have to locate the parts and then ship them.
      I will have to start over from scratch to put together an audio setup for the cassette deck. I can find used speakers for a low price at most flea markets, but finding the cassette deck and receiver is challenging.
      I will definitely check out Sounds Good to Me the next time I go down to Traders Village. I will just need to make sure and email them the next time I have a weekend off coming up, that is a good idea by the way. There are so many other stores I check out when we go including the many used video game spots.

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  22. Part II:

    The Teac AD-RW900 recorder combo has two different kinds of USB recording, but the AD-800 only has one. Both of them allow you to plug in a USB flash drive to the unit and then have the machine convert CD and tapes to MP3s that will be stored (and can be played back) on the machine itself. The AD-RW900 also has a USB port that will allow you to plug it in to a computer to allow for digitizing through the computer. The disadvantage of the MP3 flash drive method is that it only records 128K MP3s. That quality level may be okay for you, but ideally you should digitize your tapes using an uncompressed file format or an MP3 bitrate of 192K or higher. The AD-RW900 will allow you to do this using the USB port and a free program like Audacity, but you could do that with any tape deck if your sound card has a line-in jack. If it doesn’t, you could buy a USB sound card as you say and use that. Of course, the AD-RW900 also makes audio CDs, which are uncompressed and should be high quality, so that is another option with that particular model. Another potential issue with the USB MP3 flash drive method is that I don’t know if it knows to create separate MP3 files for each song. If not, it may just give you one big MP3 file for the tape (or at least one side of the tape) and then you would have to break it up manually. I would have to read the documentation to know for sure, but I have not done that yet.

    I did not realize that Sears is already implementing fast fashions in their stores. I have not seen that yet, but I will have to check it out next time I am in a Sears. It is probably a good thing that Sears is explaining their fast fashion idea in the store so the customers are aware to check back frequently for new items. Are the fast fashions just for women or do they have a men’s line too?

    I don't know if you've been listening to the radio, but I'm hearing a lot of Sears ads this week. I think it is because of the Texas tax-free weekend for appliances. Some of the ads appear to be corporate ads, but I think some are local too because I heard one promoting the Sears Houston website which is run by a Sears Appliance & Hardware franchise.

    The Sears Lawn & Garden catalog may not be the Sears Wishbook, but it’s better than nothing. It should be a good souvenir if nothing else. It might be fun to look back at that in 20 years or something. As for the future of the Sears business, I don’t know. Lampert really seems to enjoy being the “king” of Sears and Kmart even if he probably isn’t very good at it. He may not want to give Sears up yet and he probably can invest enough of his money to keep it going for quite some time if he wants to. We’ll see I guess. Of course, Lampert has shown no signs of wanting to invest more in store upkeep or to open new stores.

    Sears Parts Direct kind of shows just how much of a different kind of store Sears is compared to other stores (B&M stores at least). People say that Sears is a retail relic that has been replaced by other retailers, but that isn’t totally true. Sears sells a lot of VCR parts, for example, and there aren’t a lot of alternatives for that. Ok, maybe the VCR part business isn’t profitable now (though it might be considering the prices for some of those parts, though they have some parts that are reasonably priced), but things like appliance parts and tractor parts probably are profitable. Plus, it’s kind of sad that a store who sells good quality products (for the most part) and then sells parts to keep those products going year after year is in trouble while other stores who sell “trendy” disposable products are doing better. That probably says a lot about society itself.

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    1. I am probably going to get an older model deck to transfer to my computer so I can keep the quality of the recordings as close as possible to the tape. I do appreciate the information about the new recorders since it may become one of the only options for recording tapes in the near future.
      The fast fashion for now is limited to the Juniors department. It really does not stand out compared to the other clothing sections of the store, so they will have to add more signage to make it stand out.
      I did not hear any of the radio ads this weekend, but I usually change stations when there are commercials.
      I guess I will keep my catalog in a safe spot just in case the company does not make it. I still have the last Circuit City Holiday catalog in nice condition. It was overly optimistic considering they were months away from closing when it was published. I really don't get how the investors can keep watching the company erode without taking some sort of action. I am not saying to change CEO's, but they need to really change how they do business by enhancing their stores and competing with companies that younger shoppers are frequenting.

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  23. Part III:

    I got an e-mail from Sears a couple of weeks back with some of their promotions on it. One of the promotional items they listed was a sale on online Christmas goods. I laughed when I saw that. I’m not surprised that Sears is trying to push Christmas in May though. Sears does not have Christmas stuff in the stores yet AFAIK, but it’s probably coming soon.

    Yes, Payless Cashways operated similar stores under many different names depending on the region. Obviously they used Furrow here, but they used the Payless, Hugh M. Woods, Knox Lumber, and other names. Furrow’s used to have bags for a while that had all the different names on them. I may still have some nuts and bolts in those bags in the garage, but I’m not sure. I know that I still have an unopened 1980s light bulb from Handy Dan though. The first Home Depot we had near where I live was the store they had on 1960 and Mills (it has been a Burlington Coat Factory for many years now, but it still looks like a Home Depot). It opened in the 1980s (mid 1980s if I remember correctly) and then closed when Home Depot opened up a store around 1993 nearby on 249 near FM 1960. That store closed around 10-12 years later (it’s now an ITZ/Movie Tavern) and was seemingly replaced by the 249 and Spring Cypress store where the Furrow’s was. The interesting thing about the ITZ Home Depot when it was still a Home Depot is that there was a murder there where an angry boyfriend or something shot a clerk at the return counter. The store stayed open for a few years after that incident, but I wonder if that had anything to do with the store moving.

    There was a Builders Square and an early Home Depot (which may still be there) across I-10 from Town & Country Mall. The Builders Square was in the same shopping center as Federated I do believe. The Builders Square is now an HCC campus. Builders Square had some memorable commercials with big name stars like Tim Allen and Al Michaels. Interestingly enough, Tim Allen was in a Kmart commercial a couple of years before he became a real star with the sitcom. As for Furrow commercials, there are some more of them here and here.

    Yes, it seems like the NE/E side was slighted once again. I’m sure that Five Below will consider expanding to the Humble/Kingwood area if their other Houston stores do well. On the flip side, they seem to be putting a lot of stores on the NW side. I’m not sure if I will ever shop there, but we’ll see how they do. As for Fred’s, it seems like an interesting store, but I don’t know if they will come to Houston. They seem to focus on small towns and cities kind of like Alco. It would be nice to see another discount store here, but they may be scared off from the competition from Wal-Mart, Target, Dollar General, and Family Dollar. The latter two are probably the most similar to Fred’s and they both have a large presence in Houston these days. I’m sure that they will also consider Alco’s quick exit from this market.

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    1. The Town and Country Home Depot is still there. I think that store and the store on 610 near Shepherd were expanded at some point. The Shepherd store was for a short while open 24 hours a day.
      The Tim Allen Builders Square commercial is kind of creepy, I hope people did not pop out of no where to ask you questions like in the commercial, lol.
      Speaking of Sears, I stopped by Pasadena Town Square recently. They are renovating the former Dillard's for some kind of business now. It looks like they are in the beginning stages of the renovation, but they had several vehicles and a forklift unloading a truck into the back entrance of the store. The former Dillard's corridor has several new businesses, but none were open during the week maybe they are open on weekends or later in the day. One of the concerns I saw at the mall is that many of the chain stores have left and only one half of the food court is occupied. One of the stores was locked up and full of inventory with a letter saying that the store was locked up for non-payment of rent by the landlord. There is some activity going on in the large old hospital with a sign for a future storage place coming soon. I can't tell if they are tearing the building down or stripping it out to turn it into storage units.

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  24. Sears released their Q1 results today. The results were not good obviously. It is interesting that Lampert called the electronics departments at Sears and Kmart the "biggest negative contributor to sales."

    This article breaks down Sears/Kmart electronics woes and strategy a little further. TV sales have been poor throughout the industry (that is no surprise to me for reasons that we have discussed before) and it looks like Sears and Kmart are feeling the burn. It sounds like Lampert wants to move from a focus on TVs to a focus on "connected living" throughout the departments. He did mention the electronics department as one of those departments so hopefully that means that Sears will stay committed to keeping an electronics department in one form or another. We'll have to see how this strategy develops.

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    1. I hope they don't make a quick decision to remove the electronics without trying to revamp the electronics departments first. After seeing the problems from the Q1 results, I hope they don't make any more moves to eliminate electronics, the departments have been downsized in most stores and that may be one of the reasons why electronics sales have slumped.

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  25. Part I:

    I went to the Willowbrook Mall Sears last week and there are big changes going on there up on the 2nd floor. It looks like they are moving the mattress department from the “back” of the 2nd floor to the “front” of the 2nd floor near where the elevator is and where the up escalator drops people off at. It also looks like the mattress department is being expanded in the process, but it’s hard to say for sure. It looks like they may have painted the 2nd floor recently (at least a part of it), but I can’t remember how it looked before. I believe that the mattress department was there by the elevator some years ago (at least I seem to remember that), but I can’t remember for sure now. That area of the 2nd floor used to have bathroom goods there before, but I guess that those will be moved elsewhere. The movement of stuff was still ongoing during my visit so I’m not totally sure how the 2nd floor will be set up once everything is done.

    I walked by the women’s department during my visit to the Willowbrook Sears, but I forgot to look for the fast fashions. I didn’t see them, but perhaps it was there and I just wasn’t paying attention. The display obviously wasn’t massively attention grabbing if it was there.

    I read an article last week saying that Sears’ same store sales were up a tick this past quarter compared to last year (and would have been up even more without electronics). That's the first time that has happened in 5 quarters. Kmart same store sales were down a bit. The same store sales information for Sears is actually encouraging, but the problem is that Sears is closing stores so the end result is not so good. On the other hand, the link indicated that Sears is still seeing large increases in online sales so there is always that.

    I believe that Eddie Lampert owns so many shares of Sears that he can basically call his own shots. Lampert just does not believe in spending money on store upgrades. It seems that he also does not believe in building new Kmart and Sears stores unfortunately. Lampert’s large and stable investment into Kmart/Sears has been a good thing in a way, but some of his business beliefs seem to be holding the company back at the same time. Hopefully Lampert will keep his investment in Sears and will also consider changing some of his business ideas.

    As for the electronics departments at Sears and Kmart, it’s hard to say what will happen. One would think that a “connected living” focus would also require some kind of electronics department, but I guess that it isn’t totally required if they start to sell things like smart appliances, smart appliances, and fitness calculators since those can be sold through those departments. Wal-Mart and Target both have electronics departments so I would think that Kmart would want one too in order to compete. If Kmart has electronics, perhaps Sears should too in order to maximize buying power. Plus, perhaps Sears can make money selling extended warranties on electronics. We’ll see what happens. Electronics retailers as a whole are really struggling so it’s not like Sears is in a unique spot with their struggles with electronics. Perhaps Sears and others just need to find electronic products that will turn a profit. HDTVs, digital cameras, stereo gear, and stuff like that were gravy trains for retailers for a while, but that isn’t the case now. Perhaps Sears can try to sell more portable audio gear, for example, and less TVs to try to make electronics work.

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    1. It looks like Sears will continue to shrink the electronics department and I would not be surprised if the Mall of the Mainland sized electronics department becomes a standard in most stores. Sears has cut back on video games, digital cameras, home phones, and nearly eliminated music, DVD's, and Blu-Ray's from their electronics departments. Most of the smaller Sears stores have no video games anymore which leaves lots of space but not many products have taken over that space.

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  26. Part II:

    That is some very interesting news about Pasadena Town Square. I wonder if the Dillard’s will be turned into a retailer or if perhaps it is just being used for storage or something. Perhaps it will be something like a gym like what is proposed for the Mall of the Mainland ex-Macy’s. A flea market or thrift might work well there. I think that an event center might be successful in that spot for things like weddings and quinceaneras, but there may be centers like that in the area already. I believe the old Pasadena Montgomery Ward is being used in part for that. I also noticed the independent businesses in the Dillard’s wing during my last visit to the mall. Some of them were not open during my visit, but some of them (like the hair salon) were open even though it wasn’t obvious that they were open. I don’t know when I will visit Pasadena next, but hopefully one of us will be able to track the changes at the mall.

    I visited Northwest Mall recently because I wanted to visit their food court. As I mentioned before, I really like the pizza place there especially given the price. The burger place next to it also looks to be pretty good, but I have not tried it yet. Anyway, I did notice that Melrose is closed. I believe that it was open during my last visit earlier in the year. It’s a shame that the mall lost one of its last few national retailers. Aside from that, the mall had some shoppers, but it wasn’t busy either. Hopefully the mall will hang in there through the 290 construction.

    It is always exciting to build a stereo system. I think finding a good used cassette deck is a good idea. Hopefully Sounds Good To Me will have something in your price range. It’ll be a good idea to e-mail them and see what they have. Receivers can be found in the thrifts (I’ve actually been seeing more of them lately), but they often aren’t cheap. Usually the starting price is about $25 for one in decent condition, but I’ve seen them go for over $70 at Goodwills. I’m not sure if you want a vintage receiver or what, but new receivers can be purchased for a reasonable amount depending on what you want. Obviously a home theater surround sound receiver will be more expensive, but a basic stereo receiver can be purchased for $100-200. In fact, a really good option might be the Sherwood RX-4109. RadioShack sells that model in the stores for $100, but sometimes it comes on sale for even less than that. Amazon sells the same receiver, but it’s more expensive there believe it or not. There are other good stereo receivers other than the RX-4109 from Sony, Onkyo, Teac, and others, but the RX-4109 has a built-in phono amp. That might be helpful if you ever get into vinyl especially if you use a vintage turntable that does not have a built-in pre-amp.

    As for speakers, they can be found in the thrifts and the flea markets too I’m sure. There are a lot of speakers in the thrifts, but a lot of them are low-end speakers from all-in-one systems and things like that. I would avoid those. Of course, you would have to check to make sure that the speakers are in good condition and don’t need re-foaming or anything like that. Fry’s has really good deals on new speakers usually so you may want to keep an eye on their ads. Some speakers sell in pairs, but not all of them. Of course, you would have to decide if you want floorstanding speakers or bookshelf speakers. I like bookshelf speakers, but then you would have to consider using a subwoofer for more bass.

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    1. The name of the company taking over the Dillard's was something with a V. It sounds like the name of an office or call center, but I am not sure. I should have asked one of the workers what they were putting in there on my visit. All of the new businesses were closed on my visit around lunchtime on a weekday. There are a lot of new stores, but if they are not open full time they will not help the mall much.
      I also just visited Northwest Mall and noticed the changes. It seems like they have lost a few more businesses, but there were a few new ones as well. Losing a junior anchor sized store is never a good thing, but with Macy's probably not coming back they are going to need to work hard to bring the mall back.
      That is exactly the type of receiver that I am looking for thanks for sending it over. I will still check out the store at Trader's Village, but if they don't have any good ones I may get the Radio Shack one. Speaking of Radio Shack they moved the store at Memorial City Mall across the corridor from their former location. It looks like they just slapped their sign up and did not fix up the space like most stores at the mall have done. Many of the smaller stores are being squeezed out of the mall and a bunch of stores are expanding their locations at the mall. At least 9 spaces I counted were boarded up with signs indicating new stores or expanded stores coming soon. More towers are being built on I-10 in front of the East section of the mall. They bulldozed a really nice park and a gym to make way for the towers, but it is a shame that the small park had to go.

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  27. Part III:

    I intended to go to Half Price Books during their 20% off Memorial Day sale, but I heard a bad traffic report about the North Freeway that made me peel off and head toward Northwest Mall instead. I did go to the HPB website though and I noticed that they have a picture of the cassette rack at the Copperfield store. I guess I never saw that rack there during my visits to that sore for whatever reason. Anyway, I’ve had some interesting cassette finds at thrifts this week. I was at a Goodwill and noticed that they had about 15 10 pack cases of new TDK D60 cassettes sitting on a shelf. Obviously I had to buy a couple of cases. TDK D60s aren't really rare at thrifts, but it was interesting to see so many new cassettes at a thrift. I also came across a sealed new blank Radio Shack Realistic Supertape 8-track tape (with the RS price tag still on it) from the mid 1970s I’m guessing. I don’t plan on using that 8-track (I don’t even have an 8-track recorder at the moment), but it’s something that I had to put in my collection. It’ll be a real conversation piece if nothing else. I also brought some good music cassettes including a semi-rare rock cassette on a chrome tape, but those aren’t as exciting as my blank tape finds.

    Yes, I seem to remember the Town & Country area Home Depot still being there. I don’t know if it is in the original building, a renovated building, or in a new building, but it’s in the same spot at least. I should also note that I was incorrect about the 249 and Spring Cypress Home Depot being on the same land as the Furrow’s that was there before. It’s right next to that land, but the Furrow building is seemingly still there and it is now a 24 Hour Fitness with some other companies using the lumberyard part of the Furrow’s.

    I agree about that Builders Square commercial being a bit creepy with the employees being so eager to help. I don’t seem to remember Builders Square being much different than Home Depot or Lowe’s in terms of finding help though.

    I was doing some browsing and found that Best Buy also has a parts store called PartStore. I didn't know that Best Buy owned that. It used to be an independent company util a few years ago when Best Buy brought them. Perhaps that is another option for cassette deck parts.

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    1. Best Buy also owns/ owned the Sam Goody, Suncoast, and Media Play (Musicland company). As you know a large number of those stores were closed after the 2001 acquisition by Best Buy. Speaking of Best Buy one of the employees tried to pull a classic bait and switch on us while looking at microwaves. He talked to us about a display model microwave and then told us the one on the shelf was the same one except it was missing one of the features on the display model. When he loaded the box onto our cart we noticed it was much smaller than the display model and cost the same price so we walked without the microwave and ordered the correct one Online. I am not one to complain unless it is a big issue, but I almost did this time.

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  28. Part I:

    It looks like Sears is acting fast on their Connected Solutions departments. Sears has opened up 1,700 sq. ft. Connected Solutions departments in 3 Illinois Sears stores. This link has a picture of one. I don't know what (if anything) was removed from the store to make room for those departments, but I wonder if it was part of the electronics department.

    I would not be surprised if more Sears stores get Mall of the Mainland Sears sized electronics departments in the future with Sears putting less focus on TVs. Things like digital cameras, MP3 players, and home phones just aren't as profitable (or profitable at all) as they used to be even if Sears has good market share with those items (I'm not sure if they do or don't). Electronic items that have some profitability, like portable speakers, headphones, and cables, don't take up a ton of room and can probably be sold in smaller departments. That said, I've purchased a cable at the Mall of the Mainland Sears and I noticed that their cable selection isn't as big as what the bigger Sears have.

    I was looking at the commission rate that Sears charges for 3rd party marketplace vendors on their website. Interestingly enough, electronics have the lowest rate of all the categories. It's hard to say exactly why that is, but perhaps the low profit margins on electronics has something to do with that. I did find some interesting Sears Brand Central commercials from the better days of electronics retailing though. This one is interesting and this one shows Sears' audio offerings. Perhaps they should bring back more of that stuff!

    An office or call center isn't ideal for a mall, but it is better than nothing so I think it is good news for Pasadena Town Square. That whole wing has non-traditional businesses like schools, tax services, and work placement places. It's not traditional retail to say the least, but at least Triyar is finding some use for that wing. Those businesses may not feed a lot of traffic to the rest of the mall, but again, it's better than nothing I suppose. At least it isn't STD testing I guess!

    I visited Almeda Mall this week. I didn't really notice anything major there that is different from my last visit early in the year. I do know that they have been doing some work on the roof (or something like that) for the last several weeks there. Also, the clock in the Macy's wing isn't working (the Northwest Mall one still works). In some ways the NW Mall is in better shape, but obviously Almeda Mall gets much more business and has a more retro look inside for the most part.

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    1. The Sears commercials would grab your attention if they would put one of those on now. I enjoyed seeing the old electronics store names on the first commercial, but the pink sunglasses on the second commercial have to go back to the 90's.
      Northwest seems to be slowing down, but if the medical school keeps growing the mall will be ok. I saw several medical students walking around the mall while I was there. Almeda is doing much better and does not have as many store vacancies as it did 3 years ago. The only parts of Almeda that need help are the 3 long entrances which have struggled for years to get stores.

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  29. Part II:

    It seems like the Memorial City area (including the mall itself) continues to boom even if it comes at the expense of community assets like the park. It's been almost a year since I've been there I think so it's interesting to hear the updates. I suppose we should just be happy that RadioShack is still at Memorial City Mall given their departure from many other Houston malls. RadioShack announced plans to close many stores earlier in the year, but it sounds like their lenders have caused RadioShack to reconsider those plans. We'll see what happens. As for Memorial City Mall itself, I found this interesting 1993 commercial for the mall. This 1989 commercial is perhaps even more interesting.

    It certainly seems like you had a bad experience at Best Buy. I don't know if that should be attributed to sleazy sales tactics or staff not knowing about the products. I don't shop at Best Buy much these days, but I had a few issues with their staff a few years ago especially in regard to them honoring a warranty the way the contract said they should. Speaking of Best Buy, it sounds like Panasonic is making a lot of their TVs exclusive to Best Buy. It's a good thing for Best Buy, but I'm not so sure if it's good for Panasonic IMO. Panasonic TVs still have some fans, but people aren't demanding Panasonic TVs quite the same way now as they did back in the CRT and prime plasma days. This move may make Panasonic even more obscure in the eyes of some shoppers, but we'll see.

    I've had some good luck finding cassettes in thrifts lately, but I really, really had some good luck this past week. I know that you've been looking for a good used cassette deck so you may not like it that I did this, but I found and brought a tremendous cassette deck for $8 at a thrift this week. It's a Luxman K-112 3 head cassette deck from the late 1980s. Luxman is known for their very high quality audio components. Their early 1980s tape decks were Nakamichi rivals at the highest end of the cassette deck market, but their late 1980s decks were perhaps not quite to that level. Still, it's a high end deck and it fully works. I have not cleaned the tape transport yet even though it needs to be, but it sounds great. I've been wanting a 3 head deck for a long time now so to find a working one for $8 is just great. That fact that it's a Luxman makes it even more special. Obviously I had quite a reaction when I saw it on the shelf and then even more of a reaction when I saw that it worked after testing it in the store. So, yes, great cassette decks (or even good ones) can be found in the thrifts, but I guess you just have to be persistent and/or lucky enough to find them.

    I think you'll like that Sherwood receiver if you go for that one. Sherwood makes a very similar model for Best Buy's Insignia house brand that is sold in the stores (the Insignia NS-R2001), but that is $130. Obviously RadioShack has a much better deal on that one. It just seems right to buy a receiver from RadioShack even if they weren't the cheapest option. Anyway, that should work well with some 8 ohm speakers. It's probably worth checking out the thrifts and Sounds Good to Me just to see if you can find a better deal on another receiver though.

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    1. The 1989 commercial looks like an MTV video with the small title screen at the beginning and end of the video. There are not many stores at the mall with the same signs as they had in that commercial these days. Memorial City was built in such a great location that it was able to withstand a down period and come back much stronger while Town and Country, Westwood, West Oaks, Sharpstown, Northwest have all struggled or closed.
      Since I found a dual cassette deck, I will now focus on getting my Walkman up and running again. I found a few cassettes at the flea market this past weekend as well but I need to find a storage bin now for my tapes.

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  30. Part I:

    Yes, those Sears Brand Central commercials are attention grabbing for sure. I like the 1989 one because it has some vintage Sears logos on it. I think it’s a nice touch to connect the history of Sears with the latest (at least by 1989 standards) technology. As for the guy with the pink sunglasses, well, that is an interesting one too. First off, the “kid” with the pink sunglasses looks like he has a receding hairline. I’m not sure if that is too convincing as a teen, but then again, I did know a guy in high school who was going bald. Beyond that, fluorescent colors were certainly in fashion during the late 1980s and very early 1990s. I guess that explains those sunglasses, but those are outrageous even by 1980s/1990s standards. Of course, that was the era of Zubaz and Generra Hypercolor shirts so who knows. Of course, the computer kid in this 1985 Sears electronics commercial had more typical looking glasses for the time, but they still look outrageously dated.

    Anyway, that commercial was shot when the Hi-Fi era was still in effect and I’m sure that electronic retailers would love for that to come back. The stereo equipment in that kid’s room was cool then. A mega stereo system probably wouldn’t be considered uncool today, but it’s not the hip thing either. The cool thing now are little Bluetooth speakers and fashion headphones. Perhaps Sears should bring back the Hi-Fi era by bringing back powerful stereo gear and marketing it as being an unbelievable experience. Perhaps Sears alone can’t make Hi-Fi gear cool again, but perhaps there are other electronics stores who might be able to do it.

    One interesting development this week is that someone, Lowe’s, has surpassed Sears for #1 in TWICE’s major appliance sales ranking for the first time ever. Well, kind of. This is the first year that Sears and Sears Hometown and Outlet were counted separately and the combination of the two would still be #1. Regardless, the two Sears sales are disappointing given that other stores like Conn’s and Best Buy are seeing massive gains in major appliance sales right now. Sears certainly spends a lot on appliance ads so it’s not a lack of marketing, but perhaps Sears should reconsider the kinds of ads that they use. I think Sears’ prices are competitive and they certainly have a good selection of appliances so it’s not that. Perhaps the bad reputation that Sears gets in user comments and in the newspapers is driving customers away even if the criticism isn’t always fair, but it’s hard to say. Perhaps it's just the impact of all the store closings.

    There are some more RadioShack updates. RadioShack’s latest report is not good. It is even worse than expected and it’s not like the expectations were high. It sounds like RadioShack will close some stores, but it seems like they won’t close as many stores as initially planned. It also sounds like poor cell phone sales are a major cause for the poor overall sales. Hopefully RadioShack can move away from phones, which is becoming more commoditized it seems, and move towards things like audio equipment and hobbyist gear. I don’t know if that will work either, but the cell phone strategy seems to be a dead end so they need to do something.

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    1. I had a Hypercolor shirt back in the day, I wonder if they will come back like so many other fashions of the past.
      I am sure many electronics companies are looking for the next Hi-Fi but who knows what that will be. With Internet sales taking a big chunk out of traditional sales retailers need something new to drive traffic into their stores.
      Wow that is one category that Sears can not afford to fall behind on. The store closings must have had some affect but most of the closed stores have been Kmart's which have very little in the way of appliances.
      Radio Shack is too big of a company and needs to close locations. Best Buy Mobile is hurting their mall locations and they need to find a way to get people coming back. GNC is another company that has thousands of locations, but very few customers but their profit margin must be very good because they hardly ever close stores.

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  31. Part II:

    Yes, that 1989 Memorial City Mall commercial was themed after music videos. MTV was big then, but the 1980s was also the era of Friday Night Videos and other music video shows. I have some Friday Night Videos episodes from the mid-1980s recorded on VHS tapes and they still look and sound great (though unfortunately they are in mono since I only had a mono VCR at the time). Fame City, at least the Beechnut location, was a pretty big deal back then so it was an interesting attempt to bring them to the mall even if it didn’t work. I’m sure that there aren’t many vintage storefronts at Memorial City Mall today. Most of them were probably removed during the early 2000s renovations if nothing else. The 1993 commercial makes me miss the old style of Memorial City a little bit. The mall looks nice currently, but the mall had an interesting look before too.

    Memorial City certainly has a lot of things going for it. The nearby Villages helped keep the mall afloat during the 1980s Houston economy bust when the mall was competing with Town & Country Mall. Town & Country had a lot of things that hurt it. It opened as a luxury mall during the Houston economy bust. That’s obviously troublesome, but West Oaks Mall opened at around the same time as a luxury mall and that might have been too much competition for too few shoppers. Memorial City had a lot of more favorable anchors too which held T&C back and also helped Memorial City. Also, T&C wasn’t too visible off of the Beltway and I-10 especially and access was poor so that held it back too. It wasn’t totally obvious for a while, but Memorial City won the I-10 mall war. The continuing expansion of Katy, along with no new regular malls being built westward along I-10, has been great news for Memorial City. It’s funny that T&C was seen as a luxury mall compared to Memorial City because Memorial City is probably the 2nd most glamorous Houston mall now after The Galleria. Of course, Memorial City also has mainstream and even discount aspects to it too with Target and Sears.

    I have not seen the nursing students at Northwest Mall during my recent visits to the mall, but I probably go there too late to see them. I know that the HISD headquarters near the mall also provides a lot of shoppers (and eaters) to the mall as well. The regular non-food court mall entrances at NW Mall and Almeda Mall tend to struggle since they don’t have anchor drawing power to them. I know that they had/have big signs for the stores that are visible from the main concourse. That helps some, but it isn’t a perfect solution.

    As I mentioned in the Longview Kmart post, I’m excited to hear that you found a cassette deck. I’m curious to know what you brought and how it sounds. Perhaps that new deck will be the only one that you buy now, but maybe you’ll try to find more of them. Hopefully you’ll be able to fix your Walkman. I don’t see Walkmen too often in the thrifts, but maybe you can find some at flea markets. I did find a new in-box Sony Walkman at a thrift several months back and I did buy it of course. Finds like that are somewhat rare though. What isn’t rare at thrifts are cassette storage boxes. I see cassette storage boxes (both VHS and audio cassette types) quite often at thrifts (especially at Goodwills). They’re usually on shelves above the clothing racks though and not in the electronics sections. It’s certainly worth a look at the thrifts because I’m sure you’ll find something without having to visit too many thrifts. Plus, you can check out the cassettes that the thrifts have. Many of the NW and SE side thrifts that I have been too lately have big selections of commercial cassettes right now. OTOH, I have not been seeing as many blank cassettes (not counting the thrift that had ~15 cases of blank TDK D60s) as in the past, but there are still some of those too.

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    1. Town and Country came at the wrong time and would have probably fared better if it was built further down I-10, but it would have been much closer to West Oaks. I really liked Town and Country Mall but the emptier it got, the more it seemed like an empty cavern. The 3rd level for the most part was empty except for the anchor entrances and Tilt for about 10 years before the mall closed. The mall just should have never been built as it was. If you look at how the land where the mall sat is doing today, you would never believe that a mall ever stood on that site.
      Speaking of Kmart, I visited the Pineville/ Alexandria Kmart and was very surprised to see a modified retro pre-Big K logo on the street sign. The logo looks like a mix of the Canada Kmart logo and the old Kmart logo. See a similar logo here for a better explanation of what is on the sign. The front of the store also has a very faded old Garden Shop sign and the famous blood pressure machine with the old Kmart logo. The inside of the store has high ceilings and the store is more of a square instead of a rectangle as far as the dimensions of the sales floor. I will make a post on the blog when I get mostly caught up.
      The Gretna Kmart near New Orleans will be closing later this Summer, so I hope to make it down there before it is gone.

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    2. On the above link you will have to scroll down a few posts to see the picture of the Kmart logo in a Playstation magazine I am talking about. For some reason I could not get a direct link to the image to work.

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  32. Part III:

    I mentioned in my earlier post that I am now a Luxman cassette deck owner. Well, now I am also a Nakamichi owner too. No, I didn’t get a Nakamichi cassette deck, but I did see a pair of Nakamichi headphones on sale for like 80% off at Sears a little while back so I had to buy that just so I can say that I own a Nakamichi if nothing else. I’ve heard that the Sears/Kmart Nakamichi headphones aren’t too bad for the money (at regular price no less) though so I do look forward to trying them out when I get a chance. I hope that they aren’t too bass heavy though like a lot of headphones these days. Obviously the company behind the current Nakamichi isn’t the same who made the legendary cassette decks. I think the old Nakamichi went bankrupt or something and someone brought out the name and logo. I’m not expecting the headphones to have Nakamichi Dragon level sound quality, but hopefully they’ll at least be decent so that they don’t disgrace the legendary Nakamichi name.

    This has been an exciting couple of weeks for me in terms of retail photos. I’ve only visited two Kmarts since they left Houston, the Moon Township, PA, Super Kmart and the Niagara Falls Kmart. The Moon Township store is closed now, but it was covered extensively by Kbloggers here and here. The Niagara Falls store was not photographed inside by any Kbloggers even though it is in the “Kblogger belt,” but that has changed recently. Someone posted several photos of the inside of the store. I’m excited about seeing that Kmart again, but I must say that the photos make it look better than it looked when I visited it in 2011. Still, some of the exact aisles that I shopped at were photographed so that is a bit exciting. Also, it's a bit exciting to see that Kmart again since it might be the only Kmart out of the many that I have been to that is still open. There's a Kmart in Missouri and perhaps a couple in Florida that I've been to years ago that may or may not be open now, but I'm unsure of those exact locations.

    Also, a Kblogger also posted pictures of the Cortland, NY, Kmart. It’s interesting how that store has NFL team flags hanging from the ceiling. I certainly like the Giants one since I usually don’t see Giants stuff at Sears and Kmart stores. It looks like they also have a Cowboys flag, but I guess that has to be expected at a Kmart.

    Sometime ago we discussed whether there are any Kmarts that still have a 1980s interior. I doubt that there is, but I did mention that I saw a picture of a Kmart that had throwback type orangeish lettering. I couldn’t find that picture then, but I found pictures of that Flint Township, MI, billboard facade style store. That’s certainly an interesting Kmart.

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    1. The Flickr images of the Kmart are good, it looks like they got almost every aisle of the store. The lettering in that Flint Kmart store has to be from the old days, you just don't see that in any stores these days. The Big Kmart remodel which seems to have missed this store replaced the letters with generic signs which are still used in most stores. If you look at the second image, the old Garden Shop sign is still in place also. The Kmart in Chalmette La that closed in the late 1990's had missed the Big K renovation and looked similar to this store on the inside, but may have been a Woolco since the store had very high ceilings. The Kmart in Metairie near David Drive which is still operating is a former Woolco.

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  33. Part I:

    It is certainly bad news that Sears' appliance sales seem to be going backwards even though the industry as a whole is booming. The user comments on that TWICE article have some interesting points. The user who commented about Sears' delivery system might be on to something, but it's hard to say. The user basically indicated that stores like Lowe's and Home Depot have an inventory/delivery system that can get products to shoppers quicker than Sears can. That's probably a big deal for people looking for fridges and such when their old ones break down. I don't know if that is true or not, but maybe it's a plausible reason. I'm not really sure if/how Sears can fix that situation if it is a problem. Perhaps they should convert some Sears/Kmart sales floorspace to warehouse space for appliances? That obviously comes with some drawbacks though.

    Another potential issue (especially with people looking to buy something ASAP) is that stores like Lowe's and Best Buy have locations closer to the newer suburbs than Sears does for the most part. I'm guessing those newer outer ring suburbs are probably driving a lot of the increased appliance sales. The Sears Hardware and Appliance Showroom stores may grow in those regions, but those sales go to the Hometown and Outlet company and not Sears itself. I think Lampert is really shooting himself in the foot by not building some new stores (and by closing stores in some cases like The Woodlands) in booming areas that look to have long-term stability. Someone in Sugar Land for example who needs a fridge right away probably doesn't want to drive all the way to West Oaks Mall or the former Westwood Mall to buy one when they can just go to Lowe's down the road.

    There's a major update in the Oakland Sears saga. Perhaps this was inevitable, but Sears has sold that location and will close that store soon. It sounds like the buyers want to fill it with hipster chains. Maybe that will provide the stimulus that that area needs (for a little while at least), but surely Sears provides more useful shopping.

    I've seen a picture of a Kmart store that has the Australian Kmart logo on it's street sign, but I can't find it right now. Of course, that Australian logo is used frequently in store closing signs (perhaps we can blame the 3rd party liquidators for that and not Kmart itself) and also in store signage oddly enough. I'm not even sure if the US Kmart has the rights to use that Australian logo, but I guess it gets used anyway. Of course, some other Kmart street signs are just odd in other ways. I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures of that Kmart as it sounds like a real oddball even by Kmart standards.

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    1. I saw the article a few days ago about the Oakland Sears closing, it has probably been known for quite some time but they probably did not want to risk losing employees until the end. I have been googling Kmart and Sears store closings the past couple of weeks since one of my old stores in Gretna is closing and I want to keep track of any other nearby stores that might be closing.
      The 2nd image above is very similar to the Kmart street sign that is in Pineville except for the blue is darker. The strange thing about the signs is that they are much newer than the Big K signs on the front of the store, unless they have some kind of super coating that lasts over 20 years. Maybe they were replaced in between the Big K era and before the lowercase red logo that is used now. I also noticed in my pictures of the store that they have an older Pharmacy sign on one side of the store and a new Pharmacy sign on the other side of the store. With all of the retro at this store, the cassette lady must be pleased to look across the electronics department there.

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  34. Part II:

    The vintage Garden Shop signs live on at many Kmarts, but I've seen many variations of those signs at various locations. Some have the typical tealish blue lettering on a white background, but some have reversed colors. Some have red lettering. Some have auto and garden shop signs. As for Woolco, many of their stores were converted to Kmarts so it's certainly possible that there are some currently operating Kmarts that were Woolcos before.

    As for the Flint Township store, I'm not sure if that is old signage or "new old" signage. If I remember correctly, the lettering during the orange stripe era was painted on and not actual raised lettering like what is in the Flint store in those pictures. I could be wrong about that though. Also, some 1990s Kmarts that never would have had lettering like that originally have letting with a similar font like this Super Kmart and this Iowa "round facade" Big Kmart. I guess that's the odd thing about Kmarts. Even some of their renovated stores look like they are from the 1980s so it's hard to tell the difference between an authentic old style Kmart interior and a "throwback" (whether intentional or not) styled one.

    I've come across some other interesting retail photos lately. Here is a Sears store in Kansas that apparently used to be a Wal-Mart. That's a bit of an odd conversion, but it looks like a typical Sears store built in the mid-1990sish. Also, here is a picture of a Florida Target store in 2008 that still had 1980s/1990s style department signage inside. It's very odd to see a Target store that is that out of date. I would expect that at a Kmart, but not a Target. The HVAC vent there also reminds me of a Kmart. I'm guessing that the store has been renovated or closed/replaced by now, but I'm not sure.

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    1. The auto garden sign is a strange one, I wonder how that happened. I wonder if anyone has a Kmart prototype list that can be used to help figure out the different store types of the past. The late 80's early 90's Kmart prototype is the one that I think the lettering from the Flint store came from. I think the reason some of the stores still have retro elements is that the Big K renovations seemed to have been completed rapidly and items were missed that probably should have been changed. Perhaps some of these stores had management that did not care or was new at the time of the remodel and did not ensure the jobs were completed. For those of us that like to see items from the past, these leftovers are a real treat. For shoppers looking for the newest in design, well they haven't been to Kmart in a while. The other converted stores were interesting, I would like to see what the Target looks like on the outside.

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  35. Part III:

    This was an interesting and sad week for electronics. It was announced that Pioneer is selling their consumer electronics division to a Hong Kong based company and Onkyo (which, along with Teac, has seen Gibson Brands (of guitar fame) buy a significant stake in it recently). Pioneer and Onkyo will continue to sell independent product lines, but the consolidation and selling off of consumer electronics brands is continuing and is probably a product of the struggles facing the companies. A lot of Hi-Fi fans are concerned that these Hi-Fi powerhouses will lose their heritage under new owners and will produce even more substandard equipment, but it's hard to say what will happen. It's sad that Pioneer has basically given up on home electronics (even if products will continue to carry their name). Pioneer was such a force in the Hi-Fi era (not to mention their LaserDisc players and things like that) so to see them out of it really drives home the fact that the Hi-Fi era is dead and not likely to come back anytime soon.

    RadioShack's numerous locations helps it support it's "convenience store" pricing and relevance model, but it also hurts it because there are a lot of stores that do little business instead of a few stores that do normal levels of business. RadioShack needs to find some balance there and they also need to find products and services that are in demand. It's really hard to do that with the current state of electronics, but maybe they can carve out a DIY/Hi-Fi niche again that other retailers can't match.

    GNC is one of those interesting stores along with Vitamin World, Bath and Body Works, and a few others in that they usually stick around in dying malls longer than other national chains. Some GNCs are franchised, but most aren't. Perhaps, as you say, the profit margins are so high that they don't need to do a lot of sales to make money. I don't know much about the supplements industry, but it seems like GNC is synonymous with supplements so maybe they have a large marketshare. I'm not sure though.

    I remember going to Town & Country Mall in the 1980s and early 1990s and the 3rd floor was pretty empty even then. I went to T&C towards the end of the mall's life (I'm not sure exactly when my last visit was) and it was pretty pathetic. If I remember correctly, it was very empty in terms of shoppers and stores and I kind of wondered if the mall was even open still or if it closed and they left the doors open by accident. I think it is fair to say that T&C was, like the Mall of the Mainland, a combination of bad planning and bad timing. West Oaks Mall was a mistake as a luxury mall during the Houston depression, but at least it was far enough away from the competition that it could rebrand itself as a mainstream mall. West Oaks has had it's ups and downs for sure, but at least it is open unlike T&C. Of course, West Oaks also has significantly better visibility and access than T&C did even though it isn't on a freeway like most Houston malls.

    I had a chance to use those Nakamichi headphones that I got at a significant discount at Sears. They are pretty bass heavy as I anticipated. The bass is pretty clean at least and they sound pretty good on anything with a flatter EQ or an EQ adjusted for more treble and mids and less on the lows. I'll definitely have to keep any kind of bass boost off with these though or else it will make opera music sound like hip hop. Anyway, they certainly aren't Nakamichi Dragon quality, but they are a tremendous value for what I paid for them (<$5) and they are probably a pretty good value even at regular price, but I have not heard most of the modern competitors at that price range so it's hard to say for sure.

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    1. It looks like it will be best to stick to the past as it relates to Hi-fi stereo systems. The future of retro electronics seems to be favoring records with CD's and cassettes awaiting their return to relevance. Even Hastings has a large new and used record section again, but no cassettes yet.
      The perfect storm took down Town and Country, poor planning, freeway construction, poor location, bad economy, and the competition from the shopping center next door all killed the mall. A three story mall also hurts foot traffic. With a two story mall you can walk back and forth and you will see the entire mall and leave where you entered. In a three story mall you will have to go past the same section at least once to see all three levels. The fact that JCPenney was only 2 stories hurt that section of the mall as well. My last visit to the mall was about a month before it closed and inside of the old JCPenney they had some kind of auction going on. The JCPenney there was nearly identical to the Belle Promenade JCPenney and was supposed to be the design of the future for the company. Since this design rolled out when the economy was in the early 80's recession, I don't think many stores had this same design.

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    2. Recent comments are back, I used a self-help website to get a new widget in place.

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  36. Part I:

    I am very happy to see that the recent comments feed is back. Even right now I can see that you have some new comments to posts that I never would have seen without that feed. Thanks for fixing the issue.

    The closing of the Oakland Sears may be the least surprising piece of retail news out there, but I guess it is official now. Perhaps they didn't want to scare off the employees as you say or perhaps they just wanted to make sure that the sale of the building was final because those deals have a way of falling through often. It's sad to see another Sears close, but at least that one does not have any impact on this region.

    I have been following Sears and Kmart news as well and there seems to be new Kmart closings almost every day. One story that has be really interested though is this one out of Minneapolis. It seems that the city closed a street in 1976 to allow a Kmart store to be built there. The store seems to be performing well today and Kmart has a long lease on it, but the city wants to tear down the Kmart in order to reconnect the street (perhaps that was a foolish decision on the city's part in 1976). Kmart seems willing to deal with the city, but only if the current store is allowed to stay open while a new store is being built. It sounds like the city wants to close the current store ASAP. The interesting thing is that, AFAIK, Kmart has not built a new store in a very, very, very long time (pre-Lampert I believe). Could we see the first new Kmart in over 10 years? My guess is no. My guess is that Kmart is just trying to drive up the price that the city will have to pay for the land and then they will take the check and not rebuild anything. Hopefully I'm wrong about that and we'll see a new Kmart. I'd really like to see what a new Kmart would look like.

    As for old Kmarts, it would be great to have a guide to historical Kmart designs and nuances. It would get a website a lot of visits I think. Scott Greer, who has been posting on your blog a bit lately, wrote some stuff in a post on this forum that is interesting about different layouts Kmart used and how store numbers can tell you what the store looks/looked like. Perhaps he should write something more detailed on the topic (perhaps for your blog), but I don't know if he is following this discussion so you may have to get his attention somehow.

    The street sign that had the Australian style Kmart logo that I saw the picture of also seems fairly new. It might even be within the timeframe of the current logo. I don't know why the Aussie logo is being used. Perhaps regional/local store managers are just picking out the logos that they like best? Perhaps Kmart is just telling the sign designers to go to Google Images and pull up a Kmart logo to use on the signs? Perhaps Kmart is secretly testing the Aussie logo for use here? It's hard to say. Kmart stores are crazy places and the use of logos that aren't really even the company's logo just adds to the zaniness of the place. Even Sears stores tend to be more consistent in that matter.

    I was reading the uploader's comments on those Flint pictures and it seems like maybe that store was scheduled to close in the 1990s, but somehow it survives. Perhaps it never got the Big Kmart updates since it was supposed to close. It's hard to say. The store does not have orange stripes now so it's not like it's totally untouched from the 1980s, but it certainly hasn't changed much.

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    1. Well I am getting closer to having all Kmart locations in Louisiana covered with the Pineville post. You can be the judge of the street logo and where it came from. I would like to see a new Kmart store as well. It will probably look like the store that was featured in Grown Ups 2. The newest Kmart that I went to was the Katy Kmart which was there for only a few short years before Kmart left Houston.
      For some of the Kmart stores, if I can find out the opening date I can find out a bunch of information from the New Orleans nola.com archives. Scott or anyone else is always welcome to bring additional information, pictures, and comments to the blog.

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  37. Part II:

    Kmart pharmacies are another point of oddness. For example, this Cleveland area Super Kmart (which almost certainly had to have been built in the 1990s and never would have had orange stripes) has 1980s style "orange stripe style" lettering like the Flint store. This 1988 store has an older style outdoor pharmacy sign. This store (I'm not sure where that is) has a modern pharmacy design. This store still has a retro pharmacy interior from the 1980s at least with a flu shots "sign" that seems to be printed on regular copy paper (here is a zoomed out view too). All that pharmacy is missing is the famous Kmart blood pressure chair, but maybe it's there somewhere too.

    As for the Garden Shop and Auto signs, the funny thing is that most Kmart stores don't even have auto garages now, but some of those signs still linger on. I looked at the picture of the red lettered Garden Shop sign that I posted the other day again and read the description. Apparently, that sign was installed in 2009-10 and replaced an older typical teal lettered sign that was in good condition (the store itself closed in 2011). I'm not sure why Kmart replaced that with another retro styled sign (albeit with red lettering) unless they got that from another store. I guess that just goes to show that not all retro aspects of Kmart are truly retro. As for the teal backgrounded picture that I linked a few days ago, that is on a billboard style facade Kmart so perhaps that is an original sign from the 1960s. It's hard to say, but even if it is, I'm not sure if that was the typical style for 1960s stores. There are other Garden Shop sign oddballs like this one and this one which seems to be a hybrid new and old sign. This one is also a hybrid, but a pretty sloppy hybrid I would say. Here is a converted Sears Essentials store that kept the Kmart Garden signage.

    As for the retro Target, I think this is the outside of that store. It seems like it was a Richway before it was a Target. The uploader seems to indicate that the store was renovated in 2008-9 (the pictures are from 2008), but it is unclear as to what was changed.

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    1. The Pineville store has 2 pharmacy signs on the front of the store which is strange. Taking a look at the differences of Kmart stores and the way that renovations have never been fully implemented in many stores is interesting. It almost reminds me of the Rite Aid stores left in Louisiana that I have documented which still have K&B designs and signage. Rite Aid took over K&B in the late 1990's and decided to eliminate the K&B name but never fully renovated a bunch of stores.
      As for those weird garden center signs, it looks like someone is trying to spend the least amount of money possible to replace signs.

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  38. Part III:

    My memories of the Town & Country Mall JCPenney aren't very detailed. I am sure that I shopped there at least a couple of times especially during the era where Willowbrook Mall did not have a JCPenney, but I really don't remember much about it. I always remember the 3rd story of T&C being empty even back when the first two floors were hanging in there. I can remember wondering why the developers even bothered building a 3rd floor, but soon enough the whole mall emptied out and I wondered why they even built the mall in general. T&C Mall may be gone now, but one thing that I won't forget about it is that the Houston economy can go from being great to being pretty bad very quickly if the fortunes of one or two industries changes. T&C may have failed even if the Houston economy wasn't bad since there were so many flaws with the mall's design and placement, but it's hard to think about T&C without thinking about the 1980s Houston economy bust.

    It is interesting to see stores like Fry's selling vinyl. I have not been to a Hastings in a very long time, but it is good to hear that they have a lot of new and used vinyl. Hopefully retro formats will help enable mall type music stores to survive. Maybe we'll see them sell cassettes too. Cassette Store Day will happen again this year so there is some interest in cassettes. Maybe we'll see growth in that area and hopefully that will lead to companies making more cassette decks, Walkman type portables, and maybe even more blank cassettes (though fortunately we still have some good options there like Maxell UR and Sony HF).

    On the topic of Pioneer, I came across a story from 2011 talking about the sad state of the Hi-Fi industry. You might find their thoughts to be interesting. Perhaps more interest in retro formats will encourage Hi-Fi buyers to be more choosy and more demanding, but I don't know. Perhaps that will encourage buyers to want to demo products before they buy them, but maybe not. I certainly don't expect the Hi-Fi era to return to mainstream popularity any time soon, but maybe it will return in a small form if the manufacturers are willing to make good products and if the buyers are willing to demo equipment before they buy instead of just buying the cheapest stuff on Amazon that promises a lot but delivers little at decent quality. Of course, it's hard for B&M stores that allow demos to compete on pricing with some online/catalog dealers and no frills B&M discount stores and such so that has been a tricky situation.

    It seems that the music industry is struggling a bit right now. Downloadable sales are dropping off significantly and music streaming service gains aren't high enough to make up for that. The title of the article and the stuff actually in the article are a bit contradicting, but perhaps vinyl sales are a bit of a bright spot (though probably a small bright spot all things considered). Perhaps the industry will look more towards retro formats in the future for increased sales. I'm not sure if CDs would count as a retro format right now since it probably counts as the one modern form of physical media, but perhaps we'll see more vinyl and maybe even more cassettes.

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    1. One of the crazy things about Town and Country Mall is that there was a plan to renovate the mall just before it was torn down and work had started on the 3rd floor in the JCPenney wing to build a banquet hall. The work was going on in late 2003 for the renovation and then it stopped just before the mall closing was announced. The Neiman Marcus management signed a long term lease just before the mall closed, but closed about two years into the lease.
      I would like to see cassettes make a comeback, but for now you can find tapes for $1 or less easily and decks seem to be available in many places for low prices.

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  39. I have a couple of quick Kmart updates that are both very interesting. One is kind of bad news and the other is good news. First the bad news. I've mentioned before that the older ex-Kmart in Texas City (the mansard slice facade store that still has a Kmart vintage "In" sign) is endangered of being razed by HEB as HEB owns that building and has been considering building a new store on that lot. Well, it sounds like HEB is progressing towards actually building that new store so the ex-Kmart building may not be with us for much longer. I have not been able to read the whole article, but I think the short description says all that needs to be said. That ex-Kmart is one of the best preserved ex-Kmarts in the Houston area so anyone who wants to see it should certainly expedite their visit.

    The HEB is sure to be busy, but it is almost assured of being ugly as well. The B in HEB stands for "Butt" and recent HEB stores certainly look like that on the inside. While it is good to see some positive retail news out of Texas City, it may not do much to benefit the empty retail buildings situation that Texas City has as HEB currently has a store right down the road and that will probably end up empty now unless someone else fills that space.

    On a more positive front, people ordering items from Kmart's website can now pick up their orders for free at Sears stores and vice versa. I've been waiting for this to happen for quite some time so I'm really happy to see it. The only thing I don't know is if Kmart orders can be returned to Sears stores and vice versa, but hopefully that is an option as well. If so, I can see myself ordering stuff from Kmart now since I don't have to worry about shipping and any return hassles. This may cause some pricing quirks where Sears may have some of the same items listed for a different price than Kmart, but yet the end buyer can still get the product at Sears for the Kmart price (or vice versa of course). Also, I'm not sure if it would be possible to do a same day store pickup through Kmart at a Sears store if Sears has the same product in stock. Hopefully we'll learn more about the details.

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    1. More and more it seems like Sears and Kmart are merchandising similarly. The electronics departments in Kmart recently have downsized their products and eliminated most of the CD's and lots of other products including their last cassette walkman. It looks like the DVD/ Blu Rays, and video games are also shrinking. I have been to several Kmarts this year already and noticed the same changes. It looks like the electronics departments are endangered at Sears and Kmart stores unless things change.
      I don't regularly shop at HEB but they do have some strange store designs.

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  40. Part I:

    Thanks for the pictures of the Pineville Kmart. I appreciate any information that you can find about these oddball Kmart stores even if they aren't Texas stores. I posted some comments about that store in the Pineville post a couple days back. That is definitely the Kmart Australia logo that they used on that street sign for whatever reason. As for the dual pharmacy signs, perhaps one was a Big Kmart era upgrade, but perhaps they kept the older one as well. I don't know why they would put two signs up other than to say that maybe it was poor planning on their part (that was certainly not unusual during the Big Kmart era). As for Kmart being cheap on upgrades in the current era, well, I would say that it is certainly true. Often Kmart does not do updates at all, but sometimes stores get some sort of half-baked update that is almost as bad as not doing any updates at all.

    It would not be surprising to see Kmart and Sears electronics departments shrink even more here in the next couple of years. Electronics were a real drag on Sears/Kmart's earnings last quarter and Sears had no problem admitting that. It should not be surprising that Kmart stores are carrying less video discs and CDs. Those don't sell as well as they used to and other retailers are cutting back on those as well. Video games have also struggled a bit here lately, but perhaps that situation has or will improve with the new generation of consoles. The push for online game purchases isn't helping traditional retailers though, but I guess regular retailers had to battle the GameStops of the world even during prior years.

    Hopefully Sears and Kmart will continue to sell at least some electronic products in the future. We'll probably see them sell fewer lines of TVs as TV sales have been a sore spot for them and others lately. Carrying fewer TVs may go a long way in shrinking the space of the electronics departments, but we'll see.

    Sears and Kmart selling the same products is a bit interesting. It does not impact areas like Houston since we don't have Kmarts, but I wonder what impact it has on areas that have both stores (like Lufkin since they are so close together there). If Kmart sells the same products for less, why would anyone shop at Sears?

    OTOH, both stores selling the same goods probably helps Sears' buying power and that may help keep things like the electronics departments in both stores. We'll see. Speaking of selling the same products, I was looking at the RadioShack ad for this week and I noticed that they had a set of Auvio headphones for sale that looks almost exactly like the pair of Nakamichi headphones that I got from Sears (Kmart sells that model as well). The specs are almost exactly the same too. I suspect that they are the same headphones with different names on them. Interestingly enough, the user reviews for the Nakamichi and Auvio headphones are almost all positive. I guess people really like them even if I find them to be a bit bass heavy. Of course, I paid a fraction of the price that RadioShack is selling them for even on sale.

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    1. The Sears in Lufkin has a very small electronics department similar to Texas City, but they have a large selection of TV's compared to the Lufkin Kmart. I wonder if they should try to strike deals with Radio Shack and bring a small cell phone/ gadget kiosk into the stores and keep Radio Shack in the mall but with less products. It could be a win-win for both companies if executed properly. I know Sears is experimenting with a similar concept, but having a retailer with experience and a name brand may be a better option.

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  41. Part II:

    On the topic of RadioShack, I went to one of their stores in the Northline area recently. It was a very odd experience. The clerk has to "buzz" all the customers to let them in or out the door (this was during the middle of the day). If not, the door stays locked. I'm guessing that this is done to reduce theft, but it probably makes life difficult for the clerk(s) as they may have to rush away from helping a customer or from getting stuff from the backroom just to get to the checkout desk to buzz the door to let a customer in the store. I know that some discount store auto service centers have (or had) "buzzed" doors, but aside from that, I can't recall going to any retailers that have such a situation. I'm not sure if you've been to any RadioShacks like that, but this was a first for me. Perhaps that store is an isolated situation. Crime can be an issue in the Northline/Heights area so maybe that's the reason.

    Aside from the door, that store was quite interesting. It is an older store with a 1990s-ish "3 aisles in the back" design. It also appeared to be larger than most newer RadioShacks. That store also had a well-stocked clearance table. The clearance tables used to be a hallmark of RadioShack stores, but I have not seen so much of them recently. Of course, most of the stores I go to are newer stores so maybe only the older and/or bigger stores have them. Anyway, I got the audio connectors that I needed plus a couple other items and paid less than $8 for everything. It's hard to get a handful of items from RadioShack and end up paying less than $10, but I managed to pull that off. Obviously I was pretty happy with the deals that I got at that RadioShack.

    Back to Kmart, I'm not sure which Kmart is the newest out of all of the ones that I've been to. I went to a few 1990s era Kmarts, but I'm not sure which of those is the newest out of the Houston ones. The options that I can think of (not counting ex-Venture stores) are the Westheimer and Humble Super Kmarts, the Hwy. 6 "round facade" store towards Sugar Land, and the West Rd. and I-45 store (which may have had the round facade too, but I can't remember for sure). None of those stores were directly in my area so I can't really recall for sure when they opened.

    There is a Kmart in San Mateo, CA, that is located in an old Montgomery Ward store, but that store is sadly in the process of closing. Here is a picture of that store. It's sad to see one of those Wards-Kmart stores close.

    I came across an interesting story about a Kmart in Illinois that was slated to close last year, but was instead converted into a Kmart clearance store called "Kmart at a Discount." The author seems to think that the discounts are mostly dubious, but it is an interesting concept even if the name needs some work. I wonder if we'll see any more of those clearance stores. Then again, those stores kind of compete with Sears Outlet stores so we may not see a lot of them. Some of the price tags in those pictures seem rather vintage looking though so they may have some really old products.

    Unfortunately, there was a shooting murder yesterday at the Greenspoint Mall theater. The details are sketchy and the story has not garnered a ton of attention, but this isn't good for the reputation of "Gunspoint Mall." We'll have to see if this has any business impact on the mall or the theater.

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    1. I have never been to a Radio Shack like the one in Northline, it is probably a crime issue but why would the clerk not let anyone in the store?
      The Humble Kmart opened in 1994 and the older store down 1960 closed which still has the garage untouched behind the Petco store. I wonder if there is anything left there from the 1990's including the old orange color. I guess the Westheimer and Rosenburg locations came around the same time. I went to all three while they were in business, but Westheimer was closing when I went there so I never got to see it fully stocked. The Humble location was part of the first round of closings that saw Kmart leave the area.
      Looking at the comments about the Greenspoint Mall shooting just goes to show some of the immaturity and crassness of our society. I am sure if something like this happened to someone they cared about, they would not be joking.
      I read both articles earlier this week about the Kmart at a discount store. It seems like they are trying to get enough of a profit to pay the rent from the closeout items, but as the shopper pointed out most items can be found for much less. Maybe they will source product from other stores to keep the product mix more up to date.

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  42. Part III:

    I think I remember hearing about the Town & Country Mall redevelopment plans, but I don't recall much about them. I think that converting the mall into a banquet hall or a convention center might have worked with all the businesses in the Katy area, but it might have been cheaper to just tear the mall down and start from scratch if they wanted to give those business services a more professional look. I've heard that the CityCentre project is doing pretty well, but I really don't have any reason to visit it so I don't know how well it is doing from a personal perspective.

    Usually demised malls have some followers who love their old memories of the place. I've never heard of anyone who seriously reminiscences about the old days at T&C Mall though. Perhaps T&C Mall visitors were also Memorial City Mall visitors so they just focus on their memories of the mall that was ultimately more successful. Of course, T&C Mall was a textbook example of 1980s mall design. Although the Pasadena Town Square is a totally different type of mall demographically with a totally different physical design, some of the 1980s mall design aspects of T&C live on in Pasadena (and Almeda Mall to a lesser extent).

    The summer of cassettes/cassette decks at the thrifts is continuing for me. I think I've come across yet another 6-7 cassette decks in the thrifts just in the time since my last reply on this post and it's not like I've been to a lot of thrifts in that time. None of them were particularly remarkable or super cheap and at least one of them (a low end Radio Shack Realistic SCT-20 deck from 1980) was physically damaged on the outside so I'm sure that not all of them worked. I did buy one of those decks though, a pretty clean and working RCA dual auto reverse deck from about 1993-4 probably. RCA is not known for their cassette decks (aside from a few that RadioShack badged as RCAs in the early 2000s during the brief time that RadioShack had an agreement with RCA) and there's virtually no information about the model (aside from what is on the Sears Parts Direct page for this model oddly enough). I strongly suspect that it was a part of an RCA shelf system with discrete components, but I can't really confirm that. I'd classify it as a lower mid-tier deck in terms of features, but it surprisingly sounds really good on playback. I have not recorded with it yet and I have not opened it up to see what's on the inside, but it feels surprisingly heavy so maybe it's well built (it's from Korea which was kind of odd for a cassette deck). I brought it mainly because I've had a lot of RCA video gear over the decades (and still do), but I never had any of their stereo equipment AFAIK. I'm glad that I tried it because it was a surprise to hear how good it sounds. The only odd thing about it that I've seen so far is that the recording level control has buttons instead of a knob. I've never seen that before and I can't imagine that it is intuitive to use, but I guess I'll find out when I try recording with it. I have some RCA blank cassettes from the late 1990s so I'll probably try recording to those using this deck.

    The upside to cassettes not having a huge comeback is that people will continue to donate cassette tapes and gear and it will sell for relatively cheap prices in the thrifts and flea markets. Obviously I'm seeing a lot of tapes and decks in the thrifts right now (more than I've ever seen). I don't know if this means that people are donating more of that or if the thrifts are selling more and throwing out less because they figure that they can sell it if they put it out. I'm enjoying the summer of cassettes in the thrifts though because I know that it will dry up (or cost a lot more) at some point. There were times even just a year ago where it would take me more than a month just to see a cassette deck in a thrift and a lot of those were expensive and didn't work.

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    1. The floor tile in Pasadena Town Square is very similar and possibly the exact same as at T&C Mall.
      If you order vintage parts from Sears Direct be prepared to wait. My Walkman bands are have been held back three times already and now are scheduled for a late August delivery.
      It sounds like a good time to make trips down to the thrift stores to look for tapes since I have been to nearly every Half Price Books in the city over the past few months.

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  43. Part I:

    I think that some sort of partnership between Sears and RadioShack might be a good idea. People are probably more familiar with RadioShack than Sears' electronics departments so that gives Sears something. RadioShack could probably benefit from mall traffic at malls where RadioShack does not have a presence currently and they could perhaps save money by being at Sears stores instead of leasing space at the more expensive malls themselves at malls where RadioShacks still exist. Of course, Sears and RadioShack have kind of emphasize opposite things when it comes to electronics. Sears has a lot of TVs (though maybe less so at stores like the Lufkin one), but they really only sell pre-paid cell phones. RadioShack emphasizes contract cell phones (and pre-paid too), but they barely have any TVs. I'm not really sure how those departments would be merchandised given the opposite priorities.

    OTOH, one could say that Sears attaching themselves to another fading retailer like RadioShack is a bad thing. It's hard to say I guess. Perhaps Sears' Connected Solutions concept will do well and they'll roll it out nationwide. We'll see. I just hope that Sears is able to do something to save their electronics departments.

    I'm guessing that Sears Parts Direct does not keep all of their parts in their warehouses. They probably keep some common parts around, but not the more obscure things. They probably order some parts from their suppliers whenever they get an order from a customer for the more obscure stuff. That might explain why your order has been pushed back, but hopefully you'll get it soon.

    On the topic of Sears, I'm not sure if you've been keeping an eye on what is happening down in Galveston. The Galveston Historical Foundation purchased the old Galveston Sears store that opened in 1940 and closed when Sears relocated to the Galvez Mall. The GHF is in the process of remodeling the building to look like what it looked like when the Sears first opened. Here is a picture of the Sears store when it was still a Sears and here is a picture of a sign that the GHF is hanging up. Obviously they look similar and the new sign even mentions the building's past history as a Sears store. The Galveston Daily News has a story about the GHF's plans for the place, but you need an account to read about it. I read the article in the newspaper and it seems that the GHF is going to sell historical building supplies out of the first floor of the building so that people who own older Galveston homes can keep their houses looking historic. Anyway, I think it is pretty neat that an old Sears in the area is being restored and it'll be a nice complement to the Midtown Houston Sears store that is still open and will turn 75 here in a few months. I suppose that the Mall of the Mainland Sears is carrying on Sears' history in the Galveston area.

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    1. Radio Shack is in the news lately for big financial problems that could leave the company without cash as soon as early 2015. I think now is the time to start documenting these stores especially if their company stock gets delisted unless a deal is made to save the company. It looks like the company will not be able to convert more stores into the new format while they are losing cash. This situation is vaguely familiar to what happened to Circuit City at the end of the company.
      That is great news for Galveston, that is an awesome looking store and it would be great if they will get it back the way it looked before.

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  44. Part II:

    It should be noted that the RadioShack store that I am talking about is not in the Northline shopping center, but it is near it. As for why customers have to be buzzed in, well, I don't know. I guess they won't let in people with ski masks on or something. Maybe they won't let in customers without shirts and shoes, but I don't know. Maybe they want to make sure that the clerks aren't in the backroom or something if there are customers in the store. I know that the customer who came in a couple of minutes after me had to wait a few seconds to enter the store because the clerk was helping someone else across the store and had to come back to the desk to buzz the door. It's certainly weird and inconvenient for the shoppers, but maybe it does help with theft. The one thing that I will say about that store is that they had all of the things that the website said that they had in stock that I looked at. That's somewhat rare for RadioShack. I talked to a clerk at another store some time back about why there are so many mismatches between what the website says they have in stock and what they actually have in stock. The clerk said that it was probably theft. Perhaps the locked door is really helping that Northline location with shrinkage. I guess we'll have to see if any other stores get doors like that. I'm not sure if that Northline area store is an isolated case or if there are other stores like that.

    It does seem like there are some Internet user commentators who wait for something to happen at malls like Greenspoint Mall and Sharpstown Mall just to make some sort of outrageous comment. Anyway, the situation is a real shame all the way around. I was hoping that Greenspoint could overcome it's reputation, but situations like what happened certainly aren't helping.

    I suspect that the Westheimer Super Kmart opened around 1994 or 1995 as well. I never went to the Rosenberg Super Kmart so I really can't comment about it. Most of the other 1990s non-Super Kmarts were probably built around or before 1995 too, but it's hard for me to say because Kmart didn't build new stores in NW Houston after around 1979-1980 (we did get Kmarts in old Ventures, but obviously Kmart did not build those stores). Some redeveloped ex-Kmarts in Houston still have Kmart elements that were not changed. I don't know if I would count the Kuykendahl and FM 1960 ex-Kmart as being fully redeveloped, but it still has the auto center garages AFAIK (though the NAM thrift store opened up there recently so maybe they made some changes). That store closed in around the mid 1990s so maybe there is at least a little bit of an orange stripe there. Of course, some orange stripe lives on at the old Little York Kmart as we know.

    Perhaps the Kmart at a Discount store(s) will get merchandise from non-Kmart stores like Sears Outlet stores. Then again, Sears Outlet may not be happy that Sears/Kmart are sending their clearance goods to other stores. Of course, Kmart is closing so many stores that they may figure that they can sell some excess goods for more profit by selling them at Kmart at a Discount rather than liquidating them at 75%+ off or whatever the store closing prices are.

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    1. It seems many Internet commentators love to bad mouth parts of town and the malls that are in those areas like Greenspoint or Sharpstown.
      I probably mentioned this but I visited the old Little York Kmart when it was still open as a flea market shortly before it was closed and should have taken pictures. The roof was already in poor shape with many ceiling tiles fallen down or stained. Only about 25% of the market still had stores. I wonder how bad the store looks now a few years after those photos were taken. There were 4 of those trading fair flea markets that all shut down at the same time. The one on I-45 South near Fuqua and Almeda Mall only had about 5 shops still left just before it closed. Another one on 610 South was in an old warehouse style office with very thin corridors. The 610 South market was actually doing well about a year before it was closed, I never visited the other one which I think was on 59 South.
      I noticed a Sears Outlet on I-45 North near the Holzwarth/ Cypresswood exit that I will check out someday. Kmart has deals on clearance items from time to time such as an extra 50% off the lowest price. I would guess a full discount store will not have too many specials since the rent needs to be paid.

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  45. Part III:

    The Pasadena Town Square flooring does remind me of the Town & Country Mall flooring. Granted, that type of flooring was very common at early 1980s built and renovated malls. The earthtones were certainly still in at that time. I can't remember for sure the exact design of the T&C Mall flooring, but the color is very vivid in my mind. It's one of my best memories of T&C for whatever reason.

    This may be the summer of audio cassettes at the thrifts, but I've been buying VHS tapes here lately. VHS moves are still very plentiful at the thrifts, but I rarely see sealed movies (sealed blanks are still somewhat common though). Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sealed copy of The Blues Brothers at a thrift this week. That was the movie (Dixie Square Mall specifically) that got me started with researching malls and retail online many, many years ago. I know that a lot of people got into retail blogging in part because of that movie. I really didn't need to buy that movie as I recorded it on a DVD off TV about 10 years ago, but I like having a sealed VHS copy of it now too as a souvenir of sorts.

    Anyway, I'd certainly recommend visiting the thrifts. You may not find tapes that you like at the thrifts even if they have a lot of tapes as you have to sort through the religious and self-help tapes and all of that, but you never know what you'll find. Plus, you might find some great equipment or cassette storage bins. I know you said some time back that you were looking for that. I've seen quite a few cassette drawers since you made that comment.

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    1. It seems that many 80's malls had a similar tile setup like Belle Promenade, Sunrise Mall, and even San Jacinto to a certain extent. Wood paneled storefronts in the latter two are still all over the place even though the stores are vacant. When PlazAmericas Mall was taken over a few years ago, all of the covered up store fronts were opened back up revealing old labelscars and some intact signs from the 80's and 90's.
      I am running out of storage room for tapes these days, and I appreciate the tip to check out the thrifts. I cleared out a bunch of my VHS cassettes and a few DVD's at Half Price Books and got a whopping $20 for five bags full of movies. Oh well at least I got some space back.

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  46. Part I:

    The earthtones were very, very popular in 1970s and early 1980s malls. I always enjoy going to malls that have that design today, but I can understand why some people got tired of that design back in the day because it was very common. Some mall critics accuse malls of having cookie cutter designs and I can certainly see their point when I look back at that era. Plus, the earthtones look made many malls look quite dark inside (this was certainly true about North Oaks Mall). Of course, many houses built or redesigned in that era also had similar elements in them. I think the thought back in the day was to design malls to be an indoor park type thing. That’s why we saw things like trees, dark wood paneling, fountains, and other earthtone elements like flooring. It was like having natural beauty while having indoor comfort. Many, if not most, of Houston malls had an earthtone type design in it at some point. Some malls still do like the Pasadena Town Square, but other malls like Willowbrook Mall and Greenspoint Mall had the park-like designs before renovations (some park-like elements lived on past the renovations). Even the ex-Buyer’s Market Malls that became Garden Ridge stores had some earthtone elements like the floor tiles.

    I remember the wood panel storefronts very well. Some, like Hickory Farms and Miller’s Outpost, are more memorable and ornate than others. It would have been interesting to see Sharpstown Mall with all the old storefronts. I wish that I didn’t miss that. On the topic of old storefronts, one of the more famous dying malls in the nation is the Metcalf South Mall in the Kansas City area. Kansas City has many famous dead/dying malls and Metcalf South may be the most famous of them. Anyway, that mall has maintained many of their dead storefronts. In fact, the mall is maintained very well for a mall that has a low lease rate. The mall was recently sold and apparently the mall will be razed, but you can enjoy some pictures of the place in the meantime. Those pictures are a few years old, but not much has changed in recent times based on more recent pictures that I have seen.

    I have been reading the recent articles about RadioShack as well. In fact, I often link to the ArsTechnica site when there is technology news to report. That is the site that had the article about working at Babbage’s in the 1990s. They had a story about RadioShack last week that featured a picture of the RadioShack at the Ashtabula Towne Square Mall in Ohio that was taken by NickE of the Dead and Dying Retail Blog. Ars is owned by a major magazine publisher so I don’t know why they are using pictures off the web, but oh well. On an unrelated note, Ars recently posted pictures of a tour that they did at HP’s Houston office (former Compaq World HQs) on 249. I think that you might enjoy that article even though they kind of bash the 1980s Compaq look of the place. I think that it looks nice and Compaq was one heck of a company that deserves to have their history preserved. They certainly meant a lot to those of us who lived in the Willowbrook Mall area during Compaq's time.

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    1. It seems that malls have followed each other on designs as evidenced by the similar looks of the malls in the Houston area and in many other parts of the United States. The one mall that is different from the pack is Katy Mills, but most of those malls look the same.
      Metcalf South has some great elements of the past still left and I would hate to see it go, but it seems to be mostly empty and nobody wants to pay for upkeep and utilities for a dead mall.
      Speaking of Radio Shack, I found a cool mirrored glass Radio Shack store entrance during my travels earlier this month. I have a ton of pictures to sort through including the beginning of a Sears closing sale and a Kmart closing sale. I also found a Kmart with the new red lowercase signage on the storefront.

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  47. Part II:

    Anyway, it’s hard to say how long RadioShack will last. Things aren’t looking good for them, but hopefully they can turn things around. RadioShack has meant a lot to me personally over the years and there really isn’t another B&M alternative to their stores (Fry’s, MicroCenter, and Altex are local alternatives, but most people don’t have any options like that). It’s probably worth photographing and remembering their stores because they may not be with us for much longer. Even if the chain stays alive, they do plan on closing stores so some stores locally may go away. Most Houston RadioShacks aren’t too special on the outside and it may be hard to photograph the inside of the stores since they are so small that I’m sure the employees would notice (at least non-mall stores), but RadioShacks are unique and historic so they are worth documenting.

    I’m sure that the old Little York Kmart is in pretty bad shape now. The photos of the place were from a few years ago and it was in bad shape then. I’m sure that it is much worse now. Those older abandoned retail stores seem to deteriorate very quickly unless someone is actively maintaining them. As for the other flea markets, is the 610 South flea market that you are talking about located between MLK and Griggs? Kind of near Palms Center? There is a building there on the Loop that kind of looks like an old department store building, but it also looks kind of like a warehouse. It’s a weird hybrid I guess. I’ve wondered what goes on in there and if it had a significant retail history, but perhaps it is the flea market that you are talking about.

    There is a Sears Outlet store across I-45 from where the Spring Deauville Fashion Mall location is. It is over by Spring High School. I have not been to that location, but I suspect that it is like the Clear Lake Sears Outlet that I’ve been to a few times. They may not have as much as the Griggs Sears Outlet, but they do have some interesting things. Not only do they have Kmart clothing, but they also have Target and Wal-Mart house brand clothing too. It’s quite strange. On the topic of Sears Outlets and Kansas City, here is a picture of a Sears Outlet/Service Center in Kansas City that has a mega-sized retro sign.

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    1. I plan on getting some Radio Shack images especially if things don't pick up soon for the company. It looks like they will get bought out or have to get some significant loans to stay open.
      Yes the building on the South Loop is the one I was talking about.
      I wonder if the Sears Outlets have the last cassette player model that the Kmart stores were selling until early this year. I finally got my parts in the fix up my Walkman, but I wouldn't pass another new one up if I find it. None of the Kmart stores I recently visited had any portable cassette players even the Kmart that was going out of business.

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  48. Part III:

    Well, at least you were able to get $20 for your VHS tapes. That’s not bad even if you had a lot of them. A lot of people just donate them to the thrift stores for nothing (I’m not sure what the tax claim for VHS tapes would be). Of course, I kind of like it that people donate things because that’s more stuff for me to buy at the thrifts, but then again, Goodwill charges about as much as Half Price Books does for VHS movies. Some other thrifts are cheaper though fortunately. I was at a thrift today that was selling 10 VHS movies for $1. They had a couple shopping carts full of cassettes plus the tapes on the rack. Unfortunately, it's quite difficult to go through all the tapes when they are dumped in a cart. It takes a lot of time to sort though everything.

    I’ve never been a big collector of VHS pre-recorded movies. I probably have fewer than 15 pre-recorded VHS and DVD movies even counting thrift stuff, but there are some movies that I look out for when I go to the thrifts. I do have some pre-recorded sports tapes and DVDs though. Most of my VHS tapes are things that I recorded myself over the decades. Obviously then I look more for good blank tapes more so than pre-recorded stuff, but I look for both. I’m not really sure if I need more blanks at this point, but I do buy high quality tapes that I come across or oddballs that would be nice for my collection.

    I normally don’t buy the cassette storage cases that I see in the thrifts since I already have several cases that were purchased new back in the 1980s and 1990s (a lot of them from Best Products), but I came across one in the thrifts that I had to buy. It was a sealed TDK car cassette carrying case that came with six sealed 1992 era TDK SA-X 100 minute audio cassettes. Obviously I didn’t care about the case! I wanted those TDK SA-X tapes! That was TDK’s top of the line Type II tape at the time and they have a stellar reputation. Sealed SA-X tapes sell for about $10 each on Ebay so I obviously got a great deal buying the case and tapes for $3 or $4. Those tapes are probably the highest end and most valuable sealed tapes that I’ve ever come across in thrifts (I’ve found more valuable used tapes like the TDK MA-X metal tape that I found a few weeks back). The interesting thing is that I found those tapes in the housewares section of the thrift instead of the cassettes section. I normally don’t look in those sections, but I’m glad that I did because that was one heck of a find. You never know what you’ll find in a thrift.

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    1. I got some much needed space back in my house and gained $20 so it wasn't too bad I guess. It seems that all big box stores sell the exact same VHS tapes or cassettes so finding something different is a good thing.
      I found a Maxwell Mx60 Metal tape at a Half Price Books recently for a quarter and I noticed they are going for around 7-10 unopened. I am not sure what is recorded on the tape but the tape was in great shape with a clean case so I grabbed it.
      One thing I forgot to mention on my previous reply is that the Kmart stores in Southeastern Louisiana all had a mattress department and a Sears appliance section. I had not noticed this in any other stores elsewhere and it is not new within the past few months because the store going out of business had these departments as well. I wonder if some Sears stores are going to get a Kmart department. I know that land is expensive and scarce in the areas where these stores are which would explain why I have only seen these departments in this area.

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  49. Part I:

    Houston does not have a lot of original looking malls unfortunately. Of course, a lot of the true mall oddballs nationally seem to exist in small towns and cities and not in big cities. To that extent, the Brazos Mall in Lake Jackson seems to have more of an original look inside than most of the Houston area malls. Some may argue that the Brazos Mall is in the Houston area, but I don't think I would say that at this point. Katy Mills does have a bit of a unique look inside compared to other Houston malls, but the Mills malls themselves were cookie cutter designs so it's hard to call that original in the greater scheme of things. The older parts of The Galleria do look kind of unique, though perhaps less so in modern times compared to how it used to look around the 1980s. West Oaks Mall does have a bit of a unique and modern look to it with the Texas/Western themes, but the current version of Memorial City Mall has some Texas themes to it too.

    The Kansas City area also had another mall, the Metro North Mall, that was similarly preserved like Metcalf South Mall. Both malls were once owned by Sherman Dreiseszun so that might explain why both were preserved as dying malls. Metro North finally closed this past April, but here are some 2012 pictures of the mall back when it was still open. The well preserved Montgomery Ward store and mall entrance are probably the most famous aspects to this now dead mall. The Kansas City area is a dying mall mecca, but it looks like this is changing as some of the malls are closing with plans for redevelopment.

    Speaking of Montgomery Ward, I was flipping through their catalog the other day and I noticed that they are now selling their own brand of small appliances. For example, you can by a Montgomery Ward branded microwave, mini-fridge, and iron. I guess those who want Montgomery Ward branded items without having to buy something used are now in luck.

    I visited the Baybrook Mall Sears the other day and I noticed that they were expanding the mattress department on the 2nd floor there. The mattress department there already looked pretty nice so we'll have to see if it keeps the good looks. They were moving some housewares around to make room for things. It looks like they are putting some housewares in the area that probably used to house the portrait studio. Anyway, it was interesting to visit a Sears and end up smelling fresh paint. Of course, the Willowbrook Mall Sears just went through a mattress department move and expansion just a couple months back. The Baybrook Sears Optical department was undergoing a bit of a re-freshening a couple months back too so that store has seen a lot of updates here recently.

    Some time back I mentioned a deal that was made to expand the number of Consumer Cellular phones that are sold at Sears stores. I saw a TV ad for Consumer Cellular the other day saying that they are being sold at Sears and I've also noticed Consumer Cellular counters that have been set up in Sears electronics departments at the Baybrook and Mall of the Mainland Sears (and other Sears too I assume).

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    1. The Brazos Mall still has some original elements such as the Dillards/ former Joskes that has a wood paneled mall entrance.
      I have been reading a blog called American Dirt that has some great Kansas City retail articles, you should check it out if you haven't seen it yet.
      It looks like Baybrook might be a test store for the area now with all of the updates the store has recently gotten. I would not be surprised to see the digital price signs there soon if they are not already there.

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  50. Part II:

    The presence of Sears departments in the SE LA Kmarts are interesting. Some Kmarts nationally have those, but not all of them. Perhaps those Kmarts are located far from regular Sears stores? Perhaps Sears Hardware/Hometown/Appliance Showrooms don't have much of a presence in that area so Kmart needs to pick up the slack? It's hard for me to say, but I'm sure that you know that area better than I do. I'm not sure what a Kmart department at Sears stores would sell. Pantry foods, pharmacy goods, and cleaning supplies? I guess they better not sell toilet paper or else Dillard's may complain ala Highland Mall!

    I'm glad to hear that your Walkman parts came in. Were those the ones that you ordered from Sears? The Sears Outlet website does a pretty good job listing what hardline items each store has in stock as well as some closeout/open box goods at regular Sears stores. Not everything that the stores have is on the website though, but I don't think I've seen cassette players at the Outlet stores in my handful of visits. The Clear Lake Outlet does not have a lot of electronics aside from some headphones and phone chargers. Your best bet if you want another Walkman is to look at stores like Best Buy, CVS, or online. Granted, the modern ones are almost certainly going to be worse than your old Sony Walkmen. Another alternative is to buy one of the boomboxes with cassette playback like the Sony CFD-S50 that Kmart and Sears sells.

    There aren't too many Kmarts in this region with updated signage AFAIK. I think that at least one Kmart in South Texas has current signage (Harlingen maybe?), but that is the only one that I am familiar with so I would be interested to see what you found. The mirrored facade RadioShack sounds very interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing that picture. Hopefully you'll be able to do a post about RadioShacks in the region, but hopefully it won't be needed to remember RadioShack stores.

    I don't know if I'm just noticing this now because the recent comments feed is back or what, but it looks like you're seeing more people comment to the blog than was the case a few months back. Hopefully that signals increased interest in reading about retail in this region. I'm enjoying reading the comments. It sounds like you have some great new posts coming too so that is exciting.

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    1. I am also not sure what they could put in a Kmart department except for maybe a blue light special. Speaking of Kmart I forgot to mention that the Kmart that is closing still had a K Cafe inside with menu boards and signage still intact. I now only have 3 Kmarts left in Louisiana to visit for the blog.
      The cassette parts were from Sears, but I managed to fix the Walkman so I have backup parts now.
      I am also noticing a rise in new comments. Since several of the more popular and older blogs/websites have not been updated regularly I may be seeing an increase in visitors and less spammers.

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  51. Part III:

    Speaking of RadioShack, the summer of audio cassettes in the thrifts is continuing for me. There was a bit of a cool front on the cassette deck front for a couple of weeks, but boy did things heat up quickly. I visited two thrifts the other day and they had five cassette decks between the two stores. Five! Interestingly, all five were 1980s models, but one of them was just barely an 1980s deck. That one, a Radio Shack Optimus SCT-87 dual cassette deck, was made in October 1989 and was first featured in the 1990 Radio Shack catalog. That Radio Shack deck was the only one that I purchased. I would have brought more, but 3 of the decks didn't fully work and the other was a shelf system deck that could have worked by itself, but it was being sold as a set and the price was too high.

    The Radio Shack deck that I ended up buying is low end, but it surprisingly sounds pretty good even though the specs for it listed in the Radio Shack catalog aren't particularly great. It only has Dolby B, but it has headphone and mic jacks which is nice. The deck was made for Radio Shack by Sanyo/Fisher and it does kind of look like a Sanyo. Sanyo made a lot of electronics for Sears back in that era so I wonder if this RadioShack deck has a Sears LXI Series twin. It was only $8 or $9 and I'm glad to have a RadioShack deck in my collection now. I've seen quite a few RadioShack decks in the thrifts over the years, but none of them fully worked. This one does fully work and is very clean. Interestingly enough, the thrift that I brought this deck from is in a shopping center with a RadioShack in it.

    Wow, a Maxell MX tape for 25 cents is quite a find. The Maxell MX, along with the TDK MA, were probably the two most popular metal cassettes. Metal tapes as a whole are a bit rare due to how much they cost when new so they sell for high prices now too. I wonder what is on that tape that you found. Perhaps you should record over it if it isn't good music.

    Does Half Price Books normally sell home recorded tapes? Most thrifts don't allow that, but sometimes thrifts will sell them. That's how I ended up with that TDK MA-X tape and the Teac reel type CDC Type I cassette that is the most valuable cassette in my collection. I definitely need to check out HPB especially if there is some chance that I may find a metal tape there.

    Maxell seems to be the most common brand of VHS (and audio) tape being sold in the stores. I noticed the other day that Wal-Mart is selling Memorex VHS tapes. I did not like Memorex VHS tapes back in the day, but Memorex is now owned by Imation (which was once 3M's storage division and currently sells TDK consumer products). The modern Memorex VHS tapes are made in Korea, but so are at least some of Maxell's VHS tapes. They may contain the same tape, but I don't know. I'd like to try out the modern Memorex tape to see what it is like.

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    1. Radio Shack is not known for long lasting quality at least with their toys so a good cassette deck is a find. The tape is the second like that I have seen at a HPB. I am looking for a good cassette store in the area but I have not seen any listed online except for a place near 249 and Louetta.
      I have not tried out any modern VHS tapes for recording so let me know if they are any good. I am just glad they are still selling cassettes these days.

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  52. I visited the Willowbrook Mall this past weekend and inside the mall they got the Nordstrom Rack building signage put up but not the outside building. Also i see the Bar Loiue is going to be sitting right next to the nordstrom rack building. Once fall comes i'll make another visit to see how willowbrook crowd turns out with 2 new business built.

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    1. Thanks for the update, I still have yet to pass by Willowbrook but I heard the mall is doing well.

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    2. Thanks for the update. I've made a few trips to Willowbrook Mall here in the last few weeks too, but I only went to the anchors and I did not go in the mall itself. Plus, I drove along the East side of the mall to get to the Sears so I haven't seen how the Nordstrom Rack is progressing here lately. I'll have to walk inside the mall to see what the Nordstrom Rack mall entrance looks like and to see if any renovations to that wing have been made aside from the addition on the Bar Louie.

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  53. Part I:

    I read some posts on that American Dirt blog that you mentioned. I did not know about that site, thanks for the reference. Another one of Sherman Dreiseszun's Kansas City area developments is the French Market, an early hypermarket type store with unique architecture. That store became a Kmart and existed as Kmart for many years, but it closed here recently. The Pleasant Family Shopping blog did a recent post about the Kansas City French Market/Kmart and it is worth the time to read it. They have a lot of good pictures of the place too.

    Another relatively famous Kmart that has closed here recently is the Green Bay/Lambeau Field area Kmart. There's nothing famous about that store architecturally or anything like that, but it's location in the shadows of Lambeau Field makes it pretty famous. I think the Packers were trying to get that store to close for quite some time in order to do other things with the land (or something like that, I forget the details) and perhaps they were finally successful in getting that store to close. Locally speaking, I'm pretty sure that I remember there being a Kmart near the Astrodome back in the day. I know that I have been to the Fiesta that was right there, but I don't think that I ever went to that Kmart so I don't remember what it was like inside or out.

    There are some Kmarts that still have K-Cafes. Some of these have Nathan's Hot Dog cafes now too. Some of the Nathan's Kmarts advertise their hot dogs in a prominent way. Of course, some Kmarts still have Little Caesar's Pizza Stations too, but those have become somewhat rare.

    While it is nice that some Kmart orders can be shipped for free to Sears stores, the Sears return policy on their website still states that Kmart orders have to be returned to a Kmart (or mailed back in I guess). Perhaps the policy on the website is outdated, but if not, that is a bit of a disappointment. I would have seriously considered purchasing a lot of items from Kmart's website if I knew that I could return them easily if I needed to, but perhaps that isn't the case.

    Some big news came out today that Sears has a new President for Kmart. The new President is a former executive at Tesco, one of the largest discounters worldwide. Hiring a foreigner to run Kmart may be a pretty big risk because who knows if he understands the American shoppers, but Tesco is a major force internationally so having his knowledge may give Kmart a real edge. Well, anyway, we'll see if Lampert gives him any real power or else his experience may not matter. Also, Sears has hired the former Amazon consumer electronics director to lead their major appliance division (which is being moved to being under the Sears Home Services division). Again, this looks like a power move, but who knows if Lampert will let the Amazon guy do anything. Perhaps Sears will try to sell more appliances online (I'm not sure if that will work) and will try to increase sales of warranties and things like that.

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    1. I went to the Astrodome Kmart once, it was a mansard roof type of store with low ceilings and it was roughly where Ross is and went to where the East end of the center is now. It seems like more and more Kmart is becoming an endangered species. Sears is not closing nearly as many stores as Kmart has been. 4 out of the 5 Kmart stores I recently visited were fairly busy which is probably the reason that so many stores are still open in Southeast Louisiana.
      I wonder if the Little Caesars Kmart stores are bound by leases or if the pizza stores are popular enough to stay open. I remember the Humble Kmart Little Caesars was empty every time I went to that store.
      Hopefully Lampert will let these new executives make some changes because they need some new ideas at the stores.

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  54. Part II:

    That sounds good that you were able to fix your Walkmen. The current batch of portable cassette players aren't as good as the old Sony ones so it's definitely worth keeping some spare parts around if you are able to fix them. Some of the lower end Sony Walkmen may be affordable used on ebay and other sites like that, but I've noticed that some of the higher end models are very expensive on ebay these days. I guess there is real demand for those. Given that, one would hope that someone would make a new, good portable cassette player even if it is a tad expensive. I guess we'll have to see about that, but at least Sony still has a cassette recorder boombox.

    I have noticed on the stereo websites and video sites that I visit that a lot of pieces of vintage/near vintage Radio Shack branded equipment needs repairs. Of course, that is my observation as well with Radio Shack cassette decks. Having said that, I did purchase a working early 2000s RadioShack shoebox cassette recorder from a thrift and a working late 1990s very low end portable cassette player from a thrift as well. As far as component cassette decks go though, yes, they've all been broken or partially broken.

    A number of RadioShack's stereo components from the mid 1990s to early 2000s were made by Pioneer (these were sold under the Optimus/RCA "Professional Series" name and they look just like the Pioneer versions of the same models). I've seen a couple of those cassette decks in the thrifts, but those didn't work either. That said, aside from the Pioneer cassette deck that I picked up a few months back, most of the Pioneer decks that I find in thrifts (even the newer ones) don't fully work as well. Perhaps we can blame Pioneer for those decks and not RadioShack themselves, but I don't really remember Pioneer decks having a bad reputation for reliability back in the day. Obviously Radio Shack sourced cassette decks from other manufacturers too like my Sanyo/Fisher sourced deck. Sanyo had a reputation for making pretty reliable lower end electronics and I'd say that that description describes the SCT-87 deck that I found. Of course, the deck I found was clean so maybe it was either used with care and/or not used much at all. That probably helps.

    I'm not sure who the other Radio Shack cassette deck OEMs are (and some of their other decks may have been designed by Radio Shack themselves), but perhaps a lot of them were less than reliable too. I've read that Sharp and Toshiba made some decks for Radio Shack, but I can't really confirm that. I believe that the 1981 Realistic SCT-3100, which was one of the (if not the) greatest cassette decks that Radio Shack sold, was made by Hitachi. Of course, I've heard that the SCT-3100 does not have the best reliability either, but I'm not really sure how reliable Hitachi decks generally were.

    I don't think that I've ever had many problems with Radio Shack gear/parts/tools over the years that I have purchased new, but I know that other people have had some issues with things like multimeters, battery testers, soldering irons, and some of their lower end audio tapes. Radio Shack probably isn't the place to get the finest quality goods, but they probably don't have the worst quality either. I guess a lot depends on their suppliers. For example, RadioShack, like Montgomery Ward, sold rebadged Sharp VCRs for a while in the 1990s. Sharp was one of the most reliable VCR makers in that era. Having said that, I don't think that I have ever seen a Radio Shack house brand VCR in the thrifts. I guess Radio Shack wasn't as popular of a spot for video gear as they were for audio gear. As for toys, I used to have some Radio Shack R/C cars way, way back in the day that were okay, but I really can't comment on the quality of their modern toys.

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    1. The items under $50 I have purchased from Radio Shack, R/C cars, parts, and SD cards have worked ok for me. The SD cards are the normal Sandisk cards that all stores sell. The only large purchase over $100 for me was a radar detector that I had for about 4 years that worked fine. I gave it away because it eventually started going off when I passed by stores with automatic doors and other things that set the radar detector off that were not police.
      I bought most of my electronics in the 90's from Circuit City, Incredible Universe, and Sears. In the 2000's Best Buy, Fry's, and the new Comp USA were my choices. I bought some TV's and VCR's from pawn shops in the early 2000's to replace my older items and not a single item worked for more than 3 years. I guess I got what I paid for with those items.

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  55. Part III:

    I purchased some new Maxell and Sony VHS cassettes from the clearance bin at a Walgreens store a few months back, but I have not used those tapes yet. I did buy and used some Made in Korea Maxell Standard Grade T-120 cassettes back around 2008-2010 though. My observations about those is that they actually record and playback pretty decently (though most of the recordings on those were single recordings only and not with a lot of taping over that can truly test a tape), but the housings feel cheap and are very noisy on rewind and fast forward. They may be the nosiest tapes that I've ever used in that regard, but aside from that, the performance of the tapes seems to be okay. Perhaps I should do some taping over with those tapes just to see how they perform.

    Interestingly enough, I was never a big fan of Maxell VHS tapes in the 1990s even though I used all sorts of Maxell grades including the Bronze grade, the GX-Silver, the HGX-Gold grade, and BQ Broadcast Quality professional grade. The Bronze tapes were rather mediocre (those were Korean made also and I wonder if there is any similarity to modern Korean Maxell VHS tape media) and the Silver and Gold tapes were fine, but perhaps below the quality of some other brands within a similar grade range IMO. The BQ tapes were pretty good, but very expensive. I probably had some cheapo tapes that were as cheap as or cheaper than the Bronze tapes that performed similarly to the GX-Silver tapes. I'm sure others might have found 1990s era Maxell VHS tapes to be quite good, but they aren't my first choice of VHS tapes from that era (though they seem to be reliable so far and I know of worse tapes for sure). I'm not sure if I ever used Maxell video tapes in the 1980s so I can't really speak about that era. I should also note that Maxell 8mm tapes that I used were pretty good and I don't think that I have any complaints about them.

    I've found/purchased a number of 1990s era 3M/Scotch VHS tapes from the thrifts lately including some professional tapes. I'm not sure how good they will be, but I will give them a shot. I used Scotch tapes some in the 1980s and they were good, but perhaps not the best. I have some late 1980s/very early 1990s Target brand tapes that were made by 3M and they are okay and perhaps pretty decent for the price, but again, nothing spectacular. One thing that I don't really like about the 1980s Scotch/Target tapes that I have is that they have some sort of ink on them near the label area that the labels tend to absorb and that causes the labels to become pink in areas. It's not a big deal I guess, but it is a bit weird. Perhaps they fixed that issue by the 1990s. I have some higher grade EG+ Scotch 1990s tapes in my collection that I found at thrifts before including one that has a Kmart 1990s price tag on it. I have not tried those higher grade Scotch tapes, but I think Consumer Reports or someone rated Scotch higher grade tapes very highly back in the late 1980s so maybe I'll be more impressed by those.

    I was reading user reviews on the Walmart website for the Memorex VHS tapes that they sell and most of the reviews aren't very good. A lot of people seem to have issues with them. I wonder if they are that bad or if there may be some user error/bad luck at play. I would still like to try them out just to see how they are and maybe to see if they use the same Korean tape as current Maxell tapes (at least Maxell Standard Grade, Maxell also still makes High Grade T-120 and T-160 tapes as well, but those may be harder to find locally). I'll certainly keep you updated on any tests of current audio and video tapes that I do.

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    1. I have mostly Scotch VHS tapes with pink spots on the labels as well. I never really knew what caused that but it is on several labels. I have some Maxwell tapes too but mostly Scotch because they were cheaper. Keep me posted on your tests.

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  56. Part I:

    It does seem like a lot more Kmarts are closing than Sears stores. I guess that is a good thing for those of us in Houston since we have a lot of Sears stores, but no more Kmarts. There could be a lot of reasons for that though. I know that a lot of Sears stores are on corporate owned land, but perhaps a lot more Kmarts are leased. Thus, perhaps Kmart is giving up locations when their leases run out or when shopping center owners refuse to renew leases at reasonable prices. Also, a lot of Kmarts are in areas that have declined since the 1970s and 1980s. Most Sears stores, OTOH, are in malls. Surely some malls are in declining areas too, but perhaps the presence of the malls ensures shopper traffic. Also, perhaps Sears sees a brighter future for Sears type stores instead of Kmarts.

    AFAIK, I have not heard of any Texas Kmarts closing here recently. It's certainly possible that I missed something though so don't quote me on that. It would be interesting to know why Kmart kept the Texas locations that they did. Perhaps they are high performers so Kmart wants to keep them along with the Louisiana locations that seem to be doing well in your observations. Well, that would be the logical reason at least, but I don't know. A lot of the Texas Kmart locations are located near the Mexico border so perhaps those stores are doing well. A lot of shoppers come up from Mexico to shop and perhaps Kmart does well with those international shoppers. It's hard to say though.

    I also remember the Little Caesars Pizza Stations being pretty dead at the Houston Kmarts in the 1990s and the early 2000s. That said, and I could be wrong about this, I seem to remember Kmart Little Caesars offering "Hot & Ready" pizzas (well, ready at least, I'm not sure if they were hot) near the checkouts of some stores (the Hwy. 6 Bear Creek store comes to mind) years before regular Little Caesars stores had "Hot & Ready" pizzas. Perhaps then Kmarts were moving pizzas even if the Pizza Stations themselves weren't busy. Most regular Little Caesars are franchised, but I don't know if Kmart Little Caesars are franchised or not (perhaps Kmart themselves owns the locations). Then again, they may be owned by Little Caesars. Perhaps Little Caesars will keep the Kmart stores if there aren't any regular Little Caesars in the area, but I don't know. I'm not really sure how the Nathan's Kmarts work either as far as if they are franchised or what. I used to have a list from about 2010 that listed which Kmarts had K-Cafes and Little Caesars, but I don't know if I still have that list.

    Kmart used to frustrate me a bit in the 1990s because they closed the K-Cafe at the FM 1960 and Jones Rd. Kmart in around 1990-1 when most of the other Kmarts in the region were getting Little Caesars. I guess the reasoning for that was that Little Caesars already had regular locations at Jones Rd. & West Rd and Jones Rd. and Grant Rd. at the time (the Jones & West Little Caesars still exists, but it relocated to the other side of the shopping center last year to facilitate the conversion of the old Randall's into a larger HEB). For whatever reason, the Willowbrook Mall area Venture store opened without a cafe even though most other Ventures had one. Thus, when the Jones Rd. Kmart relocated to the old Willowbrook Venture, it didn't have a K-cafe/Little Caesars either. I think the FM 1960 and I-45 ex-Venture Kmart had a K-Cafe, but maybe that was a Little Caesars.

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    1. I have noticed many Kmart locations that are in poor shape also only have 1 maybe 2 checkouts open, but the better ones have 3 or more open. Sadly the Kmart that was closing was neater and more organized than some of the stores I have visited which I thought was odd. Sears has many more departments that they can profit off of as well especially the appliances and large tool sections. I still have yet to see a Little Caesars in a Kmart store now, but I know there are still a few out there. I know one of the Kmart stores in Southeast Louisiana I did not make it to still had a cafe on my last visit a few years ago.

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  57. Part II:

    Hopefully Lampert will let the new executives implement some good policies, but I don't know if that will happen. Lampert has always exerted his control, but maybe he realizes now that he needs experienced retail leaders to call the shots since Sears and Kmart have been struggling for years now under his control. We'll see. Thanks for the description of the Astrodome area Kmart. I wish that I visited it when it was still a Kmart since it was one of the more famous Kmarts in Houston, but oh well.

    I've purchased a lot at RadioShack over the years, but I don't know if I've ever brought anything over $100 there. Maybe the outdoor antenna that we got about 20 years ago, but I don't know what that cost. We got an equalizer from Radio Shack in around 1990, but that was probably a little less than $100 and we returned it anyway. I've purchased a lot of cables, adapters, tools, testers, parts, household gadgets, calculators, and other things like that from Radio Shack and some toys a long time ago, but that stuff is usually well under $100 individually.

    Incredible Universe was owned by Tandy so that kind of was Radio Shack in a way. Naturally, they had a lot more selection of national brands than Radio Shack did though. McDuff and VideoConcepts were also Tandy electronics stores. Color Tile was once owned by Tandy. I purchased a PC game from Incredible Universe, but that's it I think. We may have purchased a pair of nice speakers and a Sony Walkman from McDuff, but it's hard to remember for sure. The speakers would have been over $100 for sure. I also used to shop a lot at Tandy's Computer City chain. We certainly spent over $100 on peripherals and software there plus a lot of other smaller purchases. I used to go to the Computer City in The Commons across from Greenspoint Mall until Computer City opened up a location in the old McDuff at The Commons across from Willowbrook Mall. A Computer City Express opened up in an old McDuff (and then a Radio Shack Clearance Store) at Jones Rd. and FM 1960 across 1960 from the old Kmart. I also used to visit the Radio Shack Computer Center store on Champions Forest and FM 1960 back in the 1980s, but we never had any kind of Tandy computer. Some of Tandy's 1980s computers were quite good, but I never owned one. Of course, the regular Radio Shack stores also sold Tandy computers too back then.

    Although I brought stuff from both Best Buy and Circuit City since the time that they showed up in Houston, I don't think that I purchased major pieces of A/V equipment from those places until I brought a DVD recorder/VCR combo from Circuit City's website in 2008 (a few months before they went out of business). I did buy stuff from just about everyone else in the 1990s including Montgomery Ward, Sears, Service Merchandise, Dillard's, Foley's, Conn's, Colonel A/V, and even Kmart (if you want to count a 13" TV as video equipment). I even have a Pioneer turntable from Wal-Mart, but that was from 1987 or 1988. I guess I just wasn't as impressed with Best Buy and Circuit City as everyone else. Although I have purchased computer parts and a couple small appliances from Fry's, I've never purchased A/V equipment from them either AFAIK.

    I don't know about TVs, but I'm not surprised that a VCR from a pawn shop in the early 2000s would be unreliable. A lot of people rode their VCRs hard in the 1990s without giving them much maintenance. Rental tapes in particular were often in bad shape and caused people to need to fix/clean their VCRs, but people started renting DVDs instead in the early 2000s so VCRs got less abuse then. I've never really shopped at pawn shops though so perhaps they put some sort of stress on the gear that they were selling (perhaps by playing tapes in VCRs non-stop while they were on the showroom). I can't really say. Many of my thrift store VCRs look to be in good shape though even without a cleaning so used VCRs can be reliable.

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    1. I think one of the reasons why I bought a good bit of stuff from Best Buy was that they were one of the last stores to carry cassettes before they disappeared. I had bought speakers a TV, and some cassettes at Incredible Universe when they opened. I finished my stereo setup at the time at Circuit City on some closeout gear. I bought mostly watches, video games, and clearance items from Service Merchandise. I always looked for deals in the past and now sometimes I can afford something better than a closeout item.

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  58. Part III:

    The pink splotches on the 3M Scotch VHS tape labels are pretty annoying. I'm not sure which era your Scotch tapes are from, but are the ones you have with the pink stains on them from the 1990s? I suppose the pink is from either the ink printed on the tapes being absorbed into the label or maybe the glue on the labels are reacting with the ink. I don't know, it's hard to say. As I mentioned earlier, I have some Target brand tapes that were made by 3M (two Minnesota companies). Scotch video cassettes was a major sponsor of Target's Indycar program in the early 1990s. Here is a picture of the 1993 Indianapolis 500 front row with Arie Luyendyk on pole in the Target car and Mario Andretti next to him in the Kmart car that was also sponsored by BASF cassettes (a few years later Maxell would be on the Kmart car and TDK on the Target car).

    I only used one BASF VHS tape (back in the 1980s), but that is the only cassette (audio or video) that I have ever used that has suffered from the dreaded sticky shed syndrome. Fortunately I don't have anything important on that tape, but it's disappointing that a company with a good reputation like BASF made such a miserable tape. I do have a sealed BASF T-130 tape from the early 1990s that I found at a thrift. I probably won't use it, but I did want it for my collection since I remember BASF marketing those as 6.5 hour tapes instead of the usual 6 hour T-120 tapes.

    On the topic of bad VHS tapes, I think I may have had at least one 1980s Scotch tape that snapped off the reel during rewind many years back now that I think about it. I think I've had a couple of 1980s TDK tapes do that too. That can be repaired, but the TDK tapes snapping is particularly disappointing because those are good quality tapes otherwise. I've never noticed the reel snapping issue with 1990s and newer tapes fortunately. I did have a Solodex VHS tape rewinder in the very early 1990s (remember those?) that snapped tapes off the reels, but that's because it didn't slow down the rewind when it was almost done. I won't blame the tapes for those. I got rid of the rewinder pretty quickly obviously and just used my VCRs for rewinding.

    Earlier I mentioned that I found 1980s era Memorex VHS tapes to be pretty mediocre in quality. Well, I was at a thrift today and I came across a late 1980s Memorex VHS tape for sale. I pulled it off the rack for a laugh, but then I noticed that it had a Kmart price tag on it with the vintage logo on it obviously. Well, it goes without saying then that I had to buy it then! I'll never use that tape I'm sure, but it'll be a nice piece for the collection. Of course, it is worth noting that Memorex' consumer division was owned by, you guessed it, Tandy at that time. While I don't have the best feelings about Memorex' audio and video tapes from that era, I will say that their 5.25" and 3.5" floppy disks from the 1980s-90s were very reliable in my experience.

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    1. Late 1980's early 1990's are the majority of my recorded tapes. I hope none of my scotch tapes have the sticky shed syndrome since some are one of a kind home video recordings from 20 years ago or so.
      I think most of us were tricked into getting a rewinder to "save" our VCR's from getting torn up faster. I actually stopped by a couple of thrifts earlier today but I did not find anything I wanted to pick up. There was one 1980's dual cassette deck at the thrift next to Greenspoint Mall, but I did not pay attention to the brand. Both thrifts actually were in former Circuit City locations.

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  59. Part I:

    Well, this is rather unbelievable. It seems that we both went to the Greenspoint Mall area thrift in the old Circuit City today. We both saw the same 1980s dual cassette deck too. I guess the difference is that you didn't buy it and I did. I'll have to thank you for your decision too!

    The cassette deck in question is a Proformance deck from 1983. I kind of scratched my head when seeing the brand name and I figured that it was some sort of discount brand like Soundesign, but the deck seemed to have too many features to be a discount deck. I then put a little more thought into it and remembered something that I had forgotten for many years. Sears used the Proformance brand name on some of their house brand stereo equipment back in the early-to-mid 1980s. Once I remembered that, I flipped the deck around to the back and it indeed says that it is a Sears deck (it also has a huge Sears warranty sticker on the side).

    Well, as you know, I've been looking for Sears branded audio or video components in the thrifts for my collection for a long time now, but I've come up empty after all this time. Obviously then I had to buy the cassette deck if it worked. I tried it out and it works so naturally I picked it up and it's sitting here next to me as I type. Here is a page from the 1983 Sears Wishbook with that cassette deck on it (it's #4 on the catalog).

    Oddly enough, I mentioned a couple of days back that I wondered if there was a Sears LXI Series twin to the Sanyo Radio Shack cassette deck that I brought a few days ago. Well, this Sears deck isn't a twin to that Radio Shack deck, but it is also a Sanyo made deck. It's several years older, but I actually think that the Sears deck is a little better than the Radio Shack one. That said, the Sears deck isn't a high end deck for sure, but it sounds pretty good. I'm glad to finally have a piece of Sears A/V equipment (a cassette deck no less) to add to my collection along with the JCPenney and Montgomery Ward things that I have. I have to thank you for not buying it I guess!

    I guess that it is weird that we went to the same thrift on the same day, but I think we ended up at the Mall of the Mainland at around the same time back when it was still open too without knowing it. Weird. This was my first visit to the Greenspoint Goodwill and it is one of the oddest Goodwills that I have been to. The store is diagonal (like Circuit City was I guess) and they have a large empty space by the entrance. That's a bit odd. They had a lot of VHS movies, but they didn't have a lot of cassettes for sale (and most of what they had was religious stuff). Oh well. The Goodwill is right by the old Sears. I wonder if the tape deck came from that Sears back in the day. Anyway, the only other thrift that I know of in an old Circuit City is the Family Thrift Center next to Willowbrook Mall. Is there another one that you know of?

    I did visit Greenspoint Mall for the first time in a little over a year. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw compared to my visit last year. Last year, I noticed that the leasing rate was pretty good all things considered, but there weren't a lot of shoppers. The leasing rate is still pretty good, but there were a lot of shoppers at the mall today when I went. That was especially surprising given that it was the middle of the week (though it is the summer). I actually had to park pretty far back because there were a lot of people at the mall (not just at the Fitness Connection either). I don't know if you visited the mall, but was it busy when you went?

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    1. I thought about getting the deck, but one is good for me unless the one I have goes out. I am looking for a receiver and I have not found one in the 4 thrifts I visited last week and this week. I did finally find a cassette holder for $4. The Willowbrook Thrift was the one I stopped by, they still have the exit door frame on the inside painted in the Circuit City Purple. I did not visit Greenspoint, but I stopped at Willowbrook for the first time in a while.

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  60. Part II:

    The bad news at Greenspoint Mall is that there are even more Home Depot buckets around the mall catching leaks than there were last year it seems. Perhaps the mall should set up some umbrellas like this Kmart did to help catch leaking water (the umbrellas at the Kmart weren't for leaks I don't think, but it's hard to tell with Kmarts). The good news is that the A/C was on throughout the mall during my visit. Last year, the A/C was off in the Dillard's wing. The Dillard's wing seemed to be doing a tad bit better than last time, but I'm not sure.

    The Game World video game store at Greenspoint Mall seems to be pretty interesting and big. Have you ever shopped there? The Toyz store has an interesting wood panel facade. It's probably from a past retailer (Bath & Body Works maybe?), but I'm not sure.

    I finally went to Half Price Books to look at their cassettes. I did see them this time, but I didn't get a chance to browse the tapes. There were 3 younger guys browsing the tapes when I came in and they were still browsing after about 20 minutes. I finally had to leave because I had groceries in the car that I didn't want them to go bad. I guess my long wait to check out what tapes HPB has will have to wait even longer, but it was interesting to see younger people checking out the cassettes at least.

    That is disappointing to hear that a more organized Kmart is closing. I became quite frustrated with the Willowbrook area Kmart because they often only had 1 checkout open even when there was a long line (plus the store was disorganized and was often out of advertised goods). It's good to hear that the busier Kmarts have more checkstands open now.

    I came across an interesting story today about how a MN Sears has a DMV office in it. Of course, some Houston Sears have driving schools in them, but putting a DMV office in a Sears is interesting.

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    1. The Toyz was a Bath and Body Works you are correct. I have been to the video game store, but their prices are very high compared to the 3-d games at Deerbrook and Game Over Games. I would hope that Greenspoint management fixes the roof soon, it has been that way for years now. The only part of the mall I have never seen buckets is the food court. Hopefully the good tapes are still there at the HPB you stopped in on your next visit.
      One of the Kmart stores I visited which was fairly busy had a bunch of lights out. I don't know if it was because they only use about half of the lights during the day or what, but the lights did not have a certain pattern of being linked together. The entire main section of the store was lit up like this. The garden center of the store had all of the lights on even with windows to the outside.
      I read the DMV story a few days ago. A DMV will surely not make Sears a more fun and hip place to visit. A trip to the DMV is usually frustrating and takes a long time to get simple items completed.

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  61. Part III:

    Best Buy's cassette selection was a good reason to keep shopping there. I've brought a lot of software from Best Buy and some small computer parts from there. I've also purchased a couple of appliances from there, but I've never purchased a major electronic item from them. The same could be said about Circuit City. Those two did have good sales, markdowns, and open box items, but it seems like I always found better products and/or better prices on A/V gear elsewhere. Plus, Circuit City's salesmen were a bit annoying to me back in the commission days. It wasn't as bad as Federated or anything like that, but it wasn't too far off at times. I usually don't need product help, but Best Buy's employees were (and often still are) rather clueless.

    Another store that I brought A/V gear from that I didn't mention earlier was Auchan. Auchan mainly had cheaper products from then lesser known brands like Goldstar (LG), but we got some electronics from there that were/are very reliable and very cheap. As for Incredible Universe, did you find them to be cheap? I thought that they were rather expensive so I never brought anything more than a PC game there. The store is a HCC college now I think. I doubt any of the store elements remain, but who knows.

    I really don't spend a lot of money on new electronics now like I did in the 1990s. The current products don't really excite me all that much for the most part and things like computers don't become outdated as quickly. I can probably spend more on electronics now than before too, but I don't because there really isn't much to buy.

    I would not worry about your tapes suffering from sticky shed syndrome. It's mainly something that afflicts reel-to-reel audio tape and not audio and video cassettes. My BASF VHS tape is a rare exception. Plus, almost all of the 1980s tapes that I have that went bad turned bad sometime in the early or mid 1990s. The ones that still work (almost all of them) are still working well. The tape tearing off the reel is probably more of a concern with the Scotch tapes since I've seen it happen once, but that can be repaired so even then I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just don't use a rewinder! I guess I brought into the scam too about rewinders saving wear on the VCRs back in the day. There were rewinders that were good quality and didn't tear tapes off the reels, but most of them weren't good and the one that I had certainly wasn't. These days it probably makes more sense to just buy a cheap, clean thrift store VCR and use that as a rewinder if you're concerned about wear even though it shouldn't be a problem anyway. A lot of my newer VCRs, like the Mitsubishis, have very fast rewinding/FF anyway and they slow things down right at the end of the tape to prevent the tapes from ripping apart from the reels. Anyway, it's a good idea to make a DVD backup of your home movies, but I would still keep the tapes because there is a decent chance that the tape may outlive the DVD.

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    1. I bought most of my Incredible Universe items in the first months they were open and bought sale items. I bought a few large ticket items over the years at Best Buy and still have a cheap dryer that has lasted about 10 years from them.
      I have noticed that Thrifts have a lot of tube TV's for sale so I will probably get a backup TV to use for my old games. I wonder how many VCR re-winders are still out there. I am sure people probably destroyed many of them like the Office Space fax after having tapes destroyed.

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  62. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Oops I accidentally removed the above comment, sorry about that resubmit so we can share it with the blog.

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  63. Part I:

    Sears released their quarterly results today and obviously they weren't good. The good news is that same store sales for Sears were up 0.1% (it would have been up 1.6% if not for bad electronics sales). The bad news is that Kmart same store sales are down 1.7%. Perhaps this trend helps explain why more Kmart stores are closing as compared to Sears stores. It's hard to say how much discounting Sears had to do to achieve their small gain in same store sales though as severe discounting would obviously eat away at profits. Regardless, hopefully the small gains in same store sales at Sears is a positive step and hopefully Sears will keep some kind of electronics department even with the very soft sales throughout the electronics retailing sector.

    The post I wrote that was accidentally deleted was about Kmarts with screwed up lighting. There is a picture online of a Kmart in Virginia with screwed up lighting that sounds like the store that you visited. Perhaps Kmart is trying to save energy by taking some bulbs out that they feel are unnecessary (Wal-Mart controls lights at some stores in a similar way), but it's probably a more likely situation that the maintenance budget is low so they aren't able to replace the bulbs. Either that or management at that store is lax and does not care about upkeep. Regardless, the burned out bulb look isn't viewed by most shoppers as a positive and it is very noticeable. I'm sure the shoppers who want a good in-store shopping experience will avoid that Kmart, but those shoppers have probably been avoiding Kmarts for well over a decade now anyway.

    I did not realize that the Greenspoint Mall game store is expensive. Oh well. The ex-Bath & Body Works Toyz store does look kind of retro though even though it probably isn't. One thing that I noticed at Greenspoint Mall is that there are a lot of men's clothing stores at the mall that sell suits and things. A lot of the suits and jackets that I saw at those stores were pretty hideous looking, but not all of them.

    I wonder if Greenspoint Mall will be able to fix the roof if they get the money that they are trying to get from their insurance company over Ike damage. The mall really needs to do something about the leaks. The Home Depot buckets are embarrassing and it only seems to be getting worse over time. The food court got a renovation some time back so maybe the roof over that part of the mall was renovated too, but I don't know. Anyway, the mall was quite busy the evening that I went there last week so I hope that the mall can afford to make the necessary repairs.

    I don't know when I'll be able to visit a Half Price Books next, but hopefully I'll actually be able to browse the tapes on my next visit. I visited the North Oaks location. It seemed like they had a lot of tapes so I'm sure that I would have found at least one tape that I would have wanted to purchase, but who knows.

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    1. Since Sears and Kmart continue to downsize their electronics departments, I can see why they continue to lose sales. On my recent visits to Kmart stores I made sure to get some photos of a full movie and music section because those have been mostly eliminated from the stores. I am not sure why some stores still have these departments and others are gone. One of the stores that still had a full music and movie department is a small location.
      It has been about a year since I went to Greenspoint so I will have to check it out again. I went to the Flea Market across the street and it looked like there were a bunch of cars near the old Montgomery Ward, but I did not look to see if they are using the store again for something.

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  64. Part II:

    Earlier we discussed some of Sherman Dreiseszun's malls in the Kansas City area. Well, one of the malls he built near Kansas City is now trending on social media this week. The East Hills Mall in St. Joseph, MO, made a really bad commercial that has over a million views on YouTube. The commercial may be terrible, but the mall looks interesting with the carousel and everything. The mall has a Sears and used to have a Montgomery Ward so that in itself makes the mall interesting. On the topic of mall commercials, I came across this 1986 commercial for the Jefferson Valley Mall in New York state. I like how the guy in the ad says that he is using his Radio Shack computer to look up gifts at Sears. Anyway, the video has a nice overview of how the Sears store there looked in 1986. I like the view of the electronics department. Those were great days for electronics for sure. The Jefferson Valley Mall still has the Sears, but it also used to have a Service Merchandise anchor that is now an H&M.

    I see that you were able to visit Willowbrook Mall. Did you have any interesting observations? I actually went to the mall late last week too and I actually walked to the Nordstrom Rack area in the mall to see the mall entrance since another poster said that the sign was up. It's nothing amazing and they didn't do as many renovations to that wing as I expected (though I didn't see everything, I just did a quick circle around the area). I think the store is opening next month sometime so we won't have long to wait to see it.

    The Willowbrook Mall area Family Thrift Center was actually a Bel Furniture too in between the time that the building was a Circuit City and a thrift. Aside from the doors and entry area, the store really does not look like a Circuit City. It does not have the tilted sales floor like the Greenspoint Mall area ex-Circuit City Goodwill. Of course, the Greenspoint Goodwill is in better shape inside than the Willowbrook Family Thrift, but Goodwills are kind of the luxury thrift stores compared to Family Thrifts and Value Villages. That said, Goodwill's prices for electronics are usually better than Family Thrifts. Sometimes there are interesting finds at Family Thrift Stores though so I do check them out. Unfortunately, the Willowbrook Family Thrift usually does not sell pre-recorded audio and video tapes. The Bear Creek area Family Thrift does sell a few A/V tapes. The 249 and Bammel-N Houston Family Thrift does have a handful of VHS tapes, but I don't think that they sell audio cassettes.

    I'm glad to hear that you found a cassette storage box. I was sure that you would not have to look too hard to find one of those in the thrifts. As for receivers, yes, those are harder to find in the thrifts and they can be quite expensive too. Hopefully you'll find one if you look hard enough. Sometimes it takes a while. You never know with thrifting. You may try to find one for months without luck, but then you may find a lot of them in a short span. It just depends.

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    1. Wow that commercial is very bad, I guess the mall management did not check it out before it aired. As for the second commercial, the acting is as terrible as the singing in the first video. It was nice seeing a Sears store from the mid 1980's.
      I really just kind of popped in the mall for about 15 minutes and just to the food court area so I did not make it far. I will make more time for a full visit in the future though.
      I visited a bunch of thrifts the past two weeks and found a full stereo set for less than $100. It is a good starter set and most of the components work. I am going to look for a better receiver in the future but this is almost as good as what I had in the past.

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  65. Part III:

    I was able to compare the Sears Proformance cassette deck to the Radio Shack Optimus one that I picked up a couple of weeks back. Even though they are both made by Sanyo, I will say that the Sears deck is better. I definitely have to thank you again for not buying it! That was actually my first visit to that Goodwill. Anyway, the tape transports on the Sears deck are quite a bit better, the sound quality is a tick better (on playback at least, I have not tried recording with either), and the Sears deck has much better looking LED peak meters. Now, granted, the Sears deck was pretty much a lower-middle end deck from 1983 and the Radio Shack deck was a low end deck from 1989 so perhaps it should not be surprising that the Sears deck is the better of the two. The Sears deck is made in Japan, but the Radio Shack deck was made in China.

    Yes, it is quite true that CRT TVs are easy to find at thrift stores (Goodwill stores mainly). CRT TVs are probably the easiest electronic items to find at thrifts (again, Goodwills mainly) and they usually have them plugged in and on in the showroom so you can tell if/how they work. I generally don't look at the TVs since I don't have much interest in collecting them, but I think they are usually reasonably priced. The Greenspoint Goodwill had a Montgomery Ward Admiral 25"ish TV for sale the day that I got the Sears cassette deck, but I'm not sure if I would recommend those. Wards had Zenith build a lot of their TVs during the 1990s and Zenith's System 3 CRTs are known to have shorter lifespans than most other CRTs. Zenith TVs used to be very reliable and they were reliable aside from the CRT in later times so I would not blame Wards for using Zenith at that time, but there are probably better buys out there if you're looking at 1990s era TVs. Admiral TVs from Wards are actually pretty common in the thrifts so they must have been popular in the 1990s. But, yeah, it might be a good idea to get another CRT TV for your vintage games if you have room. Vintage games definitely work best with CRT TVs IMO.

    I see rewinders in the thrift stores all the time actually, but most of them are the cheap ones that cause problems. The thrift stores probably have a lot of them because they probably don't sell well. I'm surprised that people kept those around for all these years instead of destroying them Office Space style as you say. I've actually seen more than a few Philco and White Westinghouse rewinders that were probably from Kmart. I found a nice write-up about rewinders on the VCR Repair FAQ site. They basically have the same experiences with them as I do.

    The PC game that I purchased from Incredible Universe was also during their grand opening sale. The store was packed when it opened (there was a lot of buzz about it) and I remember thinking that the store felt more like an electronics industry trade show than a retail store with all the fancy things that the store had. I had hoped that the store would do well, but I kind of knew that it wouldn't based on Tandy's record with McDuff and VideoConcepts. I also figured that the prices wouldn't be competitive enough with all the razzle dazzle in the store and I think that was a correct feeling unfortunately. I actually preferred McDuff over Incredible Universe to some extent since McDuff had a more traditional layout and shopping experience.

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    1. Many of the Goodwill stores have 20 inch TV's for $9.99, but you have to check to see if the set has A/V jacks. The new retro gaming systems only work with A/V cables. Another problem with flat screen TV's is that the light gun will not work so even with a converter it will not work.
      The Incredible Universe was not setup well for the consumer experience, it was like you said a trade show. I am sure most of the departments were not making money, the cost to light and air condition that building had to be huge.

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  66. Here's another update that I've been forgetting to post. I meant to post this back when I posted the stuff about my recent visit to Greenspoint Mall, but I forgot then and I also forgot in my subsequent series of replies. I figure that I better post this now while it is fresh on my mind before I forget again. Anyway, I drove by the I-45 and Little York area a couple of weeks back and I noticed that it looked like the old Little York ex-Kmart building was demolished. Perhaps this isn't new news, but it is news to me. The aerial image on Google Maps also seems to indicate that the building was demolished. I guess that I can't say that I'm surprised that the building was demolished since it appeared to be in bad shape physically, but it is a bit sad to lose one of the places in Houston that still had some vintage Kmart orange striping left.

    In other news, the Bayou City History blog posted a new post today with some color interior photos of Sharpstown Mall in 1984. The photos are really good and I certainly recommend that you check them out. It's nice seeing some stores like a pre-Tandy VideoConcepts and Judy's. It's also nice seeing the Montgomery Ward mall entrance. As usual, some of the user comments are hilariously ridiculous like the person claiming that Willowbrook Mall and First Colony Mall are "ghetto malls." Something like First Colony Mall may be a very boring mall that isn't really worth visiting, but calling it a "ghetto" mall is probably a real stretch. Anyway, I thought that you would enjoy those pictures especially since you just saw those 1983 movie scenes from Westwood Mall.

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    1. Yes the former Little York Kmart is gone. I passed by the site last week and then took the long way back down Shepherd and the building is gone. The store directly behind it is also abandoned so I am not sure if it has anything to do with the freeway construction in the area. The old restaurant that was West of the old Kmart looks to be gone as well.
      Those 1984 photos are a great find, maybe more photos from that era will be found from other Houston area malls and stores.
      I will post and reply to the rest of the comments over the next few days along with another new article.

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  67. Part I:

    You bring up a good point about Sears and Kmart stores eliminating some electronics items. Perhaps the drops in electronics same store sales are directly related to the stores having less electronics items for sale. Of course, given the problems in the electronics industry, that probably only explains part of the electronics sales drop. I would assume that Sears/Kmart have dropped items that weren’t selling well, but then again, who knows.

    I’m not sure why some Kmarts have music and videos when others don’t. Perhaps Kmart is selling off inventory without replacing it and the stores that have things in stock are just slower in selling off stuff. I guess it would be easy to see if that is the case if those stores still get new releases. OTOH, since you say that a smaller store still have music and videos, perhaps Kmart is still selling those items at more rural/small town locations where broadband Internet and/or RedBox type rental boxes are less available or not used as much by customers. There are still some parts of the country where broadband isn’t easily available or the only broadband that is available is barely fast enough to stream SD video. Perhaps video and music sales are stronger in those areas. It’s hard to say.

    We talked about some sad looking Kmart lights, but I found some new photos taken this month of a Kmart in Sandusky, MI, that might have an even worse problem. The lights at that Kmart are fine as far as I can tell, but the ceiling tiles at the store are badly stained by leaks. It looks quite bad and hopefully Kmart will do something to replace those tiles (assuming that the roof has been fixed).

    I did not see any activity at the Greenspoint Mall Montgomery Ward during my visit. In fact, I actually went up to the store and photographed some of the remaining “M over W” door handles. I didn’t see anything going on when I was up close, but who knows.

    A couple of Houston area RadioShacks had a rough night a couple days back. A RadioShack in Cypress was broken into at night and someone tried to drive a van through a downtown area RadioShack store. A lot of damage was done to the downtown area store as you can tell from the link. Perhaps these robberies explain why the Northline area RadioShack has to buzz people in and out of the store, but I don’t think that method would have stopped either of those two after hours robberies. Still, perhaps RadioShack stores are target for thieves.

    Speaking of RadioShack, I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but it looks like the New Orleans area is one of the cities that RadioShack targeted for receiving their newest renovation concept. I’m not sure if we have any of these stores yet in Houston. Also on the topic of small electronics stores, I came across an article discussing GameStop’s dominating presence in terms of PS4 and Xbox One game sales. I thought that you would enjoy that article.

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    1. I have noticed also that displays of cameras and computers have been replaced by rows of cards with photos instead of actual products. It makes the store look better by not having half empty displays, but unless you are just browsing you will not see them. The Deerbrook Sears also recently installed tablets above some of the appliances and has digital price signs above the rest of the appliances. Little by little the stores are being improved, but will it be enough to save the company.
      It looks like Kmart is struggling more than Sears these days and those photos don't help the image of the company.
      I would not be surprised if those Radio Shack locations in New Orleans are really successful. The city does not have nearly enough retail for all of the residents and businesses have been reluctant to move back after Katrina. The robberies are not a good sign for those stores, I would not be surprised if the company leaves those locations. Hopefully the people involved are caught, because new businesses don't want to invest in a town where robberies like this occur.
      Gamestop would not have to worry about their business model if they continued to sell older systems. If you don't have the latest console, you will be disappointed at Gamestop. A lot of stores that carry new and old games actually operate out of closed Gamestop and Funcoland locations do well and take market share away from Gamestop. Older systems can easily be downloaded online and played on emulators, but many collectors like myself would rather play on a console than on a crummy emulator.

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  68. Part II:

    Yes, those commercials are very bad. I don’t know how East Hills Mall allowed that commercial to be released in that form unless they were intentionally trying to make a bad commercial, but I don’t know if that was the case. At least they are famous now I guess. This isn’t a mall commercial, but I found a video that someone posted of a 1983 commercial break that first featured a Sears ad with some pretty forgettable sweaters and then featured a Kenwood rack stereo systems ad that mentioned how Kenwood stereos are available at Montgomery Ward. It’s not really retail related, but I also like the Marla Gibbs Accent commercial during that break. The Jeffersons is one of my favorite shows.

    I came across another story at ArsTechnica that you may find interesting and relevant to this post’s Blockbuster roots. They ran a story last week about a video rental store in Seattle that still has thousands of VHS tapes for rent in addition to other formats as well. Obviously they are struggling like other video stores, but they seem to have a new model that they hope will allow renters to access their vast holdings. Hopefully it’ll work out well.

    It sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of thrifting lately. That’s good. I actually haven’t visited too many thrifts in the last couple of weeks, but I’m sure that I will visit more here soon. I’m curious to know about the stereo system that you purchased and how it sounds. It seems like it might be a rack or shelf system from your description, but maybe it is just a bunch of components? A lot of rack systems were hindered by low quality speakers. A lot of times the components were okay (at least some of them), but the speakers brought everything down. The good news is that those systems can sound much better when better quality speakers are attached. It just depends. Anyway, I’m glad that you were able to get a stereo system. It seems like you’re back in the Hi-Fi era now which is great.

    Yes, you’ll definitely want to get a TV that has a composite input. You’ll probably also want to get one that has stereo sound. For a while it seemed like TV manufacturers made most of their 20” TVs with composite inputs and stereo sound while they made cheaper 19” TVs that didn’t have the inputs and stereo. It’s possible to work around a TV that does not have a composite input (aka RCA input) with either a VCR that has a tuner or an RF modulator, but it’s best not to have to resort to those methods.

    Some CRT TVs have higher quality component and/or S-Video inputs as well that may be of some benefit with consoles like the PS2, but those inputs probably aren’t necessary. Of course, a lot of thrift store TVs don’t have remotes, but that should be less of a problem than getting a VCR without a remote. Some newer TVs may not allow you to adjust things like color and contrast without the remote, but sometimes a universal remote will have a “menu” function that will allow you to adjust those. It’s probably worth being picky about which TV you get since there are so many of them in the thrifts. Also, as you say, light guns won’t work with modern flat panel TVs so you’ll definitely want a CRT TV for those.

    Hopefully the Bayou City History blog will post more photos of other malls. I always enjoy the mall posts on that blog. Commenters on that blog often complain about the lack of color/detailed photos, but I guess they don’t understand that newspapers didn’t really need to take color photos back in the day since most/all photos were B&W in the papers themselves. Plus, as we know, good quality color film wasn’t cheap back then.

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    1. You will not see people wearing coats like the ones in the Sears commercial very often in Houston. The VHS store sounds interesting, there was a store like that in Houston except they carried a selection of all older formats pre-DVD. The store closed over 10 years ago and was replaced by an adult video store as if we did not have enough of those already, lol.
      The unit I got was a sharp, I believe it is a rack system because it is a little large for a shelf. There is not much information online about the system. It was from 1992 and has X-bass, model # Sc-7800av.
      The Bayou History blog posts some cool photos from years past, I check it out every few months since it is not updated too often.

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  69. Part I:

    That is an interesting observation about cards replacing actual product demos. Are you talking about Sears stores or Kmarts? Or both? I really have not noticed it at the Sears stores that I have been to, but maybe I wasn’t paying too much attention. I did buy a camera from the Baybrook Mall Sears a few months back, but that camera wasn’t on display and was kept in the glass storage case since it was a clearance camera. They did have other cameras out though. It probably makes sense to replace the demos with cards. For one thing, I’m not sure if demos are needed these days for those products. I’m not even sure if they power them up these days or have memory in them. Plus, it probably helps that they don’t have to sell old demo models on clearance. I was reading a NY Giants forum yesterday and someone noted that they got a demo model TV from Sears for a third of the regular price.

    Those demo setups were probably made back when digital cameras and camcorders were hot items. Now, smartphones have gobbled up the camcorder market and the camera market has eroded big time as well. There is still some demand for cameras, but it seems like the better selling ones are the SLR cameras and lenses that clearly take better photos than camera phones. There’s still some demand for cheaper point-and-shoot cameras too, but not as much as there was so there just aren’t as many models these days. Plus, digital camera technology has not changed significantly in a few years so there really isn’t much reason for users to upgrade if they’re happy with their camera. Thus, Sears just doesn’t have enough cameras to fill up their old demo displays. Of course, old camera setups have some history at Sears as witnessed by this 1986 Sears commercial that I really like and this Sears scene from The Brady Bunch movie (which also shows some of Sears selection of audio components at the time).

    I know that Sears does sell a few computers now (perhaps just cheap laptops), but it’s nothing like the whole computer departments that they used to have back in the day. I have not actually seen a computer demo model at a Sears store in a number of years.

    It’s good to hear that the Deerbrook Mall Sears has the electronic price tags in the appliance department now. The Willowbrook Mall Sears got those about a year ago. I’m not sure why it took so long for Deerbrook to get them, but better late than never I guess.

    Yes, those photos are rather ugly. That Michigan Kmart with the stained ceiling actually appears to be a 1990s built Kmart too. I came across an interesting picture of a Kmart that was converted to an At Home (Garden Ridge) store. They opened up the ceiling, but they left the vintage Kmart HVAC vents. It’s an odd look. Also, I came across a 2002 scanned film picture of an electronics department at a Kmart. The quality isn’t great, but you can see some of the TVs and VCRs that Kmart was selling at the time. I see an RCA VCR there (the silver one, probably made by Daewoo) and a Panasonic one (the black one with the blue bar on it).

    Perhaps New Orleans is a good market for RadioShack due to a lack of competition as you say. I’m not sure. Perhaps RadioShack does well with tourists there too. I’m not sure how many of their stores are in tourist areas, but I’m sure a visitor looking for an SD card, charger, or a GPS may look to RadioShack first and not worry about the price. We’ll have to see if RadioShack closes any stores due to the robberies. They do have a number of stores in Houston that are in areas that aren’t considered to be the best, but then again, those stores may do well since there is a lack of competition. We’ll see.

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    1. The Sears stores have been the ones with the changes to their displays. I am not sure that it is a good idea though and will probably hurt sales unless they keep models in stock that people can try out. I know that I would not buy a camera that I could not test out first. The Sears electronics department has sure changed since the Brady Bunch movie. At least the tool department in the 1986 commercial looks like the tool departments in 2014 Sears stores.
      The At Home store is a very good reuse of an old Kmart location. It looks like they removed the ceiling tiles and moved the lights up to give the store a more open feel. The Kmart picture looks much older than it actually is.
      I know that Canal street has a reputation for cheap knockoff camera stores so it does not surprise me that the Canal street location was the main location that made the news.

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  70. Part II:

    On the topic of vintage video game stores, I came across a story discussing how Goodwill is opening a store in North Carolina with a focus on video games including vintage gaming. It seems like an interesting concept. We’ll have to see if Houston Goodwill will do anything like that. The Goodwill Houston Computer Works store does have some vintage gaming stuff, but the selection is very hit or miss. Also, it looks like some Goodwill stores nationally may have been affected by a data breach. I’m not too worried about it personally since I always pay with cash at Goodwills and thrifts in general for the most part, but hopefully it won’t be any sort of problem for them and their shoppers.

    I remember Funcoland (at least the one in The Commons across from Willowbrook Mall) having a larger selection of vintage games than GameStop has now. Of course, that Funcoland was probably 2-3 times the size of a typical GameStop store. Of course, NES type games weren’t considered “vintage” in the mid-1990s and were just seen as outdated video games. Thus, they were priced pretty cheaply. Perhaps GameStop does not want to get into vintage gaming because they don’t want to guarantee that old systems and games will work, but I don’t know. It seems like they are missing out on some potential sales, but I’m sure GameStop has their reasons. I guess it opens up opportunities for local stores though. I remember in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Kmart would sell packaged used NES/SNES type games. It seemed like they were ahead of the curve back then, but I’m guessing that Kmart stopped selling those vintage games a long time ago. As far as new games go, if those numbers are correct, I don’t know what is more surprising. Is it more surprising that GameStop is doing so well or more surprising that everyone else (including online download sales) is seemingly doing so poorly?

    I used to play around with emulators back in the late 1990s when they were really big. I also had some emulators on my Palm PDA back in the mid-2000s. It’s not the same as you say, but it is a way to play a lot of different games. I suppose one could get some vintage type computer controllers and plug in a computer to a CRT TV and pretend that it is vintage. I don’t really game a lot these days whether it be modern or vintage (I used my Xbox 360 for the first time in about six months this past weekend), but I did buy an Xbox 360 game from Sega a couple years back that has a lot of vintage Genesis games and a few Master System games on it too. I do like those games.

    Yes, there really isn’t a great need for heavy coats like that in Houston. Of course, I remember when women in Houston wore fur coats back when those were in fashion. I still hear commercials for Sakowitz furs on the radio every now and then though. Of course, even Sears had fur coats back in the day as witnessed by this commercial that is even more outdated than the other Sears coats commercial.

    Well, maybe the adult video store has a large selection of “dirty” VHS tapes. There are certainly a lot of those adult video stores around town. I’m sure visitors probably see all of them off the freeways and wonder what is going on. Hopefully the Seattle video store will do well with their new model. I’d hate to see that collection of videos broken up or thrown away.

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    1. The Vintage Goodwill game store looks nice, hopefully we can get one in Houston. There are a bunch of used video game stores Half Price Books, and flea markets where you can find used games here. I think Gamestop has their hands full with the new consoles that the old consoles will hurt their image and focus on the newest games.
      There are mini USB controllers you can hook up to a cell phone to play the emulators. I could never get the hang of playing with the on-screen controller buttons.

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  71. Part III:

    I could not find a lot of information about that Sharp stereo system either. Does it have discrete components or is everything aside from the speakers in one box? I have a Sharp bookshelf system that I got from Sears in 2012 and I think they still sell it, but I don’t know if it has anything in common with a Sharp unit that is 20 years older. If nothing else, the amplifier should be okay so at least you can plug your Vector Research cassette deck into it if the system has an input. How does the Sharp system sound?

    I’ve mentioned before that I have a Pioneer turntable that was purchased new from Wal-Mart in ~1987. It hasn’t worked for some time, but I was able to repair it this weekend and now it’s working well again. I may get a standalone phono pre-amp for it so I can listen to it using my Sharp shelf system (and also digitize from it to the computer and record cassettes from it) without having to route the turntable through one of my receivers with a phono pre-amp first. I may also get a new cartridge/stylus for it since I’m not sure how much use the current one has. The current stylus is a nice Pickering elliptical one purchased from Service Merchandise back around 1989-1990, but I don’t remember when it was installed and how many records it has seen. Anyway, it’s nice to have a working turntable again. I’ve been playing some records, but I still like cassettes due to the recording factor amongst other things. I may have to start looking at the vinyl sections at the thrifts just to see if there is anything interesting. I looked at some new record releases, but I didn’t see anything exciting unfortunately.

    I revisited Half Price Books and I was finally able to check out their cassettes. They had a lot of cassettes, but I really only found one that interested me. I didn’t get it because I didn’t want to stand in line for one item, but maybe I’ll find more on my next visit whenever that is. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any metal cassettes or any other type of recordable cassettes. Perhaps another location will have those, but it may just depend on what an individual clerk decides to buy/sell. Interestingly enough, one person was browsing the cassettes while I was and another browsed them as soon as I walked away from them (granted, it was busy due to the 20% off sale that day). It certainly seems like Half Price Books customers are interested in cassettes.

    I know that we were discussing the possible demolition of the Airtex Buyers Market Mall on the post about that mall, but I do want to say that it is good that you were able to photograph it before the demolition that may have happened. You never know when some of these places will close so it’s important to visit them/document them when you have a chance. I guess we’ll find out if anything happened to that building whenever one of us is back in that area.

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    1. All of the components are together in one box. I have hooked it up to my other dual tape deck and it sounds fine. Getting your turntable working is a good thing. I don't have any records left in my collection so I am not in the market for one anytime soon. I went to another Hastings last week and noticed they have a huge selection of new turntables in addition to the new and used record section. They even had a small selection of old video games and controllers. Hastings still does not have cassettes though or even Walkmans but maybe that will change.
      It seems like many of the places I have covered in the 5 year run of the blog have changed. I wonder how much things will change in the next 5 years.

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  72. I'm a bit short on time tonight so I will post replies in the next day or two. There's a lot of good stuff to reply to including those great photos of the Austin Sears Grand store. I'll also have an update about the big news that was released this past week about the revival of a mega Hi-Fi component brand that was very popular 1970s-90s.

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  73. Part I:

    I can see both sides of the camera display issue. On the one hand, there's a lot of information on the Internet these days about products so shoppers should be able to make purchases with some good research beforehand. Also, electronics shoppers seem very willing to buy from the cheapest place, even if it is online, and less willing to buy from a place with more service even if the price difference isn't huge. Thus, it may make sense to cut costs as much as possible to try to compete.

    On the other hand, I can some some usefulness to trying out products. I think this is especially true with cameras and even more so with camcorders with touch screen controls. A lot of these controls don't work well. A properly executed touchscreen may be okay, but in many instances regular buttons, menus, and dials are better. This is something that should be tried out. While it would be good to test out image quality (and shooting performance) before buying, the reality is that most people don't bring memory cards with them to test out the cameras as it is a bit cumbersome to take test images/video and then go home and view it on a big screen computer monitor (it's hard to tell if a picture is good or not on the camera LCDs). Plus, the store displays often have locks on them that prevent the memory card doors from opening.

    I remember trying out demos before buying my last two 35mm cameras (both from Service Merchandise) to test the ergonomics of the cameras (it was even harder to try out image quality back then with film), but I think all of my digital cameras have been purchased purely by reading reviews and looking at professional sample images from reviews. Of course, of my last two digital cameras, one was a gift and the other was a clearance camera at Sears that was priced at such a discount that it was worth taking the risk and trying it out on my own.

    Sears' electronics departments were still centerpieces of Sears stores in the mid 1990s when the movie was filmed, but that certainly isn't so true today. Of course, the consumer electronics industry was much stronger then than today. The tool departments at Sears have not changed much from 1986. In fact, some of that signage is still used today and still looks modern. Maybe I'm remembering this wrong, but maybe Sears had more open stock tool choices back then as compared to today where things like screwdrivers are sold more in sets than individually. Although the tools have stayed somewhat the same, Sears stores sell a lot less hardware items like paint and plumbing than they did in 1986. Of course, I think Sears Hardware stores are more popular now (along with hardware big boxes) so maybe there isn't the need to keep that stuff in full-line stores. I do wonder if the line in the 1986 ad about "I bet they don't even sell hammers anymore" is a jab at JCPenney who was eliminating hardware/tools at around that time. Even Montgomery Ward eliminated most tools from their stores in the 1980s.

    Although I'm not a huge fan of open ceilings, the job that At Home did with that ex-Kmart looks pretty good. Maybe they should have replaced those vintage HVAC registers with something more modern looking, but oh well. I noticed that the Clear Lake Garden Ridge is in the process of being converted into an At Home. I wonder if other Garden Ridges (especially the Fry. Rd. one) will get the same treatment.

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