Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hastings Lake Jackson Texas

Hastings Lake Jackson Texas 
Opened in 2005 after moving from the Brazos Mall, this Hastings was located next to a Target store. The former Hastings store at the Brazos Mall was replaced by Ross. This store was opened a few years before Hastings changed the look of their stores and still had the retro store design. 
There is a small shopping center in front of the store partially blocking the view from the highway. This is about all of the store you can see from the highway.
A typical Hastings Superstore had these departments

Movies for sale and to rent
Music CD's and Records both new and used
Video Games for all major consoles for sale and to rent
Books new and used
Fan zone with collectibles from the big 3 major sports and all teams
Toys and collectables
Electronics with TV's, CD players, record players, walkmans, tablets 
Phone accessories
Guitars and musical instruments
Gag gifts
Outdoor sports
Science projects
Hobby shop with build it yourself cars and RC cars
Magazines and newspapers
Greeting cards
Board games
Magic and Pokemon games
and more

Hastings had a lot of things in one store and you could easily spend hours browsing in the store. Hastings was in the beginning stages of adjusting the products in the stores to increase profits when the company went into bankruptcy. 

Gotta love the flannel shirt. These signs were already dated when the store opened up in 2005.
Here we are in the movie department. Collectibles and blankets were placed on empty movie shelves probably to clear out the back warehouse of goods for the sale.

This location did not get the 2016 refresh and still had a very large movie department for the size of the store. 

If you needed help, these information stations were the place to go.
You can see the video game department here in the back of the store.
This is near the entrance from the movies to the back of the store.
You can easily find the movie section from the middle of the store with the bright blue walls. This is near the comics and middle of the store.
The music department was at the back center area of the store. 
These photos were taken in the second week of the closing sale, the products were still somewhat organized at this point. 

Looking from the center of the store to the book department.
The edge of the instrument department facing the books.
Hastings had lots of records for sale as well as CD's. The t-shirt wall is in the background.
Another view of the music department with collectable toys on display.
Now onto the Book department

Kind of a faded sign, but you gotta love the old school leather jacket. 
All of the walls are painted green in the book department, except for the kids book department.
Here is the preschool and child toy department. 
The newsstand. 

Looking from the book department all the way across the store to the movies.
An old TV, that used to play whatever movie or TV show they were promoting or the clerks felt like watching. There was a TV in between each register aisle.
A register aisle, with two TV's in view.
An up close view of the older Hastings logo, that was on displays around the store.
A final view of the store facing the book department and cafe.


  1. Part I:

    I’m going to combine my replies from the Updates and Extra Images post with my reply here since that post is getting close to the 200 reply limit. This Hastings is interesting and looks quite different than the Alexandria Hastings we saw in the previous post. The wood floor look, even if it’s fake, actually looks pretty nice in this application. I’m surprised more retailers aren’t going for that instead of the hideous concrete look. Oh well. These pictures give a good idea of just how many new and used vinyl records Hastings had. It’s a shame those record sales wasn’t enough to keep them in business. I guess flannel guy was only interested in used CDs and not records.

    Thanks for the information about New Orleans’ malls. I guess the Lakeside area Kmart is located in a very good spot and that has helped it survive as long as it has. It’s a shame that one of the most successful malls in the area is land limited while another mall with more land is struggling to stay relevant. Unfortunately, that is the way it goes sometimes. The Galleria in Houston is another mall that struggles to find room for expansion.

    I do wonder how much money a retailer can get for their pharmacy records. It’s probably worth a lot since I’m sure the customers of the former store are very likely to do business with the store with the new records. I wonder if we’ll see other retailers throw in the towel on pharmacies ala Target, but Kmart must be doing well enough with their pharmacies to continue to keep them around.

    I know the likelihood of Sears opening new stores is slim to none, but I wonder if there might be a good opportunity to open new concept Kmart stores/franchised Sears stores in abandoned Walgreens/Rite-Aid locations after they merge that has a Kmart pharmacy, basic pantry goods, and maybe even appliances and mattresses. I know that sounds like an odd fit of items, but Mattress Firm and other mattress stores seem to be opening up on every street corner so maybe Sears can try to compete against them. Plus, it would really enhance their online operations as people can have items shipped to or returned to neighborhood locations.

    I was looking at the latest RadioShack ad on their website and noticed that RadioShack now has Realistic branded Bluetooth speakers. Realistic was Radio Shack’s house brand for audio equipment prior to the 1990s. It’s interesting to see the vintage logo and name back on new products. Hopefully RadioShack will have success with that and will use the name on some more serious audio equipment than just Bluetooth speakers.

    I also noticed that RadioShack just recently started selling Maxell UR 90 audio cassettes on their website. I’m not sure if they’re in the store also or not. At $2.99 per tape with a minimum order of 10, the price is certainly not cheap, but at least they’re available. Perhaps this is also a good sign that Maxell has not discontinued audio tape as was reported earlier, but it’s hard to say. RadioShack may have gotten their hands on some of the last remaining stock. It seems that Kmart has sold out of their Maxell cassettes online. I’m not sure if they’ll get any more or not. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on that.

    1. Hastings had several store designs in place in the handful of stores I visited. A lot of employees have commented online about their stores getting huge shipments of collectible POP figures and other items that were way overstocked and did not sell which probably did not help while they were losing sales.

      The Metairie Kmart property was sold not too long ago to a company known for developing hotels. I would not be surprised if Sears played hardball with the store lease to try and cash out. This is a busy store in a prime location so they will probably stick it out there until they have to.

      The pharmacies may become too expensive for Kmart as the store count shrinks. I bet they could try and raise cash by selling off the pharmacy service like Target did, but what company would take over their pharmacies.

      Smaller Sears and Kmart stores would be a good idea. I wonder if they could raise enough money to try out this concept.

      I have not been to a Radio Shack in a while. I wonder how their stores are doing these days. I went to Radio Shack stores when they still had them in malls, but I have not felt the need to go in lately.

      I wonder if Sears and Kmart stores will lose more electronics this year after the holidays. The electronics departments have shrunk so much that are almost an after thought at a lot of stores.

  2. Part II:

    I also think that the Giants are flying under the radar, but that’s not unusual. Nobody really gave them much of a chance in 2007 or 2011 either at this time of the year. I think some people assume that the Giants’ record is inflated by a weak schedule (which very well could be true), but nobody is saying that about the Cowboys and their schedule is even weaker.

    None of the teams in the NFL are dominant right now. Seattle looked like they were going to go on a roll, but they’ve had some ugly losses this year. New England always looks dominant at this time of the year, but the Gronk injury could set them back. The Cowboys have a weak (but well coached) defense that could well expose them against better competition. The Raiders also have a weak defense. So, anyway, we’ll see.

    I think the Bucs would have started the season better if they didn’t make the coaching change, but now they’re playing with more consistency. They have enough talent to win the division, but we’ll see if they can stay consistent now that they have some pressure on them. Evans is a very talented receiver, but he has a reputation for having stone hands at times. We’ll see if he can be consistent.

    In some ways, 2011 was a retribution season for 2010 where the Giants played well and actually ended up with a better record than they did in 2011, but they just barely missed the playoffs. The famed Desean Jackson Eagles game really defined 2010 for them much like how the Flipper Anderson playoff game in 1989 against the Rams defined that season and led to the Giants winning the Super Bowl in 1990. The Saints were dominant in 2011, but not getting home field in the 2nd round really doomed them just like it did in 2010. If anything, the stark difference in how the Saints play at home and on the road has really defined the team in recent years.

    Sony, like just about everyone else, simplified their electronics considerably in the 1990s compared to the 1980s (and the same was true of the 2000s compared to the 1990s). A lot of this was due to the integration of ICs and stuff that allowed for simpler and cheaper construction. The struggling Japanese “bubble” economy also put more pressure on Japanese companies to reduce costs and increase things like outsourced manufacturing. Some manufacturers seemed to do this while maintaining reliability and quality better than others though. For example, Sharp’s VCRs remained being reliable, but other manufacturers had a drop off (especially in the late 1990s/early 2000s). Perhaps the greatest image showing Sony’s cost cutting in the 1990s is this image from inside a Sony TC-FX211 cassette deck. It’s basically a boombox cassette deck put into a component cassette deck chassis and sold as Hi-Fi equipment.

    Perhaps you can use Velcro to secure the Walkman. The auto-reverse on the Chinese converter is a nice feature to have when driving. The door eject button works fine on the Chinese converter, but it’s not the easiest thing to use one-handed. That might hurt you if you try to change tapes while driving, but it should not be a problem if you do it when you’re stopped.

  3. New York has the chance to make up some ground tonight against Dallas but they would need to win out and Dallas would have to lose out to get the division.

    Just about every team has some kind of weakness so you can't really predict who is going to run the table yet.

    The one thing Tampa has going for them is that their new coach was promoted after being with them last season.

    New York has had some tough years, but they have two championships over the past decade unlike any other team right now. Our season is just about over at this point so the long off season is about to begin.

    The internals on the cassette deck are about as cheap as you can get besides putting that in full plastic casing. I wonder if they took that design out of the Tozai playbook.

    Maybe after the holidays I will look into getting one of those players. I still have a lot of Hastings CD's to listen to. There are still a few cassettes that I need to listen to, but I can wait.

  4. Part I:

    There's a lot of retail news and personal observations to report so hopefully I can get to them all. The big news this past week has been Sears' poor quarterly report. I guess that's not shocking news though. Some retail news outlets (and my own observations) say that this has been a soft holiday season for B&M stores in particular so the holiday season may not be very good for Sears either. That could really hurt their long-term health, but we'll see.

    I did recently visit the Willowbrook Mall Sears. I saw that the operator of the new Sears Portrait Studio is Picture People. They were doing pretty good business from what I could tell, but I guess this is a good time of the year for them. They also have locations at the N. Shepherd and Memorial City Mall Sears. They also have some locations in Houston area buybuyBaby stores.

    I recently purchased some items from a Sears store and for whatever reason, the two people ahead of me in line seemed to take about 15 minutes each to check out (it only took me a couple of minutes though). I'm not sure why the checkout process is so slow at Sears sometimes, but perhaps getting people registered for SYWR is part of it and perhaps also getting the coupons to scan correctly. The department got another register open right after I checked out, but Sears either needs to get that process streamlined or keep more checkouts open in each department or else people will get frustrated and will leave. I wonder how bad the checkout process is at Kmart stores where there is a greater expectation for speed, but the SYWR process is the same.

    I can't say for sure, but I think the two Sears Hardware stores near me are in the process of closing. I thought I saw going out of business stuff in front of one of the stores, but it was dark outside and I couldn't see it well. Neither location is listed on Sears Hardware's website, but the location on Louetta is still listed. It'll be a shame to lose those stores. Perhaps the failure of these stores shows that Sears is still a long way away from being able to open successful new small store formats.

    It's interesting that we are talking about Kmart's pharmacies because I just recently came across a picture of a Kmart pharmacy that got a full remodel. I guess it's a good sign that they are renovating some pharmacies and that shows that they may stick around. I can't imagine that any major pharmacy would want to set up shop inside Kmart stores due (ala Target) due to low shopper traffic, but I'm sure someone like Walgreens wouldn't mind paying a decent amount of money to buy Kmart's records and hopefully transfer their customers.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Kmart tries to get the new owners of the Metairie Kmart location to give them a big check in exchange for closing the store even if it is a successful store. That seems to be what Sears does these days.

    1. I hear you about the checkout process being slow sometimes. I recently went to JCPenney and moved from one stalled out checkout counter to another to get stuck once again. Both lines had only one person in front of me so it was disappointing to wait.

      Sears at Deerbrook is good at opening additional checkouts if the lines get past 2 people deep.

      Kmart stores have problems with their registers sometimes that hold up the lines.

      I am not sure why some of these long time Sears Hardware stores are failing. The format of the store made it easy to find items quickly and checkout fast most of the time. The few stores I visited also had employees that would ask you if you needed help.

      I looked at a few more photos of the Kmart with the remodeled Pharmacy. I noticed they still sell fishing licenses and have a sporting good counter. All of the stores nearby no longer have this counter even in the sportsman's paradise of Louisiana.

      Looks like Fred's is going to buy nearly 900 pharmacies from Rite-Aid and Walgreens, so maybe they would pick up a few of the Kmart locations in the future. I would like to see some Fred's locations in the area, they are cheaper than Walgreens and CVS.

  5. Part II:

    A few months ago I decided to fill some gaps in my classical music/jazz CD library by buying new CDs since the prices for premium recordings are pretty fair these days and the selection is still pretty good. I did buy some CDs from Kmart's site a few months ago right before their entertainment site went down (I very well might have been the last customer for that). I tried to find a B&M place to buy classical CDs, but I'm struggling to find any places that still sell more than one or two CDs of the genre in total aside from Half Price Books and the thrifts. I thought Barnes & Noble would be a good place to look, but the Champions store had practically no CDs aside from a few Christmas CDs. They had some expensive vinyl records, but I'm not interested in that for classical music (if they even had that genre on vinyl). That was a major disappointment, but their website still has an excellent selection of music at least. It seems like some B&N stores still have CDs, but not all of them and not ones near me. Some might be on my way from work though.

    There's a place near Midtown on 59 called Joel's Classical that sells a large selection of classical CDs so at least there's them, but there may not be any others. I guess buying online is the only option these days, but I may have to visit Joel's one of these days to give them some business and pick their brains on which recordings have the best "emotion" and audio fidelity for the works I want to add. With classical, most major works are available from many different conductors/orchestras, recording labels, and recording dates, so a lot of work has to go into finding the best recordings if one is demanding that.

    Hastings would have had something that I want, but oh well I guess. Perhaps small towns that Hastings focused on aren't the best markets for things like collectibles and comics. Maybe those are bigger city types of things. It's hard to say, but it seems like they had a hard time finding the right items to stock for their customers.

    I'd be surprised if RadioShack was doing well, but hopefully they are doing well enough to stick around. I know they've focused on R/C toys and drones this holiday season. That might be a nice niche for them to focus on, but it's hard to say. Sears' CE performance is a big part of their declining numbers so hopefully they continue to focus on at least what they have left. I did recently visit the Connection Solutions department to look at security cameras and they had an okay selection of items so that's pretty good.

    1. Target has downsized their music CD selection dramatically as well. They are down to half an aisle and they moved the items to a less prominent spot in the department to make way for their tech area.

      Hastings had a strange selection of music and several CD's I bought were unusual to find in Southeast Texas. They did have a lot of classical music from what I can recall.

      You will probably get much better advice from a local shop than you would from the big box stores though.

      Radio Shack and others probably sold a lot of drones this year. I have seen them for sale everywhere though even at grocery stores.

  6. Part III:

    I'm watching the Cowboys-Giants game as I type this. The Giants are leading right now, but just barely. The Giants offense is so frustrating to watch these days. This is even worse than the 1980s-90s Saints offenses or the mid-90s Giants offenses even though they have some talented offensive players. The defense is hanging in there though so we'll see, but even asking the Giants to have 3-4 scoring drives against a weak defense seems like asking for too much. At least we have our recent past glory to reflect on as you say, but watching Eli play like he's 55 years old is tough. Hopefully the Giants can hang on to win this. I think the division is out of the question, but a Wild Card berth is very much in play.

    Unfortunately, it looks like things might be over for the Saints this year. Today's loss was a tough one. The Bucs are looking good though. Keeping someone from the staff from last year has helped, but there's still a transition especially with a rookie head coach.

    They could have called that cassette deck "Tozai by Sony." I bet anyone who brought one of those and opened it up felt like they got ripped off. I haven't been visiting the thrifts too frequently these days, but I have picked up a few prerecorded cassettes including a rare "Walkman Classics" Chrome classical prerecorded cassette from Deutsche Grammophon licensed by Sony featuring Holst's The Planets. These cassettes are somewhat sought after, but personally I'm not happy with the sound quality on them. Part of that is the nature of Chrome tapes that I've mentioned before, but DG had some mastering issues at that time even though they are a premium classical label. I also picked up a Saint-Saens Chrome classical tape from the London/Decca label from the same time period and the fidelity is much better so it's not just a Chrome thing. I also picked up a handful of sealed Maxell XLII Type II cassettes. Those aren't all that rare in the thrifts, but I rarely see more than one at a time so that was a nice pick up.

    I have not had much of a chance to play around with the new USB cassette portable I got, but I will soon and I will report the findings.

    1. As of last week, the Cowboys secured the #1 seed in the NFC. With the way things are looking Dallas, Atlanta, Green Bay, and New York appear to be the teams to beat in the playoffs. Seattle and Detroit both had tough losses this week. Washington and Tampa are still hanging on barely, but still need help to make it in. The AFC teams have already been determined and Houston may have to face Kansas City again. Texans fans are hoping for an all Texas Superbowl, but if that does not happen they don't want to see Dallas here at all.

      We beat both Arizona and Tampa since your last comment and we have a chance to beat Atlanta this week to finish the season on a good note. The rumors of our head coach leaving are once again coming up, but I doubt that anything happens this off season. Next year if the team once again fails to make the playoffs things will certainly change.

      I have been so busy with things that it may be a while before I make it to a thrift. I hope that I will find time one of these days. I have not taken photos for a new article since Hastings closed either. I have a few items still left to post as well as an update post.

  7. Part I:

    You are certainly right about JCPenney having a slow checkout process. I did some shopping there around Back To School time and it seemed like each customer was taking about 10 minutes to check out if not longer. I know JCPenney has a lot of coupons which may cause trouble, but Kohl’s does too and their checkout times aren’t nearly as long. I know that sometimes people go to Sears to resolve credit card issues at the cashiers since there isn’t a central customer service desk and that takes some time, but regardless, Sears and JCPenney need to fix their checkout process. It’s unfortunate to hear that Kmart has issues too because there’s an even higher expectancy for there to be a speedy checkout process at discount stores.

    I can confirm that the two NW Houston Sears Hardware locations are closing along with the Fuqua location. I went to one of the stores and got some really good deals since most things were 50% off or more and they didn’t jack up the prices prior to closing like some places do. Even though the discounts were big, the shelves were still well stocked so I was able to get a lot of the things that I was looking for. I enjoyed shopping at Sears Hardware (and still may shop there, but the Louetta location is the only one left in the area and even then it’s pretty far) due to the size and good customer service as you say. I’m not sure why they failed, but I will say that their hardware selection has decreased in recent years with appliances taking up more of the space. Also, perhaps they didn’t advertise enough in the community. I know that Ace is pretty good at sending out ads in the areas with stores.

    I’m not sure why some Kmarts are not offering fishing licenses anymore. It’s been decades since I last fished, but Kmart was my go-to place for stuff like that. I remember taking an unexpected trip to Missouri once a long time back and stopping at a Kmart there to get a license. Sometimes it’s small stuff like that which causes customers to abandon a store in favor of the competition.

    I hadn’t heard about Fred’s plans, thanks for the information. Kmarts are probably too big for Fred’s to take over, but maybe they could if they subdivided the stores. Are typical Fred’s locations about the size of a Walgreens? I would have assumed that they were a bit bigger, but maybe Fred’s is wanting a new concept of smaller stores. It’s a big risk for a chain like them, but we’ll see if this big buyout of locations (which may not be stores in the best locations or in the best condition if Walgreens is dumping them) can help Fred’s jump to national prominence. It will force CVS and Walgreens to deal with a new competitor which is probably what the government wants. I don’t know if any of the dumped locations will be here in Houston since we don’t have Rite-Aid, but we’ll see if Fred’s comes here one of these days.

    1. I am not sure what the checkout issue is, but they need to have a better sense of urgency if they want to increase sales. Sears has gotten much better over the past year. Even a layaway for a television only took a couple of minutes.

      Sears is slowly dissappearing. Luckily we have not lost any full sized Sears stores in a while. The Houston market seems to be one of the better ones for the chain and I am glad they continue to operate here.

      Sporting goods in Kmart stores are usually in the back in one of the lowest traffic areas of the store. Most if not all Kmart stores no longer have a gun counter which brought hunters into the store for licenses as well. I am sure with the loss of those sales they probably decided to eliminate selling licenses as well.

      Fred's stores are in some former K&B drugstore locations so they are about the same size as your normal drugstore chain. None of the stores I have been to have a pharmacy, but it would not take much space to reconfigure the stores to make room for one.

  8. Part II:

    I actually went to a Wal-Mart for the first time in about a year a couple weeks back and looked at their CD selection. They actually had more than Target it seemed, but most were “discount” priced CDs. The discount CDs were not organized in any way so I didn’t give them more than a quick glance. Target had a couple of classical samplers, but I didn’t see any classical music at Wal-Mart. Maybe they had a couple and I just didn’t see them.

    I did visit the Baybrook Mall area Barnes & Noble which still has a music & movies department unlike the B&Ns near me. I don’t think they have the listening stations like they used to years ago. The department looked a bit dated with DVD signage that makes it look like it’s a new format, but at least they have that department. Anyway, they still had a decent amount of classical CDs, but most of it focuses on “pop” classical like Yo-Yo Ma and don’t expect much outside the A and B list composers. They didn’t really have more than one of any particular CD. The A list composers like Mozart and Beethoven had their CDs grouped together (not counting clearance stuff), but other composers were just grouped together so I have to go through all of them to see what they had. The prices aren’t great, but they aren’t bad either considering it’s B&N. I did pick up one CD that I wanted for my library and was priced well. Anyway, I wonder how their selection compares to what Hastings had or what someone like Books-A-Million may have. Perhaps Hasting’s odd merchandising is partially what led to their demise. The oddball stuff is probably what was left on the store's last days after things were at ~90% off.

    The Baybrook B&N had some classical music records too (though they had a lot more on CD than on vinyl). It was a bit surprised to see how much they had actually, but the prices were outrageous as you’d imagine for new records. CDs are far superior for classical music than vinyl and most classical fans know this so I’m surprised that they’re even trying to make that many classical records. I didn't specifically remember seeing any classical SACDs (Super Audio CDs) or hybrid SACDs (SACDs that also work in regular CD players) even though classical is perhaps the only genre where SACDs have any popularity, but maybe they had some (probably hybrids if they had any since anyone with a CD player can use those). One thing I will say is that I spent at least 45 minutes in the music department browsing through the stuff at a prime time of the evening during the busy holiday shopping period and I was the only person looking at music the whole time I was there. Unfortunately, that might explain why those departments have been removed from so many stores. The profit margins on the records may be so high that they can warrant putting them in all stores even if they don’t sell too many, but the profit margins on the CDs are slimmer so perhaps they can’t justify putting them in all stores even if they sell better than the records.

    I visited a couple of Half Price Books recently as well including my first visit to the NASA area location. I did not see cassettes at that location. Maybe they had them hidden somewhere, but I don’t know. The store is somewhere in between the sizes of the Copperfield and North Oaks locations, but I think the Copperfield location still had a little bit more music than the NASA store (the Copperfield location still has cassettes for example). The North Oaks store probably has 2-3x the amount of classical CDs as the other two though and a bit more in other genres. I wonder what the Humble store has because I think that HPB is even bigger than the North Oaks store. I have not been there since 2012-13 or so, but I was pretty amazed at the size of the Humble store.

    1. Sounds like your music search is coming along. So many stores these days just don't have a music selection like the specialty stores did. Maybe if you have a chance to go to Beaumont, 2nd and Charles at Parkdale Mall has a big selection of CD's. If you make the trek you can check out the Macys that will be closing soon. I think the Suncoast is still open there as well.

      The NASA Half Price Books seems to have always had a lackluster selection of music and movies. I guess they don't have a lot of sellers in the area that will part with their collection.

  9. Part III:

    Anyway, I did pick up some nice CDs and cassettes from the North Oaks Half Price Books including a pretty rare Japanese Denon Bartok classical CD from 1984 (the writing on the CD case is actually in Japanese). Denon CDs are pretty famous for their high audio fidelity and of course it is amongst the earliest CDs being from 1984. I don’t know if this CD is worth anything huge (some early Denon CDs are), but I like the music on it anyway so it was certainly a worthy pick up for me.

    I mentioned earlier that Kmart did not have the Maxell UR 90 cassettes in stock online, but they are back in stock now. Unfortunately, the prices went up again to $5.50 for a two pack, but at least they got more in stock. Hopefully that is a good sign that the Maxell cassettes are still available and perhaps still being made.

    The Saints helped the Giants out by beating Tampa Bay this past weekend. That ensured that the Giants could prepare for Week 17 knowing that they’re in the playoffs with the 5 seed. I’ve heard the Payton rumors, but the team is still playing hard obviously so it’ll be hard to get rid of him. Well, Rex and Rob Ryan will be available if you want a Ryan to take another crack at fixing the defense! Ha, that’s a joke obviously, though Rex would probably be a better defensive coordinator than Rob was. Spags has been a great D-coordinator for the Giants yet again even with his struggles with the Saints a few years back so it’s probably more of a talent problem than a coaching problem.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where the Giants will play in the opening playoff round. Green Bay looks like the most likely spot. The Giants have won big playoff games at Lambeau before (both in seasons where the Giants lost regular season games to the Packers like they did this year), but Green Bay might be the hottest team in the league and I’d like to avoid a team with momentum. We’ll see. I think the Giants defense is playoff ready, but Eli and the offense has been terrible. I think the only way the Giants can win is if the defense holds the opposition to under 10 points. That’s a tough task, but we’ll see.

    As for the AFC, well, there are a lot of unknown QBs in the playoffs. Thus, I think NE and the Steelers have a big edge over everyone else. Those were the preseason favorites too. I’d expect one of those two teams to be in the Super Bowl in Houston. Hopefully the Giants will be there too, but if they can’t, I’ll be rooting for everyone else to beat Dallas for sure. I’d prefer for the Redskins not to be in the Super Bowl, but I’d much rather have them there than the Cowboys. The Giants seem to be the one team that can beat the Cowboys (they made Prescott look terrible) so I’d look forward to that matchup if it happens. I have very fond memories of the Giants knocking the 1 seed Cowboys out in 2007 on the way to the Super Bowl and would love a repeat of that for sure.

    It’s funny how we were talking about Sony junk the other day because I almost fell victim to Sony junk the other day. I was listening to CDs on my Sony CFD-S50 boombox when all of a sudden it stopped reading CDs. I tried to power cycle the boombox to see if that would fix the issue, but it wouldn’t turn on again! Fortunately, it’s working now and reading CDs once again after I kept it unplugged for a while and plugged it back in. I’m not sure what went wrong, but at least it’s working (for now at least). I think I still have Sears’ extended warranty on this for another six months, but hopefully I won’t have to use it.

    Hopefully you’ll be able to visit some thrifts and take some new pictures for the blog here soon. I have not visited a ton of thrifts recently, but I did see some interesting stuff (mostly 1990s audio equipment) at the ones I visited even though I didn’t buy anything. I did see a few cassette decks, but they were all low end stuff (mostly Technics 1990s dual decks) so I didn’t bother with them.

    1. Glad to hear Kmart will still have cassettes. I guess they will run sales on the cassettes more often with the higher price tag.

      We were glad to repay Tampa Bay the favor and pretty much eliminate them from the playoffs. Payton will remain with the Saints, but he has to do better than 7-9. He is becoming the new Jeff Fisher of the NFL. Sadly our last game was a loss, it is hard to overcome a 35-13 deficit and win. The team still fought and finished 32-38 after a failed onside kick. The offense was very good this season with a 5200 yard passer, 1000 yard back, 2-1000 yard receivers, but it was not enough.

      The Giants have a rough road starting in Green Bay. It probably did not help when some players took a mini vacation to Florida this week. Hopefully they went straight to condition training once they got back.

      I am interested to see what happens with the Oakland versus Texans matchup this week. It will be a very different type of playoff game with the shaky QB's of each team. The AFC seems to have 3 dominant teams and 3 pretenders. The NFC has one dominant team, 4 good teams, and Detroit.

      The boombox problem you had is strange. Maybe there is a chip that needed a hard reset by pulling the plug out for a while.

      I have a reason now to get more photos for the blog. The multiple Kmart and Macys store closings will leave so many new vacant properties. I will try to document as many of these stores as possible before they are gone forever.

  10. Part I:

    The Sears and Macy's closing news is obviously a huge story locally and nationally. I put my thoughts about it on the Metairie Kmart post. It's good that Houston has not lost any more Sears locations though. While West Oaks Mall and Plaza Paseo will feel the pain from losing Macy's, the closures could help drive up sales at those locations for Sears even if the malls themselves struggle even more.

    I do have a minor Mall of the Mainland update. It seems that they're building some kind of entrance way or something next to the old Palais Royal (currently the wrestling studio). This is probably going to lead to Stuttgarden/restaurant row, but I'm not sure.

    It's good to hear that your experiences at Sears' checkouts have been better lately. I have noticed that some departments are almost always busier than others at Sears. It seems like the children's and men's department checkouts always have the longest lines. The women's department lines may or may not be long, I really don't know about that. OTOH, the tool department checkouts are usually quicker even though the customers there tend to ask the clerks for help picking out tools/lawn equipment and stuff like that. I'm not really sure then why the lines are quicker, but maybe they have more staffing in that department.

    I wonder if Half Price Books might consider opening a bigger store in the NASA area at some point because you'd think that that area would support a bigger store. That location probably has a lot of potential shoppers and also more affluent sellers who sell better than average stuff. Maybe not though as you say. Maybe the people in that area hang on to their stuff. I don't know, it's hard to say. I've noticed recently during my visits that HPB's pricing on CDs is sometimes good, but sometimes not. HPB usually asks for $4-7 for non-clearance single disc CDs used or new, but new CDs can be brought from other stores for $5-~$20 (some special CDs might be a lot more). Obviously getting a $20 CD for $4.99 at HPB is a good deal and there are a lot of situations like that, but I've seen cases where they want $7 for a CD that costs $5 new. I guess it pays off to know how much certain CDs go for or are worth before buying things if you want to get the best deals. One nice thing about HPB, at least with classical CDs, is that they have a pretty good selection of high-end CD publishers like BIS and Telarc to go along with mid-level/mainstream and budget labels and they are all priced about the same. The budget classical label stuff usually isn't bad, but still it's nice to be able to get very highly sought after recordings for the same price as the budget stuff (to some extent, the budget stuff might be overpriced and the high end stuff underpriced, but I won't complain as long as the selection of high end stuff is good).

    I'd love to make a trek to the Eastside and visit the 2nd and Charles store and even San Jacinto Mall, but I rarely go out that side. Maybe I'll make a trip down there one of these days. How is Parkdale Mall doing these days? I was a bit surprised to see the Macy's closing there even though Beaumont is mostly a blue collar area.

    The Saints go as Drew Brees goes and so maybe they feel that they need to keep Payton around as long as Brees is there so they don't waste any of Bree's time where he might have to learn a new offense. It's hard to say what the right decision would be. The Saints had some good looking young players emerge this year that makes the future look brighter, but OTOH, Atlanta might be tough again next year and Tampa is looking promising too. Carolina still has a lot of talent too.

    1. I wonder if that is the start to that restaurant row development at the Mall of the Mainland. If anything maybe they will open up a portion of the mall again for mall walkers.

      I have seen up to 3 cashiers at a time in several Sears stores during peak periods. It is a good sign because a lot of stores just staff one person in a 4 register area.

      The Half Price Books on NASA is actually a larger store than they had. The old store was much smaller. Maybe they will expand the store someday or move into a more prime location.

      Parkdale was doing well and the only two corridors with multiple vacancies were the Sears and Macys corridors. The Macys had downsized to the first floor at least a couple of years ago which surprised me. Macys is in the back of the mall so it probably did not get as much traffic as the Dillards. The Dillards at Parkdale is really nice and was renovated around the time Macys opened. Dillards used to be split into two stores but they closed and demolished the smaller store and replaced it with a Bealls. The Macys was actually former Montgomery Ward but they renovated the building heavily and you would never know.

      Sean Payton fired several coaches this week and will move forward with the team. We will see who replaces those positions and if they can do better.

  11. Part II:

    The Texans should be able to beat the Raiders with Oakland's terrible QB situation. The Texans' QBs aren't good, but they're a lot better than what Oakland has. People want to list the Chiefs as legitimate championship contenders, and they are on paper, but the Chiefs have been playoff disappointments since the 1990s when they had Marty Schottenheimer. Andy Reid is kind of a modern day Schottenheimer with all his regular season success and almost no postseason success. We'll see. I'm sure Texans fans are hoping for a match against KC in the 2nd round so they can (probably) play New England in the AFC Championship game. That will probably be a blowout, but at least they'll go further than what anyone expected. We'll see though, I still like Pittsburgh or New England in the AFC with Miami maybe lurking as an odd wildcard if Matt Moore plays well. I'm not sure if they lose much with him in instead of Tannehill. But, anyway, this Raiders-Texans game offers a QB matchup similar to what you'd see in the 3rd quarter of a preseason game.

    I'm thinking the Miami party won't impact the Giants much on the field, but Beckham is still showing how immature he is. You'd think that the players would learn from what happened to Jose Fernandez a couple months back. Well, anyway, at least it's better than Lawrence Taylor doing coke and hookers the night before games.

    Green Bay has been the hottest team in the 2nd half, but the Giants defense has been at least equally as hot and maybe Eli can find some of his Lambeau magic. We'll see, but this might be the best matchup of the whole playoffs so I'm really looking forward to this game. I think Giants fans have more confidence than other teams would have in this situation because of the recent history the team has had at Lambeau. We'll see.

    Yeah. the Sony boombox must have had some sort of software fault that went away when I cut the power from it. I've used it some since I posted that and it's been working fine so hopefully that was just a one-off oddity.

    Hopefully Kmart will put the cassettes on sale from time to time, but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen. I have not done much thrifting lately so I have not brought anything. Part of that is because the thrift I visit most frequently has been closed for repairs after a small fire. Oh well. Also, I've been spending a bit more time at HPB stores lately trying to see what used CDs I can find so I know what to buy new and what to not buy new. I did find a pre-recorded rock cassette at a thrift that I wanted, but I could not open the storage case for the cassette to check it since the plastic had melted the two parts of the case together! I'm sure I could have broken the case and taken the tape out of there if I brought it, but if the tape got so hot to have melted the plastic on the case, the tape might not be in such great condition either so I passed on that. Oh well.

    I've been wanting to buy a good later model CD/DVD player from a thrift since my CD player has been have more and more problems playing CD-Rs and even a few regular CDs. Unfortunately, many of the thrifts now want ~$15 for a used DVD player without a remote even though new ones sell for $20-30. I can't imagine that they sell many of them for that reason. No wonder the shelves are full of DVD players. I'd prefer to get a 2000s era DVD player to use as a CD player instead of a new one though since most of the new DVD/Blu-Ray players do not have buttons or a display on the player itself for changing tracks and stuff like the older ones did. Getting a good standalone single disc CD player would be my first preference though.

    1. The Green Bay/ Giants matchup is one that will be a good. It will probably be a very cold game so that may work in the Giants favor if Aaron Rodgers has difficulty passing.

      New England would probably have a difficult time against Pittsburgh if they have to go against each other in the AFC championship game. The Chiefs may win their first game, but it is hard to pick them for the Superbowl.

      The NFC is tough to predict right now. If you would have told people that Dallas and Atlanta would be the 1st and 2nd seed back in August they probably would have laughed at you. Tomorrow starts the playoff season so we will see what happens.

      I almost went to a thrift tonight, but I was short on time so I only went to the nearby store I needed to go to. As you mentioned some of the pricing is getting higher and you are no longer getting a good discount.

  12. I guess I had forgotten that the Parkdale Mall Macy’s was a former Montgomery Ward. Dillard’s seems like a stronger chain right now than Macy’s from a customer’s point of view. The men’s products are definitely nicer at Dillard’s than Macy’s. Perhaps then it is no surprise that Dillard’s won over Beaumont instead of Macy’s. Beaumont may only be able to support one of the upper scale department stores.

    I’m thinking that this could be restaurant row related construction at Mall of the Mainland, but it’s hard to say for sure. Hopefully the area will be open to the public here soon, but it’s hard to say. There has not been a lot of news about the mall recently, but at least Karam seems committed to it with the construction work. He’s got to be happy that Sears is sticking around at that location.

    The NASA/Baybrook Mall area had a Border’s until the chain’s demise and the Barnes & Noble there has a music & video department unlike some other B&Ns so I think that area could support an even further expanded Half Price Books. We’ll see though, perhaps they’re locked into a lease for a while where they’re at since you say that they’ve moved once before.

    I did visit another HPB recently and picked up two new, sealed classical CDs from a mainstream label (EMI) that contains the exact music that I was looking for. Those were great finds and I only paid ~$6 for both of them since one was on clearance. Those finds, combined with some new CDs I had ordered from B&N recently and an in-store B&N purchase, pretty much fills the gaps in the collection that I was wanting to fill right now. I’m sure I’ll find other things I want to buy down the road, but for now I’m happy with my collection. I was able to get great recordings of the music I wanted on new CDs (mostly) for good prices.

    Sears definitely needs to keep at least two clerks at most of the checkouts during any period where there is a decent number of shoppers in the store. Some locations may be better about following that than others though, but at least they’re working on it it seems. Sears will have to try even harder to keep what customers they have with Craftsman tools being available at more stores so they will need to up their game. Unfortunately, I don’t know if they generated enough money from the sale to really help them spend money to improve operations.

    The Giants’ run game has been better in recent weeks with rookie Paul Perkins getting the ball more and it seems that they will go back to having Marshall Newhouse start at RT. Hopefully the Giants can move the ball on the ground and eat up some clock. That might help keep the Packers below ~10-14 points which is what the Giants might need to win given the terrible state of the passing game. Eli has come up big in some big spots before though so we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to the Packers game since it is a really good matchup as you say.

    Yes, you’re right that not many people were picking Atlanta and Dallas. There’s always at least 1 or 2 big surprises with the first round byes and this year is like that. I think Atlanta might be trending up and Dallas trending down as the playoffs start though, but we’ll see.

    I like Pittsburgh’s chances against New England too if their big offensive guys stay healthy. The Steelers came out flat in some games earlier in the year, but it’s hard to imagine them being flat in the playoffs so I think they’ll be a real force. Their defense is not great, but it might be good enough with their great offense. Their offense has to play more consistently on the road though, I think they’ve been quite a bit better in that regard at home.

    I did some thrifting and picked up a 2007 Pioneer DV-400 DVD player with a remote for $10. I have not tested the Pioneer audio quality yet, but it seems like it'll do the job of being a CD player for CD-Rs if nothing else. One thing I don't like about it is that it does not have Rew/FF buttons on the player itself (only track Rew/FF), but it can read MP3s off a USB drive which is nice.

    1. Parkdale is a huge mall for a city the size of Beaumont, but it stays mostly full. The Macys was in a bad spot and hard to see from either the freeway or Dowlen. Once they closed off the second floor, it seemed like the location was really small and the selection was not very good. Another thing about the Parkdale Mall is that the JCPenney store is very retro. The exterior of the building and mall entrances look very dated.

      Keepe posted on the Mall of the Mainland, it has been a while since I passed by.

      I am glad you were able to find the CD's you were looking for. I know the feeling of looking for a certain album and looking everywhere without success.

      A lot of articles refer to the shop your way initial promotion execution as a huge reason why sales slipped over the past 5 years. I know that I was questioned about multiple programs once a few years back just buying a pair of socks. Credit card, shop your way, and something else. It was very time consuming and to top it off, a huge receipt with extra coupons printed out. Many other shoppers were probably lost when they were doing this at their checkouts.

      As of today 8 teams are left in the playoffs. I am not a fan of how the matchups shook out, but it is what it is. The only game I am looking forward to watching is Pittsburgh vs KC. The rest of the matchups are bland to me. The Giants didn't advance but they made the playoffs and steadily improved on defense.

      The USB feature is always a plus not many of the older players have it. I have a bunch of MP3 CD's, but I hardly use them.

  13. JCPenney does have some retro locations. Well, at least some of their stores have retained some retro features. Many JCPenney stores still have signage and mall entrances from the 1980s if not before then. The most retro store that I've been to in the Houston area is certainly the Meyerland location (most of the others were built in the 1990s or later), but the San Jacinto Mall location may be retro too. I have not been there.

    Sometimes Sears is like 1990s and earlier Radio Shacks where you were asked to give a phone number and address just to buy some batteries or a blank cassette. I guess the clerks have some incentive to sign people up so they have to ask, but it does slow down the checkout process and makes things annoying to some shoppers. Sears has to find some way to streamline this or else they may lose even more shoppers. I can only imagine the problems at Kmart stores if they have the same issues since discount store shoppers want to get in and out even quicker than department store shoppers.

    The Steelers vs. Chiefs game should be good, but I think Pittsburgh will win unless they have some problems with their offense on the road in the cold. Still, I think they can put up more points than KC. The Packers-Cowboys game should be good. I think the Packers can win that game, but they suffered some major injuries against the Giants and they were pretty banged up even before that game. The Giants game felt like the opposite of the 2011-12 playoff game against the Packers when Rodgers connected on that Hail Mary play at the end of the half. I knew at that point that the Giants weren't going to win the game just as I knew the Packers weren't beating the Giants when Eli hit Hakeem Nicks in 2011-12. The Giants defense played well for a while, but ultimately the Packers scored more than the Giants could. Usually teams win when they can do that obviously.

    I've used the Pioneer DVD player quite a bit since getting it. It's not perfect, but I do like it all in all. The soundstage isn't quite as wide as my 1989 Teac CD player and the bass isn't quite as deep, but it's only off by a tiny bit so it's not a big deal. The CD transport does makes a bit of noise though which can be annoying when listening to quiet sections of things like classical music. Oh well. On the positive side, it does have the USB port like I said earlier, the display works well, and it looks good unlike a lot of modern equipment. Anyway, I'm happy with it and I have not seen any other better deals in my thrift visits since buying it. In fact, one thrift I went to had a whole stack of DVD players without remotes with the lowest priced one being $25. Yikes. It almost seems like getting a DVD player from a good brand with the remote for ~$10 was quite the steal. Maybe I'll buy a new standalone CD player at some point while they still make them, but this Pioneer will work for now.

    MP3 CDs are useful in the car especially if you don't have a car CD changer, a USB port, or a way to connect a phone to the car since you can put a lot of music on one disc. Aside from that, I guess it's not too useful of a format these days since regular CDs have better quality than MP3s (though MP3s converted to regular CDs won't be any better than MP3 quality) and since USB flash drives and phones can hold even more MP3s than a CD.

    I have not seen much of interest at thrifts lately, but I did pick up a prerecorded cassette and a record. Another thrift that usually has a lot of cassettes didn't have any at all on my last visit. I'm not sure what that was all about, but hopefully they will start to stock them again soon.

    1. JCPenney at Meyerland is certainly a very retro store as well as San Jacinto. I wish that Town and Country had not closed, that store was nearly identical to the Belle Promenade Mall JCP that closed in the 90's. I wonder if any of the stores with that design are still open, several closed in the early 2000's.

      Sears has done a good job at speeding up the checkout process. I usually type my number into the pad since they hardly ask if you are a member these days.

      Thankfully the Sunday playoff games were a better matchup than the previous 6 games. I barely got to see any of the games, but they were more competitive. Since my team is not competing in the playoffs, I have not made it a priority to watch the games.

      Those DVD players sound overpriced unless they are premium models. You can easily find a new basic player for $20. Maybe you can get an extension cord to listen to your CD's far enough away to not hear the machine noises.

      The mp3's are very convenient since I drive a lot. So many new albums these days only have around 10 songs so you have to change CD's more frequently.

      Maybe your next thrift outing will be better. It has been a while since I went to one so who knows what I would find now.

  14. Part I:

    My memories of the Town & Country Mall JCPenney are not very vivid even though it was one of the closest JCPs to me prior to the opening of the Willowbrook Mall location in 1992. That said, JCPenney seemed to build their stores with more common type designs than Sears and Montgomery Ward did (Sears went with more common type designs in the 1990s) so there are probably still quite a few similar looking 1980s JCPenney stores around the country.

    I can't speak for the the San Jacinto Mall JCP as I have not been there, but the Meyerland location not only feels very retro, but it also feels more upscale than the newer JCPs (especially the ~2006ish freestanding locations). It does also feel a bit like the former Northwest Mall JCP and presumably also the ex-Almeda Mall location. I feel like I should be able to buy MCS Series stereo equipment and hardware when I go to the Meyerland location! I suppose I can buy a fridge there now just like in the old days.

    You're right about the need to put in the SYWR number in the pad yourself at Sears because they don't always ask like they used to. Perhaps this is being done to speed up the checkout process. I'm fine with that for sure. Also, for a while, some Sears clerks were scanning items on their iPhone-like devices and then transferring the order to the regular cash register. This process seemed to take twice as long as it would have been if they just scanned the items using the register for whatever reason. Fortunately, I have not seen the clerks using the portable devices recently so maybe they canned those iPhones to speed up the process. Sears probably lost a lot of money buying those iPhones (or whatever they were) though.

    Most of the country seems to be rooting for Atlanta, but I guess Saints fans aren't. Having another NFC South team in the Super Bowl would be interesting though as it's generally not considered to be one of the better divisions. I don't really have anyone that I'm rooting for or against at this point. I feel that football season is pretty much over for me as well and I've been more focused on NHL hockey since the Giants lost.

    Anyway, I think Atlanta can beat Green Bay since GB is so beat up and since Atlanta seems to be a little more balanced. Then again, Rodgers seems very focused right now and we know Atlanta comes up small at times. I'm just glad Green Bay beat the Cowboys and made them irrelevant one-and-doners yet again. They can't even blame Tony Romo this time. I'm not surprised that GB beat Dallas though.

    As for the AFC, I think Pittsburgh is more talented, but they get sloppy on offense and New England's fundamentally sound defense might be able to take advantage of that. Still, I think Pittsburgh might be able to put up a lot of points even if they commit some turnovers.

    1. I wish I knew the prototype of those JCPenney stores. A search online did not turn up any results, but I doubt all of those stores are gone.

      The appliance sections seem like an afterthought in the Houston stores I have recently visited. You would think the departments would be easy to find but you have to really look to find where they have put them.

      I have seen those handheld devices a few times but they used them to mostly look up items with me. I know JCPenney tried rolling something out like that and I made a purchase once where the cashier used one but it was giving them trouble. I am not sure why they invested in the technology when it really did not help them boost sales.

      Both games should be good games but I feel the same way about he rest of the games. If Atlanta makes it, this will be the second year in a row for an NFC South team to make the Superbowl. I would be more interested in a Green Bay vs anyone else Superbowl than Atlanta making it. Especially since the game is here in Houston, I don't want a rival team here in this city.

  15. Part II:

    I have not done any thrifting since my last post, but I'll probably visit at least a couple of locations here soon. In terms of thrift store news, I noticed a few weeks back that the Epic Thrift at 1960 and I-45 has closed. That's unfortunate. I used to like to stop at that shopping center and visit both the Goodwill and the Epic. I guess Goodwill was too much competition even though I've never found that location to be particularly good for electronics. Anyway, I don't know if Epic has any remaining locations in Houston.

    Some of those $25+ DVD players were decent models (like early Panasonics and stuff like that), but none of them were particularly premium to warrant the price especially without the remote. I'd like to get a CD or DVD player that can play some combination of HDCDs (regular CDs that have special encoding to allow for slightly increased quality with a player with HDCD decoding), SACDs, and DVD-Audio, but I have not seen many of those. I do see an SACD compatible player every now and then, but the prices have not been right. I don't even have any SACDs or DVD-Audio discs so it's not a high priority and I'm not even sure if those high resolution formats really have any audible difference compared to CDs. I do have a couple of classical HDCDs. They sound good (I don't have an HDCD compatible player, but Windows Media Player and other programs on the PC can decode HDCDs), but they sound good even on a regular CD player. The HDCDs I have are from a specialty classical label called Reference Recordings. They're known for very high quality mastering and the quality of the mastering makes more of a difference than the format.

    Onkyo and Teac have had the same <$200 CD players on the market for a few years now and Pioneer just released a new model (all three companies are under common ownership now, but they all make different players). I was a little surprised to see Pioneer release a new standalone <$200 CD player in 2016 since cheap DVD/Blu-Ray players have kind of eaten the lower price CD player market, but it's good that there's still interest I guess. There's still some very expensive >$300 CD players on the market, but I'm not particularly interested in that unless they go on sale.

    The Onkyo is probably the best of the three, but the more expensive of the two Teacs might be good too and has a USB port for MP3s. Yamaha has a nice CD player that's a little more than $200, but maybe it comes on sale sometimes. As for my Pioneer DVD player, I do have cables long enough to put it somewhere further back, but then it becomes more of a hassle to change discs and use the remote. Oh well, the transport isn't that loud, but it is a tad annoying when you're really focused on listening to dynamic classical music.

    Yes, changing CDs is very annoying in the car while driving. Changing cassettes is easier and cassettes run longer with auto-reverse, but it's been a while since I've had a car with a tape deck. My current car has a USB port so I have a small 16gb flash drive with MP3s on it in shuffle mode. It's very convenient and the sound quality is better than using my phone to play MP3s through the line-in jack (plus, I don't have to drain my phone's battery). I do use the CD player in my car on occasion though when I want to listen to music in maximal quality so I like having it there. Some new cars, especially domestic models it seems, don't have CD players now, but I made sure to get a car with a CD player (along with the USB port & line-in) and a stereo with simple controls that are easy to use while driving.

    1. Looks like the Epic Thrift stores have closed and their website shut down. There are some stories about unpaid employees and unhappy former employees online. There is also some controversy about their financial filings online. I knew once the Halloween store took down the Epic Thrift sign in Humble that the store was not going to happen.

      There is still a demand for physical media CD's even though most chains are shrinking or abandoning those sections altogether. I am not surprised to see newer players on the market because there are several residential and commercial uses for CD players.

      The HDCD I had never heard of until your comment. I guess it must have been an expensive technology. I guess it failed to catch on like HD-DVD and maybe Beta. It was just another choice I guess in a crowded field of music formats.

      I have to use the AUX to the phone jack in my newer vehicle. My older vehicle even though it is a 2003 model has a cassette player.

  16. Those handheld scanners were mostly used at the N. Shepherd and Baybrook Mall Sears in my experience. Maybe those locations still use them as I have not been to either location in a few months, but I would like to visit the N. Shepherd store here soon. I never saw those scanners used at the Willowbrook Mall or Mall of the Mainland locations. Anyway, that technology seemed to be a major bust. Perhaps JCPenney and Sears wanted to appear to be trendy, but it didn’t work.

    I’ve seen banners on the outside of some JCPenney stores advertising the appliances, but I don’t think I’ve personally seen those departments yet. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a JCP. There’s still a lot of 1980s JCPenney stores I see in mall pictures from the NE/Rust Belt/Atlantic coast. There’s probably some clone stores still out there, but I couldn’t begin to tell you where one might be.

    That’s some good information about the Epic Thrifts. It sounds like it was a messy situation. Hopefully the employees are able to get paid.

    I know a lot of people don’t want to see Pittsburgh, Green Bay, or New England win another Super Bowl, but I don’t really mind seeing them win again if that happens. The Giants have had recent playoff success against Green bay and New England so their success makes the Giants look good in some ways. Plus, it’s good that there are elite franchises for everyone else to aim to be. I think the Giants are up there on respect list. The Saints have some catching up to do in that regard, but they have as many Super Bowl wins as anyone else in the NFC South (Tampa Bay is the only other team with a SB win) so it‘s not like they are an embarrassment within their division.

    HDCD wasn’t a total failure, but it was poorly executed by the companies behind it and the record labels. The idea behind HDCD was to create a CD that could be played on all CD players with standard quality, but could playback pseudo 20-bit audio using the 16-bit CD format when played back using an HDCD decoding CD player. Supposedly there are 4-5,000 HDCD titles, but many of these do not indicate that they are HDCDs and in some cases they do not use all (or any) of the HDCD features so there’s no benefit to them. Even when HDCD is indicated and is implemented as intended, the HDCD logo is barely visible on most titles and most people didn’t know what it meant so it was pretty pointless. It’s quite possible that you have an HDCD in your collection and don't know it. Microsoft brought out HDCD in the 2000s, but they never really did anything with it so it’s pretty much a dead format now except for a few niche publisher CDs like the Reference Recordings ones (the person behind RR was the co-inventor of the format so his HDCDs are pretty much as good as it gets).

    Of course, one of the biggest things holding HDCD and other formats like SACD back is that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to tell an audible difference between a CD and higher quality formats. Thus, anything better than a CD is a hard sell since the CD is designed to reach the limits of human hearing.

    CD sales are still falling, but according to the latest RIAA data, the CD sales rates are falling at about the same rate as LP sales and digital download sales are falling even faster. Unfortunately, cassette sales are not tracked, but the numbers would probably be small anyway. Anyway, perhaps the LP fad is starting to die off. We’ll see. People thought digital downloads would kill off the CD, but the downloads are struggling even more than CDs. Streaming is really growing right now. Streaming is good for trying out new music, but it’s no replacement for owning music IMO. Anyway, there’s still a ton of CDs out there and they’re still selling in decent numbers so hopefully good CD players will stick around for a while unlike cassette decks where the last decent one was discontinued in 2016 unfortunately.

    1. Sears and JCPenney need some ideas that can help out their sales. The appliances in JCPenney will help them if Sears continues to disappear. I think the best option for Sears right now is to shrink their store base even more and focus on key areas to keep their business running. They just don't have many options left it seems.

      Now that the Probowl just finished we are down to just New England and Atlanta. If Atlanta wins, they will have bragging rights for a while. If New England wins, it will be a historic victory them. It has the appearance of a high scoring game, but you never know. Nerves can get the best of people in the Superbowl and cause strange things to happen.

      I guess the HDCD format just passed me by, I may possibly have a CD in my collection. One of these days I will take a look and see. I don't hear very well so any differences I could probably not tell anyway.

      Best Buy also downsized their CD selection even more. They only have an aisle near the small video section with CD's now. It seems like Barnes and Noble has shrunk their CD section as well. They don't have the shelves filled up like they used to and videos are now mixed in with the CD's.

  17. I read an article the other day saying that Stanley and Sears will maintain two different tool lines using the same Craftsman name. The article was discussing how this might be confusing to shoppers. I’m sure there will be a lot of confusion. Sears may suffer if they try to maintain their tool’s quality when Stanley cheapens their tools and offers them for less money at places like Walmart. The customer who thinks the two Craftsman tools are the same will naturally go for the cheaper Walmart product, but then then they find out that it isn’t a quality product, they won’t want to buy any tools from the same name even if Sears has better quality stuff. I think Sears made a major mistake selling the Craftsman name the way they did, but we’ll see.

    Sears has tried to spend money on their online store, but I’m not sure if that is paying off. Even Amazon is rarely profitable, but part of that is due to their large spending on R&D. Closing stores and focusing online isn’t the answer I don’t think. They probably need to close some stores and they should keep the online store, but they probably should try to open some new smaller stores in new emerging suburban areas that are more focused on their core lines. The Appliance-only store in Colorado is a start, but they’ll need a lot more of those. I doubt Sears is in position to do much inventing right now though as their stock has been plummeting in recent days and there are rumors of more layoffs at Kmarts that will be staying open.

    I mentioned earlier that RadioShack has started to use the Realistic name on some audio products. Well, now it seems that they are also using the Tandy name on some computer accessories (wireless mice and keyboards) as well. I never thought I’d see the Tandy name being using again. We’ll see if RadioShack has any success using those legacy names again. I wonder if they’ll ever sell a whole computer using the Tandy name. That would be really interesting, but I guess something like a tablet would be more realistic given current market trends.

    Thanks for the Best Buy update. It’s been a few months since I’ve been to one, but I’m not surprised to hear about the decreased CD selection there. Barnes & Noble seems to be a mixed bag when it comes to music/movie selection. Some stores have none at all, but others still have full music/movie departments. Other stores are somewhere in between. The two NW Houston locations seem to be the only ones here that don’t have any music at all.

    I’ve visited the Baybrook Mall area B&N a few times the last couple of months since they have a full music department still. They don’t have listening stations anymore and the checkouts in the music/movie departments are rarely manned. Still, they seem to be getting new CD shipments. I’ve noticed some new classical CD titles during my last visit. In fact, there’s a CD I brought there in December (I brought the only one they had on the shelf, but they only seem to keep one CD of each title they have on the shelf at least for classical) and they had another copy of the CD during my last visit a few days ago. I didn’t think that they’d get another copy since it’s a CD from 1991, but they must have gotten it from somewhere. Maybe they’re still making those CDs after all these years.

    I actually saw a Panasonic DVD player for $12 at a thrift the other day that advertised HDCD support, but I didn’t buy it. I’ll stick with what I have unless I find something really good at a good price.

    It seems like the team with the better defense wins the Super Bowl almost every time even if the other team’s offense is legendary. With that in mind, I think New England has a big advantage. Atlanta certainly could win though. Their offense will be hard to stop and the game will be played indoors (or at least under warm conditions if they open the roof) so any disadvantage they may have had being a domed team shouldn’t be a factor. NE is less likely to choke the game away, but they kind of choked in the 2011 Super Bowl against the Giants so who knows.

    1. Maybe the reason Sears did not get as much from the sale of Craftsman is because they did not want to eliminate Craftsman from their stores. Either way Sears will still hurt their future prospects with the Craftsman sale.

      I read about the Kmart layoffs, it sounds like they are running into inventory shortages. If no Kmart store is going to be using backroom storage anymore, it is cause for concern. That will mean more products running out and holiday displays put up super early.

      Radio Shack legacy names are a good way to bring back the nostalgia from their older shoppers. The new Circuit City was banking on their name to jump start their new stores. For now all is still quiet with them.

      The Barnes and Noble at Deerbrook still has a good selection of music items and keeps that area staffed. I don't go inside very often, but you can see that area from the mall.

      There have been some distractions this week with the Falcons. Superbowl week distractions should be kept to a minimum, but we will see if it affects their performance. This is probably the worst week to lose a playbook and announce a contract and playing time dispute. New England has he better defense by far, but the Falcons have some good players on that side of the field.

  18. A lot of people viewed the news that Kmart was going to put all their inventory out on the sales floor as being bad news. In some ways it makes sense to have all your goods out for sale instead of in storage, but it’s a logistical problem in many other ways. It makes the sales floor look cluttered (a problem Kmart has had for many years already even though there are many bare shelves at Kmarts) and there are issues with having the wrong seasonal items out as you say. Kmart is starting to resemble a Big Lots type store more and more, but Big Lots is probably doing better as a business. It seems like Kmart just can’t win.

    It’ll be interesting to see how customers react to the Tandy and Realistic names as they have not been used since the very early 1990s. Hopefully they expand the product lines some more and are able to spend some money marketing the new names. It’s funny how old RadioShack spent a lot of money on a Super Bowl commercial trying to show how the 1980s Radio Shack is dead only to see the new RadioShack go back to the old 1980s names. Personally, I like the legacy names and hope that RadioShack has success with them. Those names hold a special place amongst electronic hobbyists who were around back then.

    I’ve been looking up classical CDs on the Barnes & Noble website to see what stores have what in the Houston area. It seems like the Baybrook Mall area, Holcombe, and Town & Country B&Ns have the most classical music. The other non-NW area B&Ns have some stuff, but not as much as those three. It’s possible that other locations, like the Deerbrook Mall store, have just as many CDs as something like the Baybrook store in non-classical genres. I haven’t really looked at that. I wonder if there are any other good classical music stores in Houston aside from B&N, Half Price Books, and Joel’s Classical Shop. I’m not sure if the Katy Mills Books-A-Million has anything these days, but that’s pretty far out of the way for me anyway.

    One thing that I didn’t know until recently is that the B&N across from The Galleria had moved to a new location down Westheimer. I’m not sure when that happened. I last shopped at the old location probably 7-8 years ago.

    I have not been keeping up with all the Super Bowl news this week, but it certainly seems like the Patriots are the more seasoned team when it comes to handling Super Bowl distractions. Of course, everyone remembers the off-the-field problems the Falcons had the last time they made the Super Bowl where a starting DB was arrested the night before the game. The Falcons do have a pretty decent defense though and they can rush the passer somewhat. That can be a problem for Brady. The Giants have shown that Brady becomes mortal when pressure is put on him. Still, I think the Pats should be the favorites, but there is certainly potential for things to go the Falcons’ way.

    1. I wonder what vintage items are making their way out of the Kmart storage rooms. On my next Kmart outing I will be on the lookout for some of these items, they will probably have some interesting things that have been boxed up for years.

      The Superbowl commercial was a mistake that haunted Radio Shack for a while. I still think a name change and store remodel would really help the company. As an example look at what Garden Ridge did to enhance their stores with the At Home remodel. The company is growing very fast and moving into dead big box stores with success. People still think that Radio Shack is going to ask for all kinds of personal info just to buy one item.

      Books A Million did not have too many music CD's on my last visit about a year ago. They had a lot of records though. I don't know if Music Town in Spring has any, I just looked through their cassettes when I last went there.

      Their rent probably went up too much in their former spot. I had not noticed the Barnes and Noble had moved either.

      Both teams have to score as much as possible. Neither team can afford to have multiple drives without points scored. The Patriots defense I think is better than Atlanta, but they have one of the best pass rushers this season. I think the Patriots have revenge in mind so they are going to play a very competitive game.

  19. I have seen some interesting things show up for sale during Kmart closing sales in various photos I've seen. Old video games and VHS movies are not uncommon. I'm not sure if Kmarts which aren't slated to close will sell those items or if they'll just throw them away from the stock room or just ship them off to closing locations. Who knows. You may find some interesting things. Then again, there's probably a lot of normal items on Kmart shelves which have lingered on for years anyway.

    I think it would have made more sense for the old RadioShack to have spent less on the Super Bowl ad and more on more regular advertising just reminding people that they were still around. The new RadioShack definately needs to spend more on marketing, I think a lot of people have forgotten that they still exist especially given all the store closings in 2015. As you say, they may also need to market the fact that you don't have to give all your personal information just to buy batteries. A lot of people assume that it's still that way there. I wonder how the chain is doing these days though.

    I hope RadioShack will be able to make some real audio equipment with the Realistic name and some real computer stuff too. The Tandy name was used on some revolutionary home computers (the TRS-80 series) back in the 1980s and were the first computers in many homes across the country. I don't know if there is an opportunity to be as revolutionary as they were back in the early days of home computers, but it would be neat to see some solid computer products with the Tandy name on them.

    I still have not visited Music Town in Spring even though you said that they have a lot of cassettes. I read some user reviews of them and it seems like the condition and pricing of some of the used products are not the best, but it would make for an interesting visit none the less. I do wonder if they have a decent selection of classical music though. Many "indie" music places don't want to have anything to do with that genre. Some of those indie music stores seem more like head shops that also have music. That's certainly not the vibe most classical music fans, including myself, want to shop in even if I'm looking for rock/pop music. Fortunately, Music Town does not seem to have that vibe though it from what I can tell.

    I did some research and it seems like The Galleria area Barnes & Noble closed in 2011. I guess it's been gone for quite a while then. There wasn't any clear explanation for why it closed, but rent prices would be the best guess as you say. Perhaps parking and access issues were a factor as well. I'm not sure if the store down Westheimer was a replacement store or if it existed before. Either way, I guess it acts as a replacement along with the River Oaks store. Maybe B&N felt that they had too many stores in the area, who knows.

    Thanks for the Books-A-Million information. I guess it will not be worth it to drive all the way there to browse their CDs. Oh well.

    In some ways it seems like Atlanta is more talented than New England, but I think Pittsburgh was more talented too and we saw how that turned out. NE will be ready to play, but who knows how Atlanta will approach the game. Sometimes coaches get themselves in trouble against NE by trying to outsmart Belicheck by coming up with plays they aren't used to running when the key to beating them is by executing what the team does best. The Giants did that and had success. Atlanta's coach comes from Seattle, who is known for making foolish coaching decisions, so we'll see if he can resist the urge to make too many changes and oddball decisions. The potential for an Atlanta upset is certainly there if they execute what they do best.

    1. It may be a few weeks down the line until I can make it back to a Kmart. I would not be surprised to see some old items for sale at Lufkin. There will probably be more closings since the company announced that they are going to save a billion a year in cost cutting measures.

      Radio Shack does not do a very good job advertising to bring people in. I think they probably did better with mall locations since people would walk by and get drawn in. Now they are mostly in shopping centers where people drive up to the stores they want to visit and rarely walk around. I don't hear too much about the company these days.

      Music Town had a lot of items when I went but the store was overstocked and had boxes all over the place. Maybe it has been taken care of now, but it would be worth your time to stop by.

      Barnes and Noble has been slowly closing stores for the past few years. I think they need to think about adding a used book and music department to keep their business going. People don't buy books as much as before and used items have good profit.

      As you now know, last weekend was an epic Superbowl. I guess with the mostly boring playoff games this season, we got a treat to end the season. There is not much I can say that has not already been said about the game.

  20. Part I:

    The big retail news this week of local note is that Brazos Mall’s new owners are planning a 25 million dollar renovation of the mall including an updated food court, new floors, seating, and lighting. A new logo for the mall might be coming too. This might not be new news, but it sounds like the old Sears will be turned into a TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. Those are popular stores and will probably drive more traffic to the mall than Sears did unfortunately (personally I would have preferred the Sears for the variety of quality goods they sell). We’ll have to see if this keeps the mall viable going forward, but at least the new owners are trying things.

    GameStop used to be under the Barnes & Noble umbrella so they should be used to buying/selling used items. Plus, I’m sure their college bookstore operation buys/sells a lot of used books. I’m not sure why they don’t do it in the retail stores, but maybe that’s because they only want to sell new items to keep their upscale aura up. Also, perhaps they don’t want used item sales to cut into their Nook ebook profits. It’s hard to say. I guess I have not noticed the changes at B&N over the years as it used to not be the best place to buy new music from, but it’s really one of the very few options left here in Houston and elsewhere.

    I was talking to someone I know this weekend and they wanted to know what would be the best place to buy a particular cable they needed since “…RadioShack is gone now.” The funny thing is that there is a RadioShack right around the corner from this person and they probably see it everyday, but they assumed that RadioShack closed completely in 2015. I’m sure a lot of people think the same thing. RadioShack really ought to try some sort of marketing campaign to try to inform people that they are still around and have some new brands in store. It does not help, as you say, that a lot of their shopping center stores aren’t seen by shoppers perhaps because some of their locations are so small even if they have a good location within the shopping center.

    I read recently that Payless Shoe Source wants to close around 1,000 stores. It sounds like they are in a similar situation as RadioShack was in a few years ago, albeit perhaps not as dire. Payless, like old RadioShack, has a mix of mall and shopping center stores and they still have locations in a lot of 2nd or 3rd tier malls. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out. I don’t shop at Payless, but I know of some people who do. Oddly enough, I think the RadioShack closest to me is next to a Payless.

    1. The Brazos Mall is due for an update, but the food court still looks relatively new. Thanks for the link to read about the changes.

      Barnes and Noble is slowly shrinking so they may need to try selling used items at all of their stores at some point.

      Radio Shack stores in some shopping centers that closed still had signage up. Some commercials on tv and radio stations would help. I think the news from their bankruptcy and closing of the mall locations really hurt them.

      Payless wants to consolidate stores into larger locations. I guess similar to what the Shoe Department has done with their newer, larger Encore stores. Payless has too many stores that probably compete with each other.

  21. Part II:

    I guess MusicTown being overstocked is better than it being understocked. Hopefully they have lower prices now to try to alleviate the overstock problem. I recently purchased a used Deutsche Grammophon classical cassette from the North Oaks Half Price Books and it was a whopping $1.50. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for a used cassette. It even had a price tag on it, unlike most other HPB cassettes I’ve seen, so I don’t know if that one was priced higher than other cassettes on the shelf. I’m not sure why it would be as it was from DG’s value line from the 1980s (though it often does not make sense to buy used value line/value brand CDs from HPB as they can be brought new for around the same price). Fortunately, unlike the DG Walkman Classics chrome cassette I got a few months back (and unlike a couple of DG Karajan records I have), this one sounds pretty good. It’s on regular ferric tape. I’m not sure if that’s the reason why it sounds better or if the performance quality is better too.

    One thing I don’t like about PolyGram (labels including DG, Decca/London, & Philips) classical (and perhaps other genres as well) tapes from the early-mid 1980s, whether chrome or ferric, is that they use big sponge pressure pads instead of the usual hinge mounted fabric type pads. The sponges don’t keep alignment as well and they can fall apart over time, but fortunately I’ve never seen a PolyGram sponge that has fallen apart. I guess I can’t complain too much as long as it works.

    I also visited the Kirkwood and Westheimer HPB recently. I visited a HPB on that part of Westheimer many, many years ago, but I seem to remember a different looking (and larger) store than what they have now. I don’t know if they’ve moved at some point or if the store was always at the current location. Anyway, even though the store is not that big (compared to North Oaks and Humble standards at least) and even though they didn’t have a ton of classical CDs, I was able to pick up some good CDs, both new and used, at that location. I didn’t buy any cassettes, but they do have them unlike the NASA area location unless the NASA store has them in some hidden location that I’ve never seen. There were a couple of cassettes that were tempting, but it’s of stuff that I’m planning on buying on CD new at some point anyway.

    I have not done a ton of thrifting in recent weeks, but I have made a few visits. I have not seen a ton of interesting equipment, but I did see a nice Toshiba 6 head VCR for $8. I already have one of those so I did not bother with it. I really like that VCR though, it’s got excellent image quality. Unfortunately, they are a bit fragile though. I’ll probably visit more thrifts here in the future, but it does seem like I’m not visiting the thrifts as much this year as I used to and my interest in doing so isn’t quite as high. There’s still interesting stuff that shows up though for sure.

    It seems like Houston got a Super Bowl that everyone will remember. I’m sure Saints fans are thrilled with the result just as they were when the Super Bowl was last in Houston when New England crushed Carolina’s dreams late. I knew that NE was going to make a run when Atlanta got up big. The Falcons are the Falcons after all and that ultimately showed up. Anyway, I’m kind of glad that that the season is over with now so I can turn my attention to other sports.

    1. A couple of HPB stores have different prices for cassettes and separate price tags for each cassette. I guess they are going to maximize the profit when they can.

      The Westheimer/Kirkwood HPB is smaller and does not seem to have a lot of good merchandise. I still go there from time to time, but some HPB stores seem to be better than others.

      I have been limited in free time lately so I have not been to any thrifts.

      I am sad to see football season go. I don't follow any other sports so I will be anxiously awaiting August when preseason kicks off.

  22. There is some interesting Sears news this week. It seems that Sears is trying out a freestanding Sears Auto Center called DieHard Auto Center in San Antonio. Supposedly this is located near a former Sears that has closed, but I’m not sure which location that would be. Anyway, it’s just a single trial that Sears is doing, but it’ll be interesting to see if they expand the concept. While some Kmarts do have Sears Auto Centers in the old Kmart auto service departments, perhaps Sears could expand these DieHard stores to more Kmarts. Perhaps it’s just a strategy to increase the value of the DieHard name for a sale though. Sears used to own Western Auto and I believe they had a stake in NTB/NTW in the 1990s so it’s not like this is totally new territory for them.

    There was an interesting interview with the RadioShack CEO last week. It’s still hard to tell if they’re doing well or not, but perhaps focusing on STEM educational products is a good idea. Generally speaking, the profit margins are high on educational items. But, yeah, RadioShack really needs to do some marketing to tell people that they’re still around.

    I’m not too familiar with Shoe Department/Encore. Payless consolidating into larger, better location seems like a good idea. I don’t know much about the shoe industry, but I do know that the competition is steep. We’ll see if Payless will be able to survive.

    A retailer who may not survive is Gander Mountain. It seems like they are filing for bankruptcy. I’ve never shopped there and I don’t think they’d have much that I would be interested in, but there is a location near me at 290 and 1960/Hwy. 6. That location was very hard to get to for many years since there wasn’t a continuous feeder street there, but that recently changed. Perhaps some other retailer will snatch that location up if Gander leaves it, but it could be turned into a warehouse or something since there’s a lot of those in the area as well.

    It seems like prices for new CDs at Half Price Books are pretty consistent across stores, but the prices for used CDs varies somewhat. There’s variance within a store as well. Sometimes I’ll see used CDs that shouldn’t be worth much at all going for $7.99 when double CD packs from a good publisher go for $4.99. I can’t really explain it when I see stuff like that. As far as cassettes go, perhaps HPB is trying to gain an advantage with all the news of a cassette comeback. While the $1.50 prices won’t prohibit me from buying a used cassette, I’d certainly be more willing to buy more at $1. We’ll see what happens.

    We’re probably a bit spoiled since the North Oaks and Humble HPBs are larger than most other Houston HPBs. While the Kirkwood store is fairly small, I did find some good things there so I might visit that location sometime soon again. We’ll see. One thing I’ve noticed about Houston area HPBs is that most are located in shopping centers where the parking lots are quite packed at peak times. While I don’t mind walking a bit, I can certainly see some shoppers bypassing a potential HPB trip due to the difficulty of getting a parking spot.

    Perhaps this is a good time to start following the New Orleans Pelicans NBA team. They just made a trade for a major superstar, Cousins, to pair with major superstar Anthony Davis without having to give up much. We’ll see if Cousins stays with the Pelicans or leaves in free agency, but it was probably worth the gamble given that they didn’t have to give up much. The NBA isn’t the NFL where anyone can get hot and win the championship so the Pelicans still have work to do before they can dream of a championship. The Pelicans are unusual for a modern NBA team in that they’ve focused on getting a strong frontcourt. They could give a smaller team matchup trouble in the playoffs if they can get in.

    1. I like the Diehard auto center idea, maybe they will convert their current auto centers to this new format and boost sales.

      As for Radio Shack, we now know that the company is endangered once again. Will the company survive this bankruptcy?

      Shoe department is similar to Famous Footwear or Shoe Carnival. They sell name brands for discounted prices.

      I have never been to a Gander Mountain. It looks like a nice store but I have never had a reason to go in one. At least 3 Houston stores will close with the bankruptcy.

      It has been several weeks since I visited a HPB. Maybe I will have a chance soon. I am still overstocked with movies and music from Hastings so I have not made it a priority to visit them lately.

      I hope the Pelicans do well, but I can't seem to get into any other sports besides the NFL. Free agency has been off to a good start for both of our teams. We have filled a few needs and continue to have money left over for possibly taking Malcolm Butler from New England.

  23. Here's an update worth posting about RadioShack. It looks like RadioShack might be done for good now. It seems that Sprint has pulled out of their agreement with RadioShack and that RadioShack may file for bankruptcy and liquidate. The League City and Texas City stores are already conducting going out of business sales. I'm not sure about other locations, but it's not looking good. It seems that the hopes for a RadioShack revival were too good to be true.

    In other electronic retailer news being reported by TWICE, hhgregg is having serious trouble as well and will close 40% of their locations. This includes their Louisiana locations.

    1. There are lots of closings all of a sudden. Several retailers are having a hard time right now. Gordmans, Gander Mountain, and the above companies are either closing or filing bankruptcy.

  24. RadioShack looks to be in trouble. I'm not sure if they'll survive this bankruptcy, but we'll see. The RadioShacks near me are not slated to close (yet at least), but they are going through a storewide clearance sale that with all sales being final that looks like a closing sale. I actually picked up some good deals because of that sale (everything is at least 20% off with somethings like parts drawer stuff being 50% off). Hopefully RadioShack's sales were on the upswing so someone might swoop in and save them yet again, but I'm not too optimistic about that right now.

    I heard about the Gordmans closing. I didn't even know they had locations in Texas. The Gander Mountain on 290 is indeed closing according to what I read. I never shopped there. I really have no need for stores like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops.

    Locally, the big news (thanks for the tip) is that Northwest Mall is closing with the anchors staying open. It's sad to see it go, but it's a bit of a miracle that it lasted this long. At least NW Mall's twin, Almeda Mall, is still alive and doing pretty well.

    JCPenney seems to be actively trying to model themselves after Sears. I even read something where their CEO was taking shots at Sears. Of course, JCP has their own problems so I'm not sure if they're in any position to laugh at anyone. Anyway, it looks like JCP wants to deemphasize apparel and sell more home goods, appliances, and home services. They're starting services that offer bathroom remodels and stuff like that ala Sears. Emulating Sears here in 2017 seems like it wouldn't be a winning move, but we'll see if JCP can turn things around. I'd like to see more hardline goods in their stores, but they risk alienating their current customers yet again if they stop selling the clothes that they like to buy.

    I have not done a lot of thrifting lately, but I have found some mid-1980s sealed blank cassettes in the thrifts. I found a Sony HF at one and a 3 pack of TDK SA Type IIs in another. Those are considered glory era cassettes and are real finds. I also picked up a couple of pre-recorded CDs and cassettes. One thrift had a lot of audio equipment at good prices (including a late 1980s JVC double cassette deck), but it was all lower end stuff so I didn't really check it out that much.

    I've been keeping an eye on the Giants' moves, but I have not really followed what other teams are doing. I'm cautiously optimistic about the Marshall signing. He's a big target and he'll help with run blocking, but he drops even more passes than Beckham does and Beckham has stone hands at times. The Giants need to do more to improve the O-line, but I don't think there's much they can do now.

    The Pelicans have not played well since getting Cousins so it's not looking good for them making the playoffs. We'll see. The other sports are more boring to watch in the regular season as the games don't mean as much as they do in the NFL, but the playoffs can be intense. I don't watch baseball these days and only watch some NBA, but I love watching NHL hockey. I know it's not a popular sport in this region, but it's a lot of fun to watch. It probably helps that my team, the Sharks, have been one of the better teams in the league over the last several years and are considered one of the favorites to win the Cup this year.

    1. I would not be surprised if the storewide clearance sale is a going out of business sale in disguise. If I remember correctly, the stores that closed before the last bankruptcy were not technically allowed to close until Feb 1, 2015. The store at Deerbrook Mall had a similar sale that was never called a store closing sale.

      I may make it to a Gander Mountain store closing sale, but Gordman's is a little far away. I went to Northwest Mall last weekend in the evening and took a bunch of photos. I plan on taking one more visit there before it closes.

      It looks like JCPenney is exiting a bunch of their small market stores and a few dying malls as well. If they are going to emulate Sears, they will need to remodel only the stores in good malls/shopping centers to see how it goes. There is a market for these goods and services, and Sears seems to be very vulnerable right now.

      I stopped by some antique stores and actually found some decent items. I did not buy anything though since they were not must have items like a replacement Walkman right now.

      The Saints made a lot of moves and we are waiting to see if they will pick up a CB from New England. Now that free agency has started the news has gotten interesting again.

      I fill my spare time in the offseason gaming or taking small road trips. Maybe when I retire I can pick up a new sport to follow.

  25. You're probably right about the RadioShack clearance sale being a disguised closing sale. We'll see though. Most analysts seem to think that RadioShack is done now, but I did read that they might just be looking to reduce their store count. I'm hoping for that, but I'm not optimistic. I've been buying all the odds and ends that I think I may need from RadioShack now because I may not get another chance.

    Are the remaining Northwest Mall businesses still open or have they already packed up?

    I saw the JCPenney closing list and it seems like smaller stores continue to be cut. JCPenney could pick up a lot of customers if Sears goes out of business. OTOH, some of the malls JCP are in will struggle even more so if Sears closes so they are probably having to put a lot of thought into which stores to focus their efforts on so they don't waste money since they don't have a lot of it.

    I visited a thrift and found a nice pair of RadioShack bookshelf speakers from 2002-3 in good shape. These are from when RadioShack was using the RCA name on their private label electronics. I brought them and they sound really good for their size. I'm impressed, but RadioShack did build some excellent speakers. It's a shame they got away from making/selling items like this.

    I have not seen any Walkmen in the thrifts in a long time. The last Goodwill I went to had some blank late 1990s Maxell UR cassettes in the glass display case for some reason. I guess they feel that they are so valuable that they don't want anyone to steal them. Who knows.

    The Saints could use all the help that they can get on defense, but New England's players have a history of not living up to expectations when they leave NE. Brandon Browner is an example and I'm sure you're still having nightmares of him getting burned. Then again, getting a player on a good deal always makes sense.

    I'm surprised the Giants were able to sign Geno Smith. I figured he'd want to go somewhere where the starting QB is more injury prone. Hopefully Geno can get back on track with the Giants and be a solid backup if his number is ever called. I wonder if this means that they won't take a QB in the draft as they were rumored to do before. Both of our teams need to start planning for their QBs of the future.

    The Sharks made it to game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year before losing to Pittsburgh so I'm hoping for another deep run this year with a better result. That certainly kept me occupied for the early part of the summer last year. I know a lot of people are interested in the NFL Draft, but I don't get excited about rookies until they actually hit the field in games since so many players end up being overhyped busts.

    There's been a lot of activity on the various retail blogs still alive lately. Hopefully this is a sign of a retail blog revival, but we'll see.

    1. Radio Shack released a list of stores being closed. Is your store on the list? For now, the 2 stores on the NE side are safe.

      When I went to Northwest, only the Foot Locker had left. Even the food court still had the same restaurants open, but some closed early. I plan on making one last stop before or on March 31 to take one last look inside.

      Speaking of Sears, they are finally somewhat admitting that their future is very much in doubt. I am sure you have seen the numerous articles posted yesterday about their recent statement.

      Mall and shopping center retailers that are not discounters are in big trouble right now. There is a list that has over planned 3,000 store closures in 2017. Gordmans is not on that list, but the estimated 1,000 Payless Shoe store closures are. Walgreens and Rite Aid may add more if their merger hits any snags. The office store chains are likely to add more closings before the year is done as well. The start to 2017 has been terrible for traditional retailers so far.

      Radio Shack lost their identity over the years and tried to follow trends but failed. I still remember they still had the big warehouse catalog in stores that had Atari 2600 games for sale still in the original unopened box.

      I guess the thrift had shoplifting issues, but cassettes seem low on the most wanted lists these days.

      It seems like The Saints are grabbing players left and right this year. I hope they can find the right mix of players to bring the team at least a playoff berth in 2017.

      The Giants and Saints will both probably get QB's in the upcoming draft. As of right now Brees has one year left on his contract and he is going to take it year by year. Eli probably has a few more years left and has been healthy for most of his career. Now with his receiving core, he should have an improved 2017.

      Having something else to keep you occupied when football season is done is a good thing. I seem to have more free time this time of year to make trips.

      I see Sky City has posted some recent updates after being dormant for a while, The Kmart Blog and Dead and Dying Retail have both been active as well. Deadmalls has posted some new posts also, but Labelscar is close to 4 years without an update. I have photos for several new blog posts as well as a few still incomplete older project posts. The recent waves of closings have been difficult to see, but I am glad that I was able to document a few of the stores while they were still around.

  26. The three RadioShacks closest to me are not on the closing list. There's a RadioShack on 34th off of 290 that is closing, but that's not a store I would shop at normally anyway. I'm sure 290 construction has hurt that store's sales in recent times.

    While RadioShack was usually quite over-priced, their audio equipment was priced fairly and the quality on certain private label products was very good. Sure, some audio snobs laughed at Radio Shack products, but tons of people brought equipment from there and was pleased with it. RadioShack's decision to drop private label stereo gear was pretty dumb because that decision came right at a time where online dealers were starting to kill B&M retailers. RadioShack would have had more reason for shoppers to stay in their stores rather than go online if they offered good products at good prices that were exclusive to RS. Alas, we see what happened. It's a shame, but at least I like my speakers.

    The Sears news is making headlines in major newspapers and sites. Granted, we all knew before that Sears is in major trouble. Hopefully this news won't lead to even further sales drops as customers lose faith in the company and perhaps shop elsewhere for fear that they won't get warranty support and stuff like that. We'll see, but things are not looking good. Perhaps it might make sense for Sears to file bankruptcy and try to come back as a leaner company with new leadership.

    I read that Target is opening a new store in Houston soon that will be a concept type store. The store will have a department store type area to go along with the regular Target departments. Perhaps this will help Target's image as a fashionable discounter, but they really need to focus more on lowering prices. I think that's what is really hurting them more than anything else. It seems like people don't have as much venom against Walmart as they did ~10 years ago so Target needs to be more than just the store other than Walmart.

    There were rumors a few days ago that Albertson's/Randall's is looking to merge with Sprouts. I'm not sure if that would impact anything locally though. I think I read that Randall's was closing their distribution center in NW Houston and offices here and will operate the division out of the Metroplex area. That's unfortunate to see, but hopefully that does not mean anything for the Randall's stores here in town.

    We'll see if the Saints can turn things around next year with their new players. The NFC South is looking pretty tough right now. I think Atlanta will take a step back, but Tampa is becoming a popular pick to win the division. Carolina has been up and down over the years, but that might mean that this is an up year. We'll see.

    The Giants seem to be a better team on paper now than they were last year, but last year's team was pretty lucky in terms of injuries. I'm not ready to pencil them in as championship contenders, but there is hope of that at least. The offense has to improve though and the defense has to stay pretty close to where they were last year if they want to contend for a Super Bowl win.

    The funny thing about that thrift with the Maxell URs in the case is that it's the same thrift that I got a couple of sealed Maxell MX-S metal cassettes from a year or two ago. Those were out in the open on a DVD rack of all things. Clearly that thrift has no idea what things are worth because those metal tapes should have been in the case!

    I didn't know that there was new content on Deadmalls. Thanks for the info. Deadmalls and Labelscar were the two big retail sites back in the 2000s. The recession seemed to spark a lot of retail interest back in the day so maybe retail's current struggles will bring some bloggers back. It's a bittersweet thing if that is the case though, isn't it?

    1. One of the 2 remaining Radio Shacks in NE Houston in Kingwood is closing. I did not see that store on the list but drove in the area and noticed it.

      Sears seems to not be as busy as it was a couple of years ago. Some stores inventory levels on the floor have really fallen off with empty spaces in several areas. More of the Deerbrook Mall electronics department has disappeared and now only 10 televisions are on display now. The connected solutions products have also been downsized. Sears may be trying to unload Kenmore and DieHard before they file bankruptcy. The loans that the CEO gave the company would also be compromised by a bankruptcy as well so he might try to get as much as he can back.

      I saw the article about the new Target format in Rosenburg. They have lowered a few prices in the grocery area including milk prices at the Super Target stores near me. I read about a new person in charge of the grocery sales for Target who wanted to experiment with lower prices and more popular items instead of the fancier items they carry.

      Randalls has been slowly stripped away. Hopefully they will save as many of the jobs at the Houston office as they can. I recently visited a Randalls that had new floors and brighter lighting that was being installed. They were moving around products as well. I am not sure if those changes will be enough to keep shoppers from going to Kroger, HEB, or Walmart.

      I am hoping we will have a better picture of the upcoming team after the draft. Each of the past few years we have gone into the draft with a position that was very thin and did not get a draft pick for that position of need. Guard was one that almost killed the offense last year, luckily our former guard became a free agent again just after the preseason cuts. We had several offensive line injuries last year and without him the line would have been in real trouble.

      Thrift stores are always interesting. Speaking of weird locked up items, Kmart in Lufkin had a Dean Martin CD in a clear security case for sale on their last day of business. Someone probably found the CD in storage somewhere, they probably don't have the device anymore to break that case open to get the CD out. It was a sight to see, not many places these days lock up CD's like that.

      Youtube videos and google searches have been my sources for new info lately. Blogs, including mine are rarely updated these days. Deadmalls still does not update nearly as often as they did. A few have moved to Facebook or other sites, but the comments on those can get out of hand. I keep my comments filtered and don't tolerate any disrespectful comments. Any of those comments get deleted to keep my blog focused.

  27. Part I:

    The RadioShack you saw may not be closing. All of the stores slated to remain are going through a "clearance sale" that by all appearances looks like a closing sale. They even have signage that looks like closing sale signage. According to the RadioShack website, neither the Kingwood or Porter stores are slated to close. Of course, all of these stores could close pending the results of the bankruptcy.

    While the Northside RadioShacks seem to be fairing okay as far as closures go, the SE side is getting hit hard. The Clear Lake area was already without a store, but now the Gulfgate, League City, Texas City, Alvin, and La Porte stores are all closing. The only stores left in the area will be the Galveston, Kemah, and Pasadena stores. I stopped by the Texas City store this past week and picked up some items that were marked down 80-90% off. They actually had quite a bit left given the markdowns. Although I had only shopped at the store a few times before, it was nice to say goodbye to it one last time.

    To say that Sears is not as busy as they were a couple of years ago is really saying something because they were struggling even then. Maybe the spring will be better for them as people want to buy BBQ pits, lawn equipment, and stuff like that. I myself have not been to Sears this year as much as I have in years past. The electronics departments just don't have much anymore to look at in most locations. One odd thing I heard at the Mall of the Mainland store during the middle of the day was the manager get on the PA system and congratulate certain departments for meeting some sort of sales goal. I remember hearing stuff like that years ago at some department stores, but I never really expected to hear that this day in age. Well, I guess it's good that they were meeting goals.

    It's pretty sad when a Dean Martin CD is amongst the store's crown jewels! You're probably right about not being able to open the case though. Closing sales at Kmart always unearth some interesting oddballs and I guess that's one of them. I'm surprised you didn't find some odd VHS title there.

    Target needs to lower prices, but I'm sure it's a fine line between keeping fashionable items and keeping prices in check. They seem to be struggling with that, but lower prices are always good. The 249 and Jones Rd. store is having something interesting going on. It may have nothing to do with the Target itself, but the southside of the shopping center it's in was demolished and and a new building is taking it's place. At first I wondered if they were expanding the Target into a Super Target. Maybe that's the case, but I think they are building a junior anchor instead. The old part of the shopping center only had 1 of 8 or so spots filled for many years. It's not a surprise then that they tore it down, but it is kind of surprising that Target couldn't generate enough interest to attract other smaller stores.

  28. Part II:

    Randalls seems to be focused on serving customers in higher income neighborhoods where there is limited competition from the big 3 (Kroger, Walmart, and HEB). That's probably not a bad idea and I'm hoping that the new renovations are a sign that they are sticking to keeping their Houston stores even if the business/operations sides are leaving Houston.

    I think one of Randall's biggest strengths is that it's quick and easy to do some shopping in their stores compared to more congested competition. I notice a lot of middle aged men dressed in business attire shopping at the Champions store. Perhaps this is their niche because you don't see this demographic as much at other stores.

    It seems that high OL picks are frequently busts. The Giants are having that problem right now. They've invested a lot of premium picks on the OL, but the returns have not been good outside of Pugh. Even then, Pugh was drafted to be an OT and he's playing OG. I don't blame the Saints for being cautious in drafting OL then, but the OL is important so they need to get free agents in if not draft picks. The Giants have the same problem though. The OL is the weakest part of the team.

    I know the Dead and Dying Retail blog guys say that they mostly post on Facebook these days. I know most people are on Facebook, but I'm not so I'd rather that they stick with the blog. That's a losing battle right now though. I also do Google News searches to get news. I check the photo sites too. Although there aren't as many good retail photos being posted now as there were some years ago, there's still a decent amount of activity. It's a lot more than the blogs at least. There's not many postings about Houston though as far as I can tell.

    You're right that retail blog comments can get nasty. It's always head scratching to see classless posts blaming classless people for their old malls closing. I'm glad that this is filtered out here.

    1. One of the changes they made, is a terrible idea. They removed the self-checkout lanes and only keep one or two cashiers open. Each time I have been since the changes, they have had backed up lanes to check out. They reorganized many of the departments also.

      They picked up one in 2015, he has been hit or miss but earned the starting LG spot this season. He was drafted as a tackle to take over the right side, but he struggles really bad if he is not on the left side of the line. With all of the early picks we have this year hopefully we get one in the 2nd or 3rd round.

      I mostly stick to Youtube these days. I will check Facebook groups every now and then, but Facebook does not let you view the posts in chronological order so you may have to scroll through a bunch of posts just to see the new one. There are 2 youtube videos from the final days at Northwest Mall you can see. This is the link to his first video.

      As you may know by now hhgregg is going out of business. I did some research as to what happened. There were a ton of complaints since late last year of botched and very late deliveries. People were getting their deliveries postponed for lengthy amounts of time and lots of people got damaged items. I am guessing that the company was running into money problems causing the late delivery issues. Some employees said their new inventory system was hurting their sales as well. Their commissions would be cut if someone cancelled an order due to delivery issues. Either way the company is liquidating the remainder of their stores about a month after they began their first round of store closings.

      Gordmans was purchased by Stage stores and they will keep about half of the stores open under the Gordmans name. The rest including the only Gordmans in Tyler, Texas will close.

      Payless is in bankruptcy protection now with 400 stores closing and Rue 21 with over 1,100 stores may file for bankruptcy protection as well. Macys will still close another round of stores this year and Sears will continue to close stores as well. I read an article that a potential 8,500 retail stores may close this year which would be the biggest loss of stores in the US possibly ever.

      I do what I can to keep the blog civilized. The crazy amount of spam posts is what initially caused me to filter the comments. I rarely get spam comments anymore since I activated the filter. The last thing I want to have one of those disrespectful comments cause the blog readers to abandon the blogs so I just delete them.

  29. I did not read too much into the Radio Shack sale terms. I wonder if the last remaining mall Radio Shack is going through the same sale or if they are a franchise.

    If they survive, the stores will have to do a better job of advertising since there will be so few left.

    I am not the only one who has noticed. There are several videos I came across on Youtube of people walking around Sears stores with few to no other people around. I even watched a video where some teenagers/young adults were jumping around on beds inside of a Sears for a while until someone finally walked by to kick them out of the store. Sears closed another handful of stores this past week that were Seritage owned properties. The managers need to do what they can to pump up employees to meet sales goals.

    I was looking, there were some other products that looked like they were really old. They stocked items that had been there for years while they were open so I was not sure if they were from the stockroom of normal items. All of the signage on the walls except for the pharmacy signs were still up. I wonder if they left them up after vacating the building.

    This past weekend Target had a special that if you bought $50 in groceries, you could get a text coupon for a free $10 gift card. They also had a lot of items on sale. They are trying to get people back in there at least for now. The milk was still $1.85 a gallon.

  30. It is hard to say what is going on at RadioShack. I drove by the local store the other day and there was a “Store Closing” sign in the front. It could have been for the Payless Shoes next door, but I don’t think so. The store isn’t listed as closing on the website and they said before that they weren’t going to close so I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe the Sprint part is closing? Maybe Sprint is staying open and the RadioShack is closing? I may have to stop by there at some point and see what’s going on. I hope it stays open, but I’m not going to get too optimistic about that.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of photos of closing Sears. It’s unfortunate that the stores are so quiet (and subsequently understaffed) that kids could screw around in a department for a while before anyone notices. Anyway, hopefully the Spring/Summer will be better for them, but I’m pretty skeptical about that. They’ve been getting a lot of bad publicity of late with the bankruptcy rumors and so I think what little consumer confidence they had left is eroding. We’ll see though, at least the Houston stores are hanging in there for now.

    The Kmart might have taken the signs down after they closed. They don’t always sell stuff with their trademarks on them so they might have waited until after they closed to take them down since they couldn’t sell them anyway.

    I know Target has been doing gift card promotions for some time now. I think it makes sense. Get people to buy large quantities and then give them a gift card so they’ll come back for another visit if they ever use the gift card. Then again, if the prices are still high, people will stay away. We’ll have to see if Target can turn things around. If they do, it might put more pressure of Walmart. Walmart is probably feeling pretty comfortable these days.

    Hopefully Randall’s can get their checkout situation straightened out. I’m not sure why they took the self-checkouts out. Maybe it’s a union problem or maybe they just weren’t being used. Anyway, they’ll need to staff the checkouts accordingly. I think convenience is a big reason why Randall’s can succeed, but long lines will doom them. The Champions Flagship store usually only has 1 or 2 lines open, but usually they aren’t long enough to cause a major problem unless people have entire carts full to checkout.

    Thanks for the Northwest Mall video. That’s interesting, I may save that one to keep a copy of it in case it ever gets deleted off YouTube.

    I didn’t know about Stage buying out Gordmans. Stage has been struggling a little bit as of late so hopefully they can rebound. I don’t think things have gotten to the desperation stage for them yet though so they have time to get things fixed. Staples is rumored to be looking for a buyout. Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney continue to downsize. It must be really hurting the malls. The Payless and Rue 21 closures aren’t helping the malls any either. It’s kind of sad to be driving around and see so many stores and restaurants closing around town. This is even worse than 2008-09 it seems and I’m not even sure if we’ve seen the worst of it yet.

    Hhgregg was swirling around the toilet for some time now. It’s not a surprise to see them go under. They were really banking on furniture and appliances to help them survive, but they couldn’t even sell those properly so we see the end result. It’s sad, but it’s a bit of a minor miracle that Best Buy has turned themselves around. We’ll see if it can continue, but selling electronics is not easy these days.

    It’s not uncommon for offensive tackle draft picks to bust and then get moved to guard. Sometimes it works, but not always. This is said to be a weak draft for high level offensive line talent so I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but maybe the Saints will find some useful players with their draft picks. They probably should pick the best players available because every position is seemingly a position of need given the high roster turnover rates in the NFL.

    1. I did stop by the Kingwood Radio Shack. They are indeed closing. Since I was the only one in the store and I was being watched I did not snap any photos. There is a lot of confusion going around as to what is happening with the company. Nobody is sure what stores are really closing but store closing banners are being shipped out all several stores that were told they were going to stay open.

      I have been to a couple of Sears stores over the past week. Stocks are low across the store. I spent some time photographing the West Oaks store since it is a very unique store. They painted over the former electronics department walls to a plain color and moved the remaining electronic item racks to the middle of that area. They have a small rack of clearance items as well on the main aisle.

      I am sure that the owners of the Lufkin Kmart center are going to try and fill that space quickly. They were cutting down the metal over the former Garden Shop and hauling it away before the store closed. The center was nearly full for the first time in many years just before the Kmart announced their impending closure.

      Walmart has been proactive in fighting competitors lately. Their checkout problems are still an issue at many stores though. Target prices are becoming competitive, but they have not been advertising too much at the stores yet outside of the grocery department.

      I just don't get it, why slow down the checkout process if you are already struggling to keep customers. Randalls is very far behind in market share and competitors are expanding quickly.

      I took around 200 photos of Northwest Mall in the final month it was open. Over 100 of those were in the final 2 days. It will take me a while to put them together, but the mall will be documented online properly.

      There are several malls losing 2 anchors at the same time right now. We are going to see a lot of mall closures in the next 5 years if this continues. Just looking at the area malls that have lost Macys, it is going to be impossible to keep shoppers going down to those closed off sections of the mall. Payless, JCPenney, and Rue 21 have closed off stores in mostly small towns. It has to be devastating for those regions to lose so many stores in such a short time. Sears and Kmart have closed stores in a lot of small towns as well.

      One of the biggest concerns for retailers going forward is the availability of popular items in store. People just don't have a lot of time to venture from store to store looking for items unless they are needed right now. Someone might go to one store, not find the item, then go online to buy it. hhgregg started to have major supply issues that hurt their ability to survive. Opening in closed Circuit City locations in new markets probably did not help either. Some of their stores were in new or revamped centers but the inventory issues hurt them. They should have tried to merge with Conn's before they were past the point of no return. I would not be surprised if Conns takes over some of the former hhgregg store leases to expand.

      In addition to the Saints defensive holes, their offense now has a few holes going into the season. Losing Tim Hightower, Brandin Cooks, and Brees being on the last year of his contract makes those 3 positions a need as well as edge rusher, safety, center/guard, and corner. I just hope we don't go all in to try and fill one position by a trade that costs us draft picks. We have been rumored to be interested in Richard Sherman as well as hosting Malcolm Butler for a visit last month. Both of those players will cost us at least a first round pick, plus major cap money for a new contract. Since we are in a division with 3 other high powered offenses we need defensive help big time, but offense can't be ignored either in the draft.

  31. I am not sure what is going on with the RadioShack locations. The one near me has the store closing signs like I said, but I went past another one in the area and that one is still planning on being open. I guess we’ll have to see what happens, maybe RadioShack is trying to close as many stores before the bankruptcy hearings. Hopefully we’ll have at least some stores remaining, but I’m not too optimistic about that at this point.

    I visited the West Oaks Mall Sears a few months back and there was very little there in terms of electronics. They may have had even less than the Mall of the Mainland location. I guess it’s good that they are repurposing the department though if they aren’t going to put many electronics in there. I wonder how much the store will gain or lose from Macy’s being gone. I’m sure the inventory issues will not help Sears any in terms of consumer confidence, but hopefully they can restock the shelves pretty quickly if they sell out of an item.

    My guess is that the Lufkin ex-Kmart will be subdivided and turned into a few different stores. Perhaps Ross/Big Lots type stores. It’s a shame that they closed when the center was starting to do better, but that’s the way it goes. It’s probably far from it’s best days when Randall’s and Kmart were still in their prime.

    Speaking of Randall’s, I visited the Champions Flagship store the other day. The self-checkouts were indeed gone, but they had 4 registers open so the lines weren’t too bad. They certainly weren’t any worse than what you’d see at a HEB, Kroger, or Walmart. Perhaps the Randall’s near you needs to up their game or maybe they only keep that many lines open at prime times. I’m not sure, but it was certainly an easier shopping experience than the HEB I went to the same day (though perhaps slightly less easy than the Food Town I went to as well).

    I visit Walmarts so infrequently these days that I’m not totally sure whether they’ve totally fixed their great checkout problems of 2015 or not. It doesn’t seem as bad as it was in 2015, but it may vary by store.

    Target will have to advertise their lower prices because I think most people assume that they’re going to be more expensive. I know Target has not done well lately, but I think they still have a lot of cash in reserve so they need to invest it in advertising their pricing or else they might become like Sears where it’s too late for a turnaround.

    I feel sorry for the malls and commercial real estate companies trying to fill vacant spots. A few retailers and malls are doing quite fine, but most of them are really struggling. We’ll have to see who is next to close because it looks like there’s a long list of retailers that will have to downsize at the very least.

    Conn’s fortunes seem to drift from good to bad depending on whether their customers pay back their loans or not. It seems like a bad way to do business so I’m not sure how much debt they can take on without really putting themselves in trouble. With gas prices starting to rise, I’m sure customers will be struggling to pay their bills so it wouldn’t shock me if Conn’s goes back to struggling again.

    Brees and Payton seem to be able to get the offense working regardless of the talent who is there. They’ll need a good O-line, but if they have that, they can probably score enough points to win. The question is on defense. Tampa is the sexy pick for the NFC South right now and I think their offense should be pretty good as long as they stay healthy. Atlanta is probably due for a step back and Carolina may not have enough talent to put up big numbers of points. We’ll see though, it’s still too early to evaluate that and it seems like there are several teams each year that go from good to bad or vice versa on one side of the ball.

    The Giants were certainly like that last year. The Giants’ offense isn’t looking too good right now, but getting a good TE in the draft could help that a lot. The defense looks better, but injuries can ruin that in a hurry so we’ll see.

    1. I guess as the Radio Shack bankruptcy proceeds, we will know more about the remaining stores. Many of these companies filing bankruptcy have not had a second chance, if someone saves them this time it will be a third chance.

      One thing I also noticed is that Sears in some stores has tagged the empty merchandise pegs. The tags say to find an associate to help them located the item that is out of stock.

      The former Kmart could possibly become a Big Lots or maybe even an HEB. Both of those stores have small older locations and would benefit from the great location. Ross and TJ Maxx are in fairly new locations so they are probably not going to move over. Lufkin is growing so the site hopefully will get a new tenant soon.

      The grocery segment is one of the few that are growing in this economy. The strongest and best managed places that can turn over merchandise the fastest will win. So many grocery stores are opening that it is easy to forget about one store if you have a bad experience there. I am sure that a bubble is being created that will eventually pop and lead to the loss of grocers in the future. The level of growth in this city can't be sustained.

      The best option for some of these properties is to re-purpose them once an anchor or two leaves. It is hard once a property goes South though and companies did not do a good job investing their profits towards paying off the loans on the property. The overabundance of malls in the US has made it difficult to re-purpose these properties when they have so much debt. Most of the time the cities have to get involved to get the property back in order.
      I am sure we will see more malls close in the area over the next 5 years.

      If Conn's can continue to slowly grow they should be able to weather the next storm. Their business model is a very tricky one so hopefully oil and gas hiring will pick up again to make up for the loss of lower income customers who would be hurt by higher gas prices.

      Tampa Bay on paper looks like they could be a very good team, but the organization has many deep rooted problems that they have been unable to overcome in the past decade. Carolina is probably an 8-8 team with Atlanta slipping some this upcoming season. We are stuck in a 7-9 rut so any improvement will help. The division should be very tight this year with a possible 9-7 team getting the playoff spot.

      The Giants have a good up and coming defense that can help them stay in games until the offense can get going. Adding Brandon Marshall will help stretch the field. A good TE would really help take things to the next level.

  32. I wonder if there is any possibility that Standard General would want to keep RadioShack, but eliminate some lesser performing/more expensive locations and just keep a handful of stores. It seems unlikely, but we aren’t hearing nearly as much about this bankruptcy as we did with the first one. We’ll have to see what happens, but I can’t really imagine RadioShack finding another savior.

    The inventory situation in some departments at Sears is getting pretty dire. On the one hand, it’s good if the clerks can order the out of stock items for the customers, but really B&M shoppers want to be able to go into a store and walk out with the item they want. This is especially true for tools where someone might need a tool ASAP to get a job done. If Sears does not have it, they’ll just go to Home Depot or some place like that. Also, not having inventory in the store takes away impulse buy options.

    I’d like to say that hopefully Sears and Kmart will solve their inventory issues, but that’s going to be difficult to do as they continue to bleed away cash and have supplier confidence issues with a looming bankruptcy that many expect will happen. We’ll see though, maybe Sears will have more success with their online sales objectives. I’m hoping they can pull some sort of rabbit out of the hat, but it’ll be tough.

    There’s been an arms race of sorts amongst grocers in the Houston area. Kroger and HEB have been rapidly building new stores and replacing older ones. Walmart continues to build more Neighborhood Market stores. I suppose Randall’s and others can carve out a niche for themselves, but they’ll have to keep their customer service up. Safeway/Albertson’s competes in many markets with much less competition than here in Houston. They’ll probably have to try harder here than they do elsewhere, but maybe they can stick to their wealthy neighborhood locations as their niche and survive. We’ll see, I hope they make it. Their prices aren’t as bad as some make them out to be with promotions and online coupons. While I like Kroger, I find the Randall’s shopping experience to be far better than HEB or Walmart.

    I think mall owners will have to do what Jerome Karam did with the Mall of the Mainland and start repurposing malls for non-retail use. That might be the only way these buildings can stay useful or else they’ll just sit and rot. But, yeah, I’d expect some more malls to close in the next few years. Greenspoint, Plaza Paseo, San Jacinto, and West Oaks Malls are all on rocky ground as it is.

    Perhaps Conn’s can accurately decide how many risky loans to give out given the potential for an economic downturn with higher gas prices. Conn’s seems to have fully transitioned from a higher end retailer to one who mostly serves credit challenged customers. It makes sense to do that in some ways given the extreme softness in the consumer electronics industry, but it’s risky to run a business on high risk customers.

    Tampa certainly has a losing culture that’s even deeper than that of the other NFC South teams, but they were able to overcome that to be a pretty good team from around 1997-2002. Perhaps they’ll have so much talent that they can win even without a winning culture ala 2002. We’ll see, I’m not sure what to expect. A lot of these teams can be good, but it only takes one or two setbacks to put them on a road to 4-12. At least Payton has never lost the Saints as much as some coaches have where the team totally quits.

    I think Marshall’s size and strength will help the run game as well as the Giants have not had good blocking WRs since Plaxico, Toomer, and Nicks’ prime years. Eli seems to like taller receivers as well even more than other QBs so Marshall will help a lot there too. The Giants had a great year on defense last year, but a lot of players had career years. That can be hard to replicate especially if one or two guys go down with injuries. I guess that’s why the NFL is such a year to year league. There’s a lot of reasons for the Giants to be optimistic right now though.

    1. I visited the Porter Radio Shack location and they had the same going out of business signs with most of the store cleared out as the other stores out there. I wonder if these are going to be the Sprint stores after a remodel. If Radio Shack corporate closes all of their stores I wonder what the franchises will do.

      Sears and Kmart need to communicate between the stores to try and fill their inventory up. I am willing to bet some stores have an excess of certain products that can fill the empty shelf spaces. Sears may be on the verge of giving up on electronics, many of their stores that had the best selection are getting emptier and emptier. The tool and electronics departments seem to have the most products out of stock these days. I also wonder if Sears stores have moved all of their products out of storage to fill their shelves like they did at Kmart stores.

      I am not sure if the changes being made with Randall's stores are going to help them in this market. As you mentioned, Houston is a very competitive market. There is competition at every level including high end grocers. The Fresh Market and the Fiesta Marketplace could not make it here, and Randall's has struggled for years. Randall's has the deep pockets of Albertson's to keep them afloat for a while, but who knows how long.

      The loss of Macy's has really hurt West Oaks. That corridor will not get much traffic without an anchor down there. Some of the stores are hidden unless you walk down there and look. Non-retail or a complete demolition of the mall property seem to be the only ways to fix these properties. Some of those redevelopments don't work because the developers try to force more retail than is needed to try and make more money off of the property.

      The good thing the Conn's has, is that there are not many competitors in the credit challenged customer business. Pawn shops, Aaron's, and some smaller rent-to-own chains are in the same market, but Conn's has a better selection than those chains.

      Tampa seems to be going heavy on offense this year between the FA pickups and 1st round of the draft. Their defense is still suspect, but they are moving in the right direction. The 2014 team has some major locker room problems towards the end of the season. A lot of players were traded away or cut after that year who were part of the locker room problems.

      The Giants picked up a good TE prospect tonight so they seem to be loading up on offense. If the defense can do what they did last year, the offense should be better with these new players.

  33. There's a lot of Sears news to report. It seems that Sears will turn a rare quarterly profit for this past quarter, but most of that is due to the asset sales. In-store performance is still slipping at the same rates they have been for many quarters now. Sears is looking to close several Auto Centers and Kmart pharmacies in addition to the other store closures. We speculated earlier that Kmart would probably close their pharmacies in order to sell their rolls to other pharmacies to raise money. I guess we called that one well! Also, it looks like Sears is moving towards more integration between Sears and Kmart operations. I'm not sure if this will have any difference in the stores, but we'll see.

    I'm not sure what Sears is going to do to fill the extra space in their stores. Have you seen any Sears paint departments yet? I wonder if they are still planning on doing those or if they are forced to save money now. We'll see. I think it would be harder to justify a messy sales floor at Sears than at Kmart, but we'll see if they empty the stockrooms. My guess is that there isn't much back there anyway with the supplier problems.

    Sprint plans on taking over some shared RadioShack stores in Texas and using the whole space for their stores. I'm not sure which ones are going to Sprint, but we'll probably find out soon enough. News is still hard to come by regarding RadioShack's future, but thanks for the updates about the local stores. I wonder if the franchisees (well, the remaining ones, many have closed already as well) will form some sort of co-op ala Ace and True Value.

    Conn's has an advantage over most furniture stores in that they are well known in some markets, especially around here, but they still have in-house financing like the small stores. Obviously Aaron's and Rent-a-center type places are major competition for them, but they have a more upscale image even if they basically are the same type retailer now.

    Fiesta has historically been quick to dump underperforming concepts, but it seems like Safeway is being more patient. We'll see how it works out, but I hope it works out for Randall's.

    You're right that many of these mall redevelopers are pretty clueless. I wonder if they just wait to see if they can get a local government handout or something. It's pretty embarrassing for some of these companies that a relative amateur like Karam can outperform them. Speaking of Karam, I drove by the Mall of the Mainland the other day and it looks like they're doing some work on the former Affordable Furniture. They finally took the sign down if nothing else. I think a pre-school type thing is going in there, but I'm not sure. I also saw some activity at the ex-JCPenney.

    I like Tampa's draft better than the Giants draft. The TE projects to be a Jimmy Graham type WR who plays at TE. I would have preferred a TE who can block better as that is a huge need for the team, but having someone who can work the seam might really open up the offense with the WRs the Giants have. Then again, does any of that matter if Eli is feeling rushed due to bad pass blocking?

    The Saints seemed to fill some positional holes they have, but we'll see if the players actually work out. I'd say they had a better draft than the Texans at least, but we'll see. Maybe having a "proven winner" at QB is what they need, but that's a steep price to pay for what seems like a major question mark in terms of NFL ability. They could have had Derek Carr if they just weren't afraid of their fans who would have brought tickets anyway.

    1. My apologies for the delay in comment replies, I have been swamped at work. It will take me a little while to catch up with these comments.

      In addition to the announced closures, Sears has been quietly closing stores. On Thursday and Friday of the past 2 weeks local papers have announced more Sears and Kmart closures. Valley View is the only Texas/Louisiana location we are losing. I still have not seen a published list of the 150 auto centers and pharmacies they are closing yet. Either way, it seems like just about every quarter we have been seeing the same thing. A large store closure list and then weekly or bi-weekly under the radar store closings.

      The two stores on the NE side told me that they will not reopen as Sprint stores as far as they know. I still need to see if the downtown store is still open.

      Speaking of similar stores, there are some hhgregg store tour videos popping up on Youtube. I would not be surprised if Conn's took over some of those stores.

      Even though Mall of the Mainland still has a ways to go, give credit to Karam. He has revitalized a key piece of the mall property which will attract more redevelopment in the future.

      A Jimmy Graham type of TE can work wonders if they use him correctly. Hopefully he is not a terrible of a blocker as Graham is.

      Well we just lost our starting center for a while due to a foot injury requiring surgery. Our previous backup center went to another team in free agency so we need to find a vet possibly Nick Mangold. I am happy with our draft, they did not go for any flashy players, and made a smart move to get a Sproles type of running back in the 3rd. They had a good backup plan when Ruben Foster was plucked by the 49ers just before our pick. We got lucky because Foster may not be able to start this season. Brees is not getting any younger so we can't afford any busts or wait and see players with our early draft picks.

      The whole Carr situation hurt the Texans. All of the QB choices they have made since then are terrible. I like the idea of a proven winner coming out of college. If anything, maybe he can have some early success while they still have their top 5 defense together.

  34. The loss of the Valley View Sears is ironic given your post about the mall. I guess I can’t say that I’m surprised about it closing. Sears tries to be more secretive about their closings than other chains. You really have to check local newspapers to see what’s going on. I suspect more and more Kmarts will close as their leases come up for renewal. More Sears stores are company owned, but they’ve sold so many of them that they might have the same issue. I wonder if any of the Auto Center closures are at stores with attached garages. That would be odd and I guess give those Sears more empty salesfloor space that they really don’t need.

    There’s still no major news about RadioShack. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what happens to our local stores. I’m not even sure if the employees really know what’s going to happen. This has been one of the most quiet retail bankruptcies I can remember.

    I recently drove by the Mall of the Mainland again and can confirm continued work on the ex-JCPenney and Affordable Furniture. There were cars parked in front of both with dumpsters near both as well. I saw what appeared to be a stack of drywall near the Affordable Furniture. It looks like good things might be happening at the MotM, but I can’t say exactly what’s coming up for sure. I’m guessing it’s work to turn the Affordable Furniture into a school and the ex-JCPenney into the self storage place.

    I don’t have any exciting thrifting stories from recently. I really have not been visiting them as often as I used to. I saw a low end 1990s JVC cassette deck at one, but it was too expensive and I wouldn’t have been interested in it anyway. I have seen some blank cassettes, but it was standard fare stuff. I did buy a sealed 1989 classical cassette for 27 cents from a thrift though. It’s always fun to get a new pre-recorded cassette. It seems that Goodwill is being more aggressive with their sales lately. Instead of having a 30% off color tag, they now have it so it’s 30% for the first part of the week and 50% off by the weekend. It’ll make the thrifts even more popular than they already are on weekends I’m sure.

    I heard about the Saints’ center. Mangold might be a good option. He’s not what he used to be, but he may not be completely over the hill yet. Perhaps there’s a trade that can be made for a backup on another team.

    We won’t know for some time how these draft picks will work out, but I think Saints fans have reason to be optimistic. The Giants picked some promising D-linemen and the late round O-lineman pick seems like great value for that position. Whether that translates into actual skills or not, I don’t know. Jimmy Graham might be a better blocker than the guy the Giants drafted. He really looks like a WR playing TE. I’ll hope for the best. One of the bad things about having a TE like that is that it’ll make it more obvious to the other teams as to what kind of plays they are running if they put a blocking TE in there instead. Because of that, I would have preferred a more balanced TE. We’ll see. The Giants drafted a QB in the 3rd round, but he seems very raw. That may well turn into a wasted pick, but hopefully he’ll develop into something useful in the next 3-4 years so he can replace Eli or fetch a good draft pick in a trade.

    The Texans would be wise to craft an offensive strategy similar to what the Cowboys and Eagles did last year. Build an offensive strategy around the run and short, simple passes that even a rookie QB can execute. It may not work for more than a year before opposing defenses wise up to it, but their defense is good enough that maybe they can have a successful year with a strategy like that. I’m curious to see how Jacksonville will play in that division now that Tom Coughlin is running the show over there. They had an exciting draft and seem to have a lot of talent that Doug Marrone can play around with.

    1. The Sears closing is very sad for the Valley View Mall property. I guess the developer finally gave Sears what they wanted for the property. That whole property will be unrecognizable in just a few short years.

      We have dodged the bullet, time and time again over the past few years when it comes to losing Sears stores. The last one in our area to close was The Woodlands store about 4 years ago. I am not sure if this area will lose any Auto Centers.

      I think the combination of several companies filing for bankruptcy already this year, and many people forgetting that Radio Shack was still around are some of the reasons we have not heard much about it. The new owners have also been very secretive about the store closings.

      Something is better than nothing at the Mall of the Mainland. The property has a chance at being better than it was before. This redevelopment is bringing several different types of businesses to the property and more keep coming. Maybe once more of these places open, the mall will have enough traffic to reopen the food court. I am sure the cinema managers would be happy to have another entrance reopened in the other side of the mall for easier access.

      Last month, I did some major cleaning at my place and donated a lot of stuff to Goodwill. They and other nearby thrifts will no longer take CRT TV's, so I will have to recycle it somewhere. My Sharp player crapped out as well so I need to bring that with my TV. As far as shopping at thrifts, I have not been to one recently.

      The injury bug is striking early again this year. Another option is getting a backup guard and using Senio Kelemente as the center. There is a rumor that Ingram will get traded, but that would really hurt our offense. We already lost Cooks, losing our best RB would be foolish.

      At least you guys did not go all in on a new QB and used your picks wisely. The Bears made a very strange draft day decision and lost several picks to move up one spot for a questionable QB choice. It is not as bad as the Ricky Williams draft day robbery for us, but it could set them back a few more years.

      I am not sold on Jacksonville after last year. I bought into the preseason hype surrounding that team and they turned out to be terrible. Houston needed to do what they did, the fanbase is getting very tired of the QB situation. Some of the problems with their QB's were just bad luck and others were due to bad decisions on picking players.

  35. We have been lucky in regard to Sears closures here in Houston. The last Sears to close here due to poor performance was the Greenspoint Mall location and that was quite some time ago at this point. Sears cashed out on The Woodlands Mall location. Hopefully our Sears will remain solid, but who knows. One Sears Auto Center I could see closing is the N. Shepherd location. I’m not sure if that is a Seritage location or not (I think it is), but I’m sure that land could be leased out to a fast food restaurant or something like that.

    I wonder how much success the Mall of the Mainland is having with their restaurant row plan. I have not heard or seen anything about it. Perhaps they’d use that instead of a food court if it ever develops.

    On another note, I forgot to write this in my previous post, but I also visited the Mall of the Mainland Sears on my recent visit. There have been a couple of minor changes. They put a curtain on the mall entrance so that now you can’t see into the mall anymore. Oh well. Also, the men’s department checkout is now by the entrance of the store instead of on the store race track. A platform for mannequins has been put where the old checkout used to be. It looks pretty good actually and I think the relocated checkout will help with shrinkage. They also had a sign in the front of the store advertising their mattress department. So, anyway, Sears seems to be putting some effort into that store so hopefully that’s a good sign that Sears is committed to the location.

    You’re right about RadioShack’s bankruptcy getting lost in all the bad retail news lately. I think, as you say, a lot of people assumed they were already closed. Hopefully we’ll get some news soon and hopefully it’ll be good news, but I’m not counting on that.

    I think one of the local self-storage chains has free electronics recycling. Maybe it’s Uncle Bob’s, but I’m not totally sure about that. Best Buy also takes stuff for electronics recycling, but I don’t know if they take CRT TVs. They might if it’s under a certain size. I’d check their website to see what their policies are about that. I have some electronics that I need to get recycled, but I just have not gotten around to doing it.

    Was it your Sharp cassette deck that crapped out? Oh well. Hopefully you’ll be able to find a good one in the thrifts one of these days. Teac’s Tascam professional brand has released a new CD-Cassette deck combo, the CD-A580. Unfortunately, it’s ~$400 and the specs on the cassette deck are about the same as the quality of an early 1990s mid-level boombox. It’s better than a Tozai I guess, but it better be for $400!

    I remember that Ricky Williams trade. Dumb old Mike Ditka. I was so angry at the Saints for practically giving the Redskins all those picks. Oh well, those picks never really made Washington into much of a contender anyway. I think one of those high picks that Washington got went to Chicago in a trade so they could get Cade McNown. That may not be the dumbest trade for a draft pick to get a QB that Chicago has ever made given what they did this year, but we’ll see. The kid might be good after all, but the scouting reports don’t look promising. At least the Giants weren’t that dumb.

    It seems like Jacksonville’s coach last year didn’t know what he was doing. I’m not sure if Marrone will be any better, but I’m sure Tom Coughlin will have a tremendous amount of input on things and we know that he knows what he’s doing. Not all Super Bowl winning coaches are geniuses (see Ditka above), but Coughlin has been building winners for a long time now and I think he’s one of the best. We’ll see. I usually root for the Texans to do well, but I want to see Tom do well so I might have to root for the Jags out of the AFC this year. A lot will ride on their QB, but Coughlin turned a lot of average QBs into winners during his last stint in Jacksonville.

    1. I can't think of one Sears store here in the area that does not perform well. Even the Plaza Paseo Mall store was busy while the mall was eerily quiet earlier this week.

      Speaking of Plaza Paseo Mall, the Zales that was in front of the Macys and Uniform Superstore near Macys closed. That whole corridor is hurting already and Macys has only been closed for 6 weeks.

      I always wondered why the main entrance to the Sears at MOM did not have a checkout. I guess they finally fixed that problem. Too bad they put a curtain up but hopefully that means something is happening inside of the mall.

      I am sure you heard about the news of Sears getting sued and their counter-suit against the company that provides some of their Craftsman tools. Some analysts are predicting that the vendors will force Sears into bankruptcy because of their financial situation.

      Also there is now a list on the business insider of the most recent Sears and Kmart store closing list. 17 more Kmarts and 11 Sears stores are closing in addition to the 150 stores they already closed this year.

      As far as I know, all Radio Shack stores are closing on or before May 31st except for franchisees. Some will reopen as Sprint stores. I have gone a few times since the closing was announced and picked up a few items. The prices are super cheap right now so you should stop by when you can make it.

      Speaking of bankruptcies, Gander Mountain is liquidating all of their stores. The Spring location will reopen under new ownership, but the remainder of the locations in the Houston area will close. Only 5 stores will survive in Texas after the inventory liquidations are finished.

      Another company filed bankruptcy today, Rue 21 the teen/young adult apparel retailer located at many malls and shopping centers. They had already began closing 400 locations out of their 1,300, more will probably close.

      I have been on a cleaning spree, so I am not in a rush to replace some of my lost electronics. Usually the Summer temperatures slow me down, but I still have a lot to do before I think about buying more electronics.

      That Ricky Williams fiasco was probably the worst draft day trade ever. It did not work out for either team involved, but thankfully our team was able to rebuild itself into a championship team 10 years later. Washington on the other hand, has struggled in the playoffs and has only won 2 playoff games in nearly 25 years. I am sure that does not make you sad at all though, lol.

      Tom Coughlin has built a lot of winners. I just don't know if Jacksonville can make any noise this year. I like the additions they have had in the past 3 drafts, but they are so far away from their last winning season it can be hard to change the losing mentality. I am hoping that our team can turn it around this year because we are stuck in 7-9 mode like Jeff Fishers teams were.

  36. There is big San Jacinto Mall news to report this week. The Chronicle has a story about how the department stores there (not sure which ones specifically) are proving to be an obstacle in the redevelopment plans. Fidelis wants to keep the Sears and Macy’s and build a new store for JCPenney, but it seems that the anchors have other ideas. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sears and Macy’s both want big payouts in exchange for accepting the redevelopment plans. We’ll have to see what develops, but the developer may have to pay Sears and Macy’s to close their stores and get them out of the picture. I’m not sure if JCPenney is objecting, but getting a new store might be to their benefit.

    It’s good to hear that the Plaza Paseo Sears is doing well even if the mall isn’t. I’m not at all surprised to hear about the Macy’s wing closings there and they may have to close that wing off completely. Sears has some Houston locations that are in areas where all the other retailers deserted the area. Because of that, the shoppers in the area might go to Sears since they have no other choice. Also, a lot of these are blue collar areas and perhaps Sears appeals to those shoppers more than someone like JCPenney or Macy’s. Hopefully Sears’ Houston locations will continue to survive, but we’ll see.

    I read about the Craftsman supplier issue. It sounds like the supplier might be taking advantage of the news about Sears’ financials in order to negotiate better terms. Sears is saying that they’ve always paid this supplier. If that is the case, I’m not sure if a court would find in favor with the supplier, but who knows what the terms of their contract are. It certainly does seem like Sears is having trouble sourcing new suppliers though and I think that’ll be a big problem for them going forward especially at Kmart stores where the customers expect certain name brands. At least with Sears’ house brands they can change the suppliers and just slap their house brand on it.

    I have not heard the news about all RadioShack stores closing. Well, perhaps that’s all she wrote unfortunately. Maybe someone will want to open some new RadioShack franchise stores (perhaps using a new name). But, yeah, I already picked some stuff up for cheap at the Texas City RadioShack closing sale last month. Maybe I’ll stop by a couple more stores to see if I can find any more good deals.

    Mall fashion retailers seem to come and go. Probably 80%+ of the ones I can remember from the 1980s are gone now. I guess some companies are able to change with the trends, but not most of them. Of course, the problems many malls are having isn’t helping matters any either.

    I’m certainly not complaining about Washington’s lack of success! They went from winning the Super Bowl in 1991 to not really being relevant now for the last 25 years. Well, at least the Saints didn’t pull a Brooklyn Nets. The Nets traded a future 1st round pick for a few washed up superstars from the Celtics a few years back. As you would expect, Brooklyn became a terrible team quickly and they ended up with the 1st overall pick in the draft this year. Of course, that pick will be going to the Celtics. The Celtics are already a good team too. What a huge blunder by the Nets.

    I think the Saints have a shot at being competitive in the NFC South. I’m expecting a slide from Atlanta and Carolina was not good last year. They’re always up and down though so they might be back to being contenders this year. Of course, Tampa looks good on paper. As far as Jacksonville goes, I think a lot rides on their QB Bortles. Coughlin made Eli into a winner (granted, he was a 1st overall pick) and he turned Brunell from a no-name into a top QB in Jacksonville in the 1990s so he seems to understand QBs. Maybe he can get Bortles turned around. The Texans are the top team in that division and we know how much of a question mark QBs are for them so I think Jacksonville has a chance.

    1. As you know, Sears management will probably wind up selling off their store sooner rather than later. Macy's management will probably want a new full line store or a new discount store instead of their old two story behemoth. San Jacinto Mall will soon cease to exist.

      Sears posted a profit this quarter mostly due to their Craftsman sale and some debt was restructured. We very well may lose some stores in the area between now and next year. There are not many large assets left to sell.

      One of the Radio Shack stores I documented is now closed. There are only a few days left until the rest of the marked stores will close.

      There are a ton of retail chains that have come and gone over the years. There seemed to be a better balance of new chains vs big box chains to fill open spaces 10 years ago. Malls are having a really tough time of they are not a B+ property or better. Even big box centers in certain areas are struggling these days. Fewer malls will help keep the strongest malls going.

      Those draft day trades as you mentioned are a very risky bet. Even the supposed winners don't always come out ahead.

      The NFC South will be a battle to the end this year. Carolina will probably finish at the bottom with the other 3 teams fighting for the title.

      I like Tennessee in the AFC South this year. I like the QB Houston picked up, but I am not sure if he will have early success. Houston has been able to scrape by without a QB in a weak division. Tennessee has smartly built a competitive team. I might change my mind on Jacksonville if they start out good, but they have been out of the playoffs for 10 years now.

  37. Part I:

    Officially speaking, I am not sure if RadioShack has ever confirmed that all stores will be closing at the end of the month. That said, RadioShack is actively trying to sell fixtures (including things like clipboards and paperclips) through their Facebook page. I’ll see if I can visit a RadioShack before they are perhaps all gone. It’ll be a real shame to see them go, but I guess this has been a long time coming. Anyway, I look forward to your blog post about RadioShack.

    I think you are right about the San Jacinto Mall situation. Sears probably wants a big check so they can close the store. Sears has been doing stuff like that for a long time now. Macy’s may be doing the same thing. If nothing else, like you say, Macy’s may want Fidelis to build them a new store ala JCPenney. I doubt Sears would care about wanting a smaller store, they probably just want a check. Perhaps they’ll try to negotiate to get an Appliance store built in the new center. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what develops. I wonder if Fidelis counted on possibly losing Sears and Macy’s when they brought the mall with the intent of redeveloping it.

    Sears’ profit this quarter came at a huge cost for the future of the company. We’ll see what Sears will be able to do for the next quarter with sales still losing ground. Hopefully we won’t lose any stores here, but we’ll see. I wouldn’t count on that not happening, that’s for sure.

    I read that Goody Goody sold a couple of their stores in Houston to Total Wine including their Copperfield store. I guess that Goody Goody has other stores here which will stay open, but I’m not sure. It seems that they are letting their competitor, Total Wine, set up a war against Specs. We’ll see how this shakes out, it seems Walmart wants in on the liquor battle as well.

    Here are more Mall of the Mainland updates. The Altitude trampoline park has put up a billboard on I-45 near the mall advertising that they are coming soon to the Mall of the Mainland. Meanwhile, work has been done to the former mall entrance between the ex-JCPenney and ex-Dillard’s. It’s been painted purple and a trampoline park sign has been put up. Well, I guess that means the trampoline park will be built in the old eastern mall wing.

    Even some shopping centers that should be doing well are struggling a little bit. I was at the Barnes & Noble near Baybrook Mall this week buying a CD boxset. Anyway, even though the shopping center is on a very busy intersection, they had a couple of empty anchor spots. Perhaps traffic and recent construction in the area isn’t helping. All the new retail spots at Baybrook Mall itself probably isn’t helping either. That shopping center has a lot of strong niche stores, but they really lack a general retailer that drives significant traffic to the place.

    1. News reports are now starting to report that Radio Shack is down to about 70 corporate stores including some in the area. I am not sure if these stores will become Sprint stores only or if they will still be Radio Shacks. The rest of the stores closed over the weekend. They also mentioned over 400 franchise stores still in business.

      It might be a good idea to convert the retail mix to outlet stores in the San Jacinto Mall redevelopment. It seems like they are going to have a tough time recruiting something besides outlet stores to that property.

      I have not heard of Walmart entering liquor sales in this state yet. Many Walmart stores in Louisiana sell liquor so they have some experience to bring to the area.

      Thanks for the MOM updates, I just posted a comment asking about what was going on down there.

      I think Baybrook is an area that is over-stored. A lot of nearby retail centers are growing and taking away some of the shoppers who previously went to the Baybrook area to shop. The I-45 construction has probably hurt that area as well.

      I will post my reply to part 2 at a later time. Thanks for commenting.

  38. Part II:

    I know that we’ve talked about the South Belt Memories blog before, but I came across a very interesting post there that has a lot of history about the construction of the Foley’s there and the mall itself. It’s really interesting to read about the proposed names for Almeda and Northwest Malls like Kingsgate/Kingswood for Almeda and Westbrook and Westwood for NW Mall. Perhaps Kingwood and certainly the mall that actually became Westwood Mall would have picked different names if those names were chosen for Almeda/NW Malls.

    Also, it’s interesting that Foley’s at one point considered locations on College Blvd. and south of where Baybrook would go eventually before settling on the Almeda location. A College Blvd. location would have been a disaster and it seemed even then that Foley’s knew even then that they’d probably have to open another location in Webster eventually anyway if they didn’t open the Almeda location there. Perhaps they should have built a mall in Webster anyway to keep Baybrook from opening and just not have built Almeda, but that’s easy to say now in retrospect. Anyway, that stuff is interesting to read. Whoever runs that blog has done a lot of work researching the history of that area.

    Carolina is usually an up-and-down team and they were down last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re competitive once again this year. Of course, the other NFC South teams will provide plenty of competition. It should be a good battle. The NFC East is looking competitive too with Philadelphia making some offseason splashes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dallas takes a step back. Washington looks like the worst team on paper, but even they shouldn’t be bad. The Giants have a tough schedule it seems (though you can never tell which teams will be good each season in the NFL) so matching last year’s 11-5 mark will be very difficult even if they play pretty well. And, of course, it would help if Beckham would actually practice with the team instead of hanging out with Johnny Manziel! I really don’t like Beckham as you can tell! He’s a great talent, but he has no maturity and that shows up on the field in big games.

    As for Tennessee, they made a run at a playoff spot last year before fading due to injuries. They might be contenders next year. The Texans actually have a very good team on paper outside of the QB question mark. I think if they can run a vanilla offense with a lot of runs and short passes, they might be able to score enough points to win a lot of games. They are the team to beat in the AFC South as of right now, but the Titans and Jags should be better. The Colts always hang around even if they aren’t very good on paper. Having the best QB in the division probably helps that a lot even if he hasn’t been reliable the last couple of seasons.

    1. I had not looked at that blog recently, but they have made a lot of new articles thanks for bringing it back up.

      Foleys finally made it to Baybrook after a very long delay. Did you ever visit their first store that was in the former Montgomery Ward? I went a few times while they were in that building and it had a very limited selection of items. The newer building was a huge improvement over their first store there. College Blvd. may have been a good site for a few years, but that area has declined.

      Yes there are so many question marks this time of the year in the NFL. It will be a long 2 months until we get into the preseason. Odell has his issues and needs to fix his attitude if he wants to stay in the league. A lot of players with attitude issues including Manziel have found themselves out of work much quicker than they would have been if they did not have issues.

  39. RadioShack just refuses to die I guess. I thought they were going to be gone for good at the end of the month, but it seems that ~70 corporate stores remain in addition to the small town franchised stores. I’m not sure if the remaining corporate stores are here to stay or if they will be closed soon as well. Anyway, I’m not sure where these remaining stores are located, but it seems that some of them are in the local area according to this link. Locations in Houston, Pasadena, The Woodlands, and Magnolia remain. Hopefully we’ll be able to compile a list of remaining corporate RadioShack stores. RadioShack is based in Texas so perhaps it’s not a surprise that we’d be the last place that they’d abandon. It also seems that RadioShack intends on maintaining their online store for now.

    The San Jacinto Mall redevelopment is stuck in a bad spot when it comes to getting a mix of good retailers. Many retailers already have relatively new locations in the area. Ones who aren’t there already might not view Baytown as having favorable demographics so they might not come anyway. Thus, I’m not sure who Fidelis can attract to the redevelopment, but we’ll see. Certainly banking on JCPenney, Macy’s, and Sears probably isn’t a winning strategy even if they can get a major grocery store or something.

    I-45 near Baybrook Mall has been closed on weekends during the last 4-5 weekends (maybe not this past holiday weekend, but the weekends before that and the one coming up at the very least). I’m sure that’s hurting sales. It looks like construction will start to shift more towards the League City side soon enough, but that might put a hurting on League City retail (which is probably somewhat solid, but less solid than Baybrook Mall traffic). Anyway, the Baybrook area probably has too bad big retail pads and some of the developers are having trouble filling them. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out with all the instability in the B&M retail sector right now.

    I made a visit to Almeda Mall recently. Nothing significant has changed since my last visit several months back. There is a new team sports apparel store over by the 3D Games that has a lot of stuff from non-home teams. The crowd at the mall seemed good and I didn't see any major vacancies that weren't there already so all looks good at Almeda right now.

    1. I was surprised to see Radio Shack keep a few locations open. It seemed like they were going to quietly close the rest of the corporate stores.

      I stopped by San Jacinto Mall this weekend. Nothing major except for the removal of the carosel and closure of the second floor play area has happened.

      I think the Baybrook area has way too much retail space and will need to add more residential units to the area to support all of that. Road construction is a killer and some retail districts never recover from it.

      At least one of the Houston twin malls survived and continues to do well. It is a shame that they tore down the center court structure since it was the last original part of the mall interior left. Oh well, I guess the remodeling was needed to keep the mall fresh.

  40. I never did visit the temporary Foley’s in the old Montgomery Ward at Baybrook Mall. I did visit the mall around that time, but for whatever reason I never went to the Foley’s. Aside from the limited space, what did the store look like? Did it look like a real Foley’s ala the Willowbrook Men’s store or was it clearly a temporary solution? How much did it retain the Montgomery Ward look?

    Thanks for the San Jacinto Mall update. It sounds like the few remaining special features of the mall are now gone. Oh well, that’s the way it goes. We’ll have to see how long the department stores hold up the redevelopment.

    Almeda Mall does look a lot nicer now I would say even if it’s lost a lot of retro charm. At least the mall is staying competitive with all the changes Baybrook Mall has made. The mall was pretty busy when I visited so I think the renovations are working. Well, if nothing else, at least it’s still around unlike Northwest Mall.

    RadioShack has updated their website store locator. It now only has the remaining stores including all the Houston locations. One of the locations near me, the one on Louetta, is still around. That’s great news. I’m not sure if this store will be sticking around or if RadioShack will close it at some point down the road soon. Hopefully it will stick around for a long time, but I won’t hold my breath on that one. Anyway, it looks like the store downtown is a surviving store as well.

    I heard that Kmart had a recent data breach at some stores. It looks like it does not impact their online or Sears stores. This is obviously not something Kmart needs to gain back shoppers. Data breaches like this aren’t as big of news as they used to be though so maybe Kmart can avoid most of the backlash from it.

    I recently visited a thrift that had a very nice working and near mint early 1980s JVC cassette deck. It had analog VU meters and digital peak meters. It was very tempting at $13, but I decided to pass on that. That's one of those cases where I felt bad leaving it behind, but oh well. A couple of the thrifts I visited had a lot of pre-recorded cassettes too.

    1. Management did not spend much to upgrade the old Montgomery Ward at Baybrook Mall. The inside of the store was basic and was cleaned up somewhat for the Foleys. The second floor was not open either.

      The demolished anchors at San Jacinto Mall are now cleaned up so you can walk across the field where they used to be. There is activity now in the old Mervyn's anchor, I did not get close enough to see what is going on but I would guess demolition may start soon.

      Glad to see the Downtown RS store survived, I never made it down there to see it. I will try and go there before the end of Summer because who knows how things will go for the company from here on out.

      On top of the breach, more Kmart and Sears stores are closing. Stores to note are 2 more El Paso Kmart stores leaving only 1 there. 6 more will be left in Texas after the closings. Sears is closing the Sherman and Texarkana locations. Houston still remains in the clear for now.

      I went to a thrift a couple of weeks ago but nothing of interest was there. I have not had as much free time as normal so I have not had a chance to go lately.

      More retail bankruptcies in the past week with Gymboree and possibly Maurices now added to the growing list. Maurices is the parent company of several clothing stores mostly located at malls. Payless will close a lot of mall locations if they cannot renegotiate their leases including Deerbrook, Willowbrook, and The Woodlands Malls.

  41. The remaining RadioShacks might be closing soon. I recently read an article discussing a still open RadioShack in the state of New York I do believe. It’s one of the 70 remaining stores, but it’ll be closing at the end of the month. The article said that 50 more stores will close by the end of this month. I’m not sure what will happen to the remaining 20, but I’d be sure to visit any RadioShacks you want to visit ASAP because I’m not sure what will happen to these remaining stores. Hopefully some will stick around or will find a franchise buyer, but all of that seems unlikely.

    Thanks for the San Jacinto Mall update. It must be interesting to walk where the former Montgomery Ward and other anchors were. I know this was the case at Willowbrook Mall when the ex-Joske’s/Dillard’s/Lord & Taylor was demolished and turned into a grassy lot before the Nordstrom Rack was built there. As far as Mall of the Mainland goes, I saw that something is opening in the Sears side of the ex-Macy’s building. It had a name, but it wasn’t anything I recognized. I’m not sure what that would be, but it’s probably not a traditional retailer.

    I’m kind of surprised that Foley’s didn’t use the second floor of the ex-Montgomery Ward. It seems like they would have needed that room to have a decently sized store. Oh well, I guess they knew it was a temporary solution with the Almeda Mall store still carrying the load until the new store could be built.

    I heard about the newest list of Kmart/Sears closings including the El Paso stores. That’s a real shame, El Paso was stocked with Kmarts before this news. The list of remaining Texas Kmarts is getting shorter and shorter. Hopefully the Portland/Corpus Christi store will remain if nothing else as that is the closest Texas store to us along with the Lake Charles store. I’m not sure if this was discussed before or if it’s something I’m not remembering, but the Killeen Kmart seems to have closed as well. It’s not in the Kmart directory at least. Fortunately, the Houston Sears seem to be hanging in there. Business was pretty good (relatively speaking at least) at the MotM Sears during my last visit.

    It seems like Sears continues to have supplier issues. This time there is an issue with Craftsman supplier Western Forge. Western Forge has been making hand tools for Sears forever so I hope this situation can get resolved. I have some very old WF Craftsman hand tools.

    There’s been a lot of retail news today about mall fashion stores closing to go along with the Payless Shoe Source closings we heard about earlier. It seems that the GGP malls in Houston might be losing their Payless stores. That’s a shame if true since I know the Willowbrook Mall store at the very least has been there for at least 25-30 years. It may even be an original tenant, but I can’t say for sure about that. As for the others, well, it’s a shame to see so many companies struggle, but I think this is not uncommon for fashion stores. Some just don’t keep up with the fashion trends and then get caught in a bad situation.

    One thing I’ve noticed in the last month is that many local Goodwill stores are now closing at 7 or 8pm instead of 9pm like they used to. I’m not sure if business is poor at those locations at night or if business is poor in general at Goodwill and they are having to cut back on operations. I know that Goodwill has increased their sales recently. Now the color of the week stuff is 50% off at the end of the week instead of just being 30% off like it was before. Anyway, business might be fine at Goodwill, but we may have to keep an eye out to see if any start closing here soon.

    1. The Radio Shack in the Houston Center downtown is closing as well. I finally made it down there to check it out. The store still has a lot of inventory so it may last longer than the end of the month.

      I went to Mall of the Mainland this week. I will provide a photo update here soon.

      I guess the temporary store was more of a pop-up store to get people thinking of Foley's and then wowed them with the newest state of the art store they could build. I think that was the last store built under the Foley's name in the company.

      The Kmart in Kileen closed along with Lufkin. I never had a chance to make it down there. It is crazy that between Texas (6) and Louisiana (4) there are only 10 Kmart stores left in the states I cover.

      One thing to watch with Sears is the selection of televisions at stores that did not eliminate electronics. I have noticed a declining amount of TV's for sale and the display models shrunk down to only a handful of TV's. I think we may see TV's taken away for good at Sears. It reminds me of what happened to the other stores that no longer carry TV's a couple of years ago.

      Payless just had way too many locations. I hope they survive, but the extra weight of the size of that chain has hurt the entire company.

      I wonder if Goodwill is running into supply issues. With retail sales declining, I wonder if this is having a ripple effect with people not buying as many things that they will eventually donate or if there are just too many locations out there.

  42. Breaking news: The Sears locations at Baybrook Mall and at the former Westwood Mall will be closing! The Westwood news isn’t a huge shock I would say, but the Baybrook location is a bit of a surprise. I’m not sure if that is a REIT location, but if so, maybe they are being evicted. If not, I guess GGP is buying them out. I’m sure that is a high performing store, but Clear Lake area shoppers will have to go to Plaza Paseo or the Mall of the Mainland Sears. While it might be a small boost for those stores, I think all in all, Sears will lose a lot of customers. The same could be said about SW side shoppers who now can only shop at the West Oaks Mall Sears or have to go all the way to the Midtown store.

    I recently came across some pictures of a redesigned Kmart in Des Plaines, IL. The signage looks good and the paint department looks comprehensive, but there are some aspects of the store (like the floor) that need work. It’s a start. We’ll see how many Kmarts get updated. There certainly aren’t very many Kmarts left in this region and that’s a real shame.

    It’s a shame to see even further declines in the Sears electronics departments. TVs aren’t hot sellers these days, but still it would be nice to see more offerings at Sears. Have there been any other declines in the remaining electronics departments? It’s been a while since I’ve been to a Sears aside from the Mall of the Mainland location.

    I drove by the Louetta and Steubner Airline RadioShack last week. They still have clearance signage up, but I didn’t see any store closing signs. I guess that’s a “good sign” for now, but I don’t know if it’ll last. I’m glad you were able to go to the Houston Center RadioShack. Did you get any pictures of it?

    Some big retail news this week is that Amazon is buying Whole Foods. I’ve only been to Whole Foods once so it’s not like this is a big deal to me, but it could have a big impact on the industry. We’ll have to keep an eye on the situation.

    I had a chance to visit the Hong Kong Food Market on Veterans Memorial recently. This is in a former Food Lion location that opened ~1993. In some aspects, the store still looks like 1993. The old aisle signs are still up and have vintage (and fading) ads for Kraft cheese and stuff like that. The store is an interesting experience due to the products, but the store itself was a bit of a time machine even though 1993 doesn’t seem like that long ago. There’s a Food Town on Jones Rd. in a Food Lion of similar vintage that also feels a bit like the old Food Lion, but not as much I would say.

    The Goodwills that I have been to recently seem to have a plentiful amount of inventory. The electronics departments were a bit sparse at a few stores (some stores have eliminated CRT TVs), but otherwise the stores were full. A few had a lot of pre-recorded cassettes for sale. Goodwill opened a lot of stores a few years ago, perhaps they overexpanded, but I’m not sure.

    There is a good article on the Chronicle website today where they reposted an article and some photos from 1985 discussing the repeal of blue laws. There’s some interesting photos of the I-10 Buyer’s Market Mall and also of a Kroger Family Center in Conroe that sold clothing and such. It’s worth a look.

    1. It was only a matter of time before the Sears closings made it to Houston. They will probably lose a good bit of business from the 2 locations they are closing. It is really beginning to feel like Sears and Kmart will not survive without losing several more stores.

      TV's have been the most notable decline, but other items are thinning out as well. Most of the Connected Solutions products are gone. Headphones are thinning out as well.

      I really like the look of the refreshed Kmart. Too bad they did not start the remodels when the company still had billions in cash.

      I did get a handful of Houston Center Radio Shack photos. The store was very busy so I could not get too many photos.

      Amazon is getting into so many businesses, who knows how things will turn out in the grocery business. Once Walmart got too big, they developed a negative image and their sales have slumped. People may turn on Amazon, but Internet retail is here to stay.

      That grocery store sounds interesting, I may have to check it out sometime.

      I keep meaning to visit the thrifts one of these days, but I haven't had a chance. It is good to know they continue to keep the stores stocked.

      Thanks for sending the article over. Another blog reader also emailed me the link. That article was very cool to see, I vaguely remember those days.

  43. Sears is now extremely weak in three of Houston's hottest suburbs, the Clear Lake area, the SW side, and the Spring/The Woodlands area. Sears still has the Pasadena, Mall of the Mainland, and the Outlet store locations on the SE side, but the Baybrook Mall location was probably the most important store they had in that area. It is also a nice store that Sears maintained better than other other stores. I wonder if Sears will use the newer signage from that store at another location. The Plaza Paseo and Mall of the Mainland locations look nice too, but the MotM store is much smaller. Of course, the Brazos Mall location already closed too.

    It's becoming harder and harder to see Sears/Kmart surviving as a B&M retailer. They can't keep closing stores in good locations. It's really sad to see things decline like this, but hopefully the remaining stores can get their sales up.

    I'm not sure if you noticed this in those Kmart photos, but they're selling close-out merchandise from other store's house brands like Walgreens. It's interesting. I think it's a good idea to try to get some of the business from stores like Big Lots. We'll see if these prototype Kmarts do well, but there's just too few of them.

    I was reading comments from a Kblogger up north who said that some Kmarts are planning to have a storewide clearance sale ala RadioShack soon. The blogger's store was one of those stores, but it was announced a few days after that that the store was closing instead. I suspect that any store that goes on total clearance will be closed soon just like RadioShack.

    I've been hearing from classical music fans that Amazon has been taking away some of the detailed information they had about CDs/records/downloads on their website. I can't really imagine why they would remove that information since they already had it. It seems like Amazon might be getting too big too fast and they are risking alienating their customers. Hopefully they can right the ship. Walmart has survived their negative publicity, but a lot of retailers can't. We'll see.

    It's a shame Sears has been eliminating Connected Solutions. I recently decided to buy a couple of smart home devices. Sears had some products like I was wanting, but not the specific products I wanted. Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Fry's, Staples, Office Depot, and Micro Center all had them. Sears loss was Best Buy's gain in this situation. I was actually surprised, but the Best Buy salesman actually knew a lot about the product I was buying. I already did my research so it wasn't something I really needed, but it was good to see a trained salesman.

    One thing Goodwill has done is to open up a lot of smaller donation only centers in shopping centers. I guess they then drive those items to the stores. I have not been thrifting as much recently (in part due to the store hour changes), but I've had a lot to look at when I have gone.

    Yeah, I only vaguely remember those days as well. The 1990s are less foggy, but even jogging my mind back to the early 1990s is becoming more difficult. The Chronicle has begun to post a lot of photo albums of "this month in the year 19XX" and there are some interesting retail pictures in there. Some of them are not always accurate though. I saw one of a West Oaks Mall picture from the 1980s that was probably really Sharpstown or Westwood. Oh well.

    1. Sears is shrinking all over the US, 43 more stores this week mostly Kmart's were added to the pile of store closings in 2017. Inventory issues continue, but they have been getting more creative with filling gaps in the store. I did not see any closeout stuff at the Lake Charles Kmart. They had a lot of Summer stuff in stock, which was a good sign for that store. It is strange that Lake Charles has a full line Sears, a Sears Outlet, and Kmart. Lafayette no longer has Kmart, their full line Sears store is closing, and will only have a Sears Hometown store left in nearby Opelousas.

      Speaking of Brazos Mall, I passed by recently and got a few photos of the new spaces being developed out of the old Sears. The interior of the mall is also being remodeled. Hastings down the street still has all of the signage intact and the power is still on in the building. Sadly most of the store signage is burned out.

      Amazon will be around for a long time. Their business is so diverse, they have their hand in so many different markets. I am not sure how they are going to do with groceries, but they will more than likely carve out a piece of the pie after a few years.

      There is not much left of the connected solutions at the Deerbrook Sears. The electronics department shrunk by yet another aisle and the products have been consolidated. The electronics department is now less than half the size it originally was after the 1990's remodel.

  44. Yeah, I heard about the newest round of Sears/Kmart closings. It should also be noted that the Sears Hardware store on Louetta in Houston is closing as well. That's the last remaining store on this side of town. I went to their closing sale earlier this week.

    Also, the Austin area Sears Grand is shrinking in size as the store is getting subdivided for a new tenant. It wouldn't surprise me if it closes totally in the future, but I think they are planning on keeping it as a smaller store for now.

    It's interesting that Lake Charles is hanging in there as a Kmart/Sears town. I bet there aren't too many smaller cities that have both, especially outside of the NE/Midwest Kmart belt.

    Thanks for the update about Brazos Mall. The mall probably didn't need a remodel inside based on the photos I've seen, but the remodeling and redevelopment of the Sears will help. We'll see how everything shakes out.

    Amazon is certainly going to stick around as a powerhouse. They've been making moves towards B&M retail. It'll be interesting to see how that goes aside from Whole Foods. They put the information back that they took out on CD listings. I'm not sure why they went away to begin with, but it's good that they responded to customer complaints. Walmart has been targeting Amazon pretty seriously, but I have never ordered anything online from Walmart. I like getting online prices matched at stores like Best Buy and Fry's. I just prefer to buy products in store if possible, but I have ordered things online before from Amazon, Sears/Kmart, and Barnes & Noble.

    There's an interesting article in the paper today about a VHS collector in NW Houston. It seems that he gets some of his VHS tapes from the Goodwills in town. He mentions one off of Highway 6. I wonder if it's the one by West Oaks Mall. That one seems to have more VHS movies than most, but most Goodwills have a decent amount of VHS videos still. Some still have audio cassettes, but some don't. The ones that do have them seem to have a lot recently, but I have not brought anything recently. Although I've been to a few thrifts lately, the only thing I've purchased was some pre-recorded audio cassettes about a month ago. I have, however, purchased a number of CDs from the various Half Price Books around town.

    1. The Sears closings will probably continue at this pace for a while. The shrinking of the Sears Grand is not good. That store did have some extra space, but not a lot. Now their inventory is probably going to shrink a lot.

      I am glad that Lake Charles continues to remain a good town for Sears/Kmart stores. The electronics department at the Sears is mostly gone now though.

      Brazos Mall could use a refresh with new flooring and paint. The mall carpet is dark and getting dingy. There are not a lot of skylights there so the mall looks dark most of the time.

      I am the same way, I prefer to buy in store or order online to pick up in the store. I am not a fan of having items that I don't look at before I buy. I have bought from several stores online, but nothing major.

      Thanks for sending over that article. I would love to see the collection one day.

  45. Unfortunately, Sears is closing/shrinking many of their stores in better locations. Some of these are related to the REIT though, but that’s an asset sale in the past that’s coming back to bite them as they are evicted from good locations. I think this is what’s going on at the Austin Sears Grand. AMC is building a 10-screen theater in the space they are getting from Sears. I’m not sure how big the Sears not-so-Grand will remain after the shrink.

    Sears is opening some more of those Appliance & Mattress stores. I wonder if they may open one up near Baybrook Mall after the main store closes. We’ll have to see. It’s better than nothing, but it’s certainly not as nice as a full-line Sears.

    We’ll have to see what happens with the San Jacinto Mall Sears. I have a feeling that could be the next one to close if the developers give Sears the money they want to close the store so they can stop their objection to the redevelopment plans. The funny thing is that Sears probably thinks the redevelopment is a good idea, but they are so desperate for cash that they probably want a buyout offer.

    Perhaps Brazos Mall looks better in pictures than it does in real life. The mall actually looks quite nice in pictures. Then again, it seems that my opinion of what makes for a nice looking mall might not be in line with what shoppers think. Hopefully the renovations will keep the mall going for a while.

    One of my big problems with online shopping are returns. I don’t mind buying items that I’m pretty sure I won’t need to return, but I won’t buy something online that I may need to return unless I can return it to a store like with Sears or Barnes & Noble. Speaking of which, I feel that Sears has missed out on some opportunities to better their online store. For a while, it seemed like Target and some other B&M stores had poor online websites. While Sears’ site hasn’t gotten any/much worse, it seems like others have passed them by in terms of selection and ease of finding goods. Sears says they take the online sales seriously, but they might need to invent more in that platform if they want that to be the future.

    The local Goodwill stores have discontinued selling CRT TVs as we’ve mentioned before and it seems like most of the ones they had on the shelves were either sold or sent for recycling. Because of that, the electronics departments are looking a little bare, but I think they have just as much as they used to have outside of the TVs. I certainly don’t see as many VCRs as I did a few years ago. I’m glad I got some good ones when I did because the pickings have been slim lately. What I see mostly now are DVD players and early Blu-Ray players. Also, old “home theater in a box” systems are still plentiful in the thrifts.

    1. They will probably get rid of most if not all of the softlines at that Sears in Austin. A lot of these stores will be forced out through the REIT very soon. Many of those properties are just too valuable.

      The Baybrook area still has a couple of nearby Sears stores that will get some business from Baybrook closing. They also have the nearby Sears Outlet out there for now.

      The San Jacinto Mall Sears will probably be gone soon. I can't see them not taking a cash offer for the store. They will probably finally be able to unload the Greenspoint store, but for pennies on the dollar.

      Brazos Mall looks decent, but the food court looks so much newer than the rest of the mall. You can't even tell that the Sears store was ever there anymore. The redevelopment has erased all traces of the old store.

      The Sears site runs very slowly on mobile phones. They will need to speed up the process if they want a chance at making things better for them.

      I have been to a few thrifts over the past month and saw bare electronics selections at the stores I visited. I did not pick up anything on my visits either. Maybe I just went at a bad time, but the electronics were nearly empty in the stores I visited.

  46. First off, let me say that it's great that the blog is back! The poor results continue at Sears. It looks like there is another closure list, but it seems that all of the stores are Kmarts and none of them are in this area. You're probably right that more and more of the REIT stores will close and others will be downsized into Appliance & Mattress type stores.

    Speaking of which, do we know what will happen to the Baybrook Mall Sears property when the store closes? I'm not sure what will happen there, but hopefully the Sears customers in the area will shop at the Plaza Paseo and Mall of the Mainland stores. The Sears Outlet store is there as well as is the Sears Appliance store in League City.

    You're probably right about Sears looking for a buyout at the San Jacinto Mall. They will probably play hardball for a good offer, but I'm sure it'll happen. The question is what will happen with Macy's and JCPenney. JCPenney probably likes the idea of getting a new store, but I could see them and Macy's wanting buyouts too as both chains struggle. If that happens, one has to wonder if the redevelopment or any buyouts will actually happen.

    The Sears site is pretty clunky even on desktop browsers. The search feature does not work all that well either. Other retailers are upping their e-tailing game, Sears needs to keep pace especially since Lampert says the online store is the future for Sears. We'll see. I noticed the other day that I got a free upgrade to Sears' free shipping program similar to Amazon Prime. Perhaps I'll take advantage of that since I shop online at Sears and Kmart occasionally, but we'll see. Free shipping does help, but I have not been getting some of those good SYWR bonuses like I used to get in years past.

    I'm sure several malls and other stores have taken on significant damage during Hurricane Harvey. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out when the storm passes. It wouldn't surprise me to see some store closures caused by the storm, but it's too early to speculate. Hopefully all your visitors are safe. It seems like the North side of Houston has fared better than the South side.

    I have not been visiting many thrift stores lately, but I have been to a few. They had some electronics, but nothing worth buying. Aside from CRT TVs, it looks like the electronics inventory is about the same as it was this time last year, but we're seeing less VCRs and more DVD players. Most of the thrifts I went to had pretty good amounts of used pre-recorded cassettes, but I didn't buy anything.

    I have noticed that several Goodwills in the area are advertising that they have reduced prices. It seems like some items are cheaper than they were before. This, combined with the reduced hours at many stores, makes me wonder if the stores are struggling some. I have not seen any closures though so I don't things are really bad yet.

    1. Thanks for welcoming the blog back. I still don't have a computer so it slows the process down greatly with creating posts.

      I can see the Portland Texas Kmart if there is any damage, closing. It will take a while to assess the damage being done in our section of the US by this storm. This is worse than what we lonh considered a worst case scenario flood. This is the flood of 1994 combined with Allison and everywhere from Corpus, to New Orleans and several miles north has and will be affected by this storm. I just pray that no more lives are lost and help is quick to get the affected people back on their feet.

      I would imagine that the Sears will be demolished for a smaller development and maybe a parking garage.

      JCPenney does well at San Jacinto Mall, I could see them staying if Macy's decides to stay.

      Sears website is about the same as I remember it for the past several years. They do need to improve it or risk their customer loyalty.

      I did notice an abundance of cassettes at two of the stores I went to. They had a few good ones that I already had copies of.

      I read that thrift stores are being overwhelmed by items they can't sell. A lot of items that are being passed down that are not wanted by the younger generations are filling up stores faster than they can get rid of those items. Goodwill seems to do a good job of merchandising their stores. I bet they dump a lot of items to local stores that they know will sit and collect dust.

  47. It is good to hear that everything is fine in your area. Things turned kind of ugly around here yesterday. The streets were flooded all day and water was quickly encroaching on the house, but fortunately it receded before it had a chance to come into the house. Now, the streets are clear and everything is more or less back to normal.

    I have not heard much about damage to retail establishments. The only thing I heard is that a small number of HEB stores, including one in Kingwood, was damaged. One was a Meyerland area store that just recently reopened after damage from one of the floods from last year.

    You're right, the Portland Kmart is probably in trouble. I'm sure the store received some damage, even if it was light, and will look to get an insurance payout or a lease termination payout. It would be a real shame to lose that store, it's the only Texas Kmart left AFAIK that's even remotely close to Houston. We'll have to see if any Sears stores received damage and may close as well.

    JCPenney seems like they would be the most likely to stay at San Jacinto Mall out of the three anchors if they do indeed get a new building. They seem to have the most to gain by the redevelopment (they're also more experienced at operating stores in strip centers as opposed to malls), but they may not want to stick around if Sears and Macy's leave and other other tenants coming in aren't popular retailers.

    Yes, the Sears and Kmart websites have not been updated in quite a while. That would not be a problem if the sites worked well, but they are rather iffy at doing many things. Hopefully Sears can repair the situation. An alternative is to use the SYWR website instead of the Sears/Kmart ones. It does look a little bit different, but it may have the same problems.

    A big story lately is that Sears is selling appliances on Amazon. This may help Sears move products, but it won't help them bring people into the stores. Well, it could if someone learns about a Kenmore product on Amazon and then decides to stop at a store to take a look at it before buying it online or in person. I think it's a good move for the Kenmore brand, but I'm not sure what it means for Sears as a whole. It certainly wouldn't be a benefit if Sears decides to sell the Kenmore name. I know they already struck a deal to sell Kenmore branded vacuum cleaners (well, they are licensing the name) in other retailers.

    That is a good point, I'm sure the thrifts get a lot of products that either can't be sold due to lack of demand or are broken. Some thrifts sell broken items (probably unknowingly). This is especially a problem in the electronics departments as we know. Goodwill stores do a better job, as you say, of keeping in-demand items. They also have fewer broken electronics than other thrifts. Some Goodwills do test their electronics before they sell them (at least some of them, though it may not be a comprehensive test), but not all of them do that.

    The thrifts will probably sell a lot of merchandise as many people will have to rebuild after this big storm. Unfortunately, a lot of the goods they get back may be storm damaged stuff. Hopefully the inventory won't suffer. I also came across some interesting cassettes at the thrifts recently, but they were things that I already had or I wasn't sure if they were good so I passed. I've been spending a lot more of my "music budget" at Half Price Books lately anyway.

    1. Glad to hear your place stayed out of the water. They estimated about 130,000 buildings took on water in the Houston metro area. The Kingwood and Humble areas along the river took on a ton of water. Several big box stores took on water and will be closed for a while. A lot of new developments including the Kingwood HEB, Humble Costco, and several centers that never flooded took on water. Things will be different for a while in the city. I think all of the malls in the area did not get any significant water inside.

      Sears is selling on Amazon, and Kohl's is accepting Amazon returns in their stores now. I don't know if this will be beneficial for either organization, but I guess this is where retailers try to beg for mercy.

      I have been so busy lately that I have not been to a thrift store or Half Price Books in a while. I can see them having to throw away a lot of donations from flooded out properties.

  48. I only know of two major retail establishments that took on significant damage here on the NW side, but I'm sure there are some others that I'm not aware of. The two that I know of are both Kroger stores on Cypresswood (the Champions and 249 locations). Cypresswood frequently floods even with much lesser storms. It didn't stand a chance with Harvey. I'm not sure if either Kroger has reopened yet, but I'm hoping that they aren't remodeled with concrete floors when they reopen. The Champions store in particular was very nice before and it would be a shame for it to become an uglier store after renovations. I actually shopped at that store shortly before Harvey and saw that they had Crystal Clear Pepsi for sale. I hadn't seen that in years! That store opened right around the time that Crystal Clear Pepsi left the market as a mainstream product in the 1990s. I did notice that the Champions Kroger had a temporary pharmacy set up in the parking lot to operate while work was going on with the store itself.

    I have not gone to many thrifts since the storm. I suspect that the thrifts (and Half Price Books) will get a lot of flooded items. HPB can just reject it or throw it away, but I don't know what the thrifts will do with those products. I have not noticed any issues with the HPB locations I've been to since the storm. In fact, I recently revisited the Kirkwood location since the roads connecting it to my side of town have just reopened in the last week or so. It seemed fine and I was able to find some good CDs there that were not there before the storm.

    It seems that the NE suburbs were hit about as hard as any other area in the city. Hopefully the recovery will go well, but I know some people are frustrated by the frequent floods that have been happening around the city in recent years. I know we've talked about it before, but I wonder if this will lead to new infrastructure for improved drainage.

    The floods may impact some retailers negatively, but it may positively impact some others. I'm sure retailers selling building materials, floor covering, and furniture will do well. Ones selling things like clothing may not do as well as people tighten their budgets due to forced relocations and home repairs. I'm not really sure how Sears will be impacted by this. They'll probably sell more tools, appliances, and mattresses, but the soft lines might struggle even further. I have noticed that Sears has put up some billboards advertising their mattress departments in some prominent locations across the city.

    Hopefully accepting Amazon returns will lead to more business for Sears and Kohl's. Perhaps they figure that someone returning something will be more likely to look for what they want in the store. If nothing else, it'll mean more traffic to the stores. Having said all of that, making Amazon an easier place to shop is not a positive for B&M retailers.

    While selling Kenmore appliances at Amazon might benefit the Kenmore brand and Sears' home services/extended warranty divisions, I'm not really sure how it benefits the retail side of the business. The SHOS franchises must be upset that they have to compete with Amazon now. Sears probably needed to do something to boost their Kenmore brand given all the competition from Lowe's, Home Depot, and Best Buy, but this could be one step forward and one step back. We'll see.

    1. Crystal Pepsi has been released off and on again since last year around this time. It is good that not a lot of businesses flooded in your area, shopping around here is going to be extra hectic at the remaining stores until the flooded ones reopen.

      We are going to have to check items at second hand stores for any water damage. I read that flooded items are also often sold in different parts of the country that are not expecting to see flooded items for sale.

      The San Jacinto and Lake Houston areas flooded twice last year. The second flood in 2016 was a major event, closing off several shopping centers for days, and flooding neighborhoods near the water. Harvey set a new record for river height after the Lake Conroe dam release. It is going to be a mess for a long time. Once the damaged homes get taken care of, litigation will probably take years to resolve. Flood control projects will likely continue to lack the funding needed to get them constructed.

      A Sears franchisee recently opened a new appliance store in Atascocita. It is a nice and visible structure. I wonder if this is one of the designs of the stores corporate has recently opened. I also wish they carried tools.

      Sears department stores loaded up the sales floors with vaccums and dehumidifiers after the storm. They just don't carry the items needed to repair homes like sheetrock and insulation. They will get a temporary boost on appliance and mattress sales.

      These Amazon partnerships are a risky bet, but these companies don't have the resources like Walmart does to challenge Amazon. Walmart stores have been updated with new online order pickup stations added to make shopping there faster. There is even a plan to have employees drop items off at your house if requested.

  49. It’s good to hear that Sears/SHOS has a new appliance store on the NE side. Do they sell mattresses as well? That new store will probably do good business with all the people rebuilding their homes. It’s unfortunate that they don’t sell tools though. I think the only two Sears Hardware stores left in the Houston area are the ones in Katy and Huntsville (though I wouldn’t consider Huntsville as being in the Houston area).

    The bad news is that the Midtown Sears is slated to close after the holiday season this year. From what I can tell, the store’s property was leased to Sears by Rice University, but it seems that Rice must have brought out the lease. I think the Fiesta next door is also leased by Rice, but I don’t know if they’re planning on closing that at some point soon as well. If so, that’ll be a major blow as there aren’t many grocers in the area. Anyway, the Midtown Sears almost made it to it’s 80th birthday. It’s a shame that it’s closing and it will leave a big void for inside-the-loop shoppers, but I can’t say it’s a surprise. At least we still have the N. Shepherd Sears for now as a retro Sears option. The Memorial City Mall Sears will be the next oldest Sears in Houston. All the others opened in the 1980s or 1990s.

    It also sounds like Sears Canada has thrown in the towel and is liquidating all their stores. It’s a shame that Sears Canada failed and it might be a sign of things to come here in the US. It’s hard to be optimistic about things with all the store closures, inventory problems, and other asset sales.

    It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, is done to reduce the flooding risks around town after Harvey. I remember that some retention ponds were built after TS Allison in 2001. Perhaps we’ll see more of those, but I don’t know. I don’t know if that’ll even have much impact. A lot of homeowners are upset that their homes were built in areas where homes shouldn’t have been built. There will be a lot of litigation that will take years to resolve as you say.

    You might be right that some thrifts will send flooded items to other cities where buyers aren’t expecting flooded items. I’m sure this will happen with used cars as well. I have not been to many thrifts lately so I can’t really say that I’ve seen a lot of water damaged goods for sale.

    Walmart is being very aggressive with their e-tailing efforts, but I find Walmart’s website difficult to navigate. In fact, I would say that it’s even worse than Sears’ website. Due to that, I have not ordered anything from Walmart’s website and I probably won’t until they fix their site. Still, it’s interesting to see them put pressure on Amazon. I would not use Walmart’s in-home delivery service, but perhaps some people believe that having items delivered that way is safer than leaving them out on the porch. Anyway, Walmart does seem to be trying some things to see if they can get an edge.

    1. Yeah we actually bought an oven from the new Sears store at a very good price so we hope they will be around for a while. I went to the Huntsville Sears Hardware once, I may try to go back and document it since these stores seem to be disappearing.

      We are losing Sears stores now in the area. It was a matter of time with how often they have been closing stores. After all is said and done who knows how many will be left. Kmart is now down to 4 stores in both Texas and Louisiana. The last Kmart stores in both El Paso and Texarkana are now closing. The Lufkin Sears is also closing leaving that part of the mall barren.

      Aces Adventures has a good recent video where he walked through a Canadian Sears store that is closing. The strange thing is that the store was being remodeled and will just be left as is unless someone else moves in. The mall was very nice that he filmed despite the Sears closing.

      I see a lot of retention ponds being built around town. I think they are a good idea but some of the lowlands should never be built on. As for the neighborhood that exist, every effort to raise the houses should be done. Buyouts are expensive, but there should be an option for properties that have flooded multiple times recently.

      Hopefully thrifts will just reject flooded items and not put them out for sale. Some things you just never know. I bought a video game once from Half Price Books. The game played well with no issues for several months. I eventually cleaned all of my cartridge games out to keep them in good condition. When I opened this game up, the whole inside was rusty and stained from corrosion. You could not tell from the outside that anything ever happened to the game. I threw the game away because I did not want to risk ruining console.

      There is no way I am giving someone access to my house to deliver items. I still prefer to buy things the old fashioned way most of the time. I want to open the package before leaving the store or rejecting a delivery if the item arrives damaged in person. I do use store pickup rarely, and it is useful for some people though. I am not a fan of Amazon, they have a reputation for being late with pre-ordered video games.

  50. Part I:

    There has been a lot of Sears/Kmart news to report since my last reply. The big news, as we discussed on the new blog post, is the further closure of Sears and Kmart stores. The cuts continue to impact this region as Texas is losing one more Kmart and two more Sears stores in addition to the closures announced earlier.

    Another big piece of news that came out recently is that Sears stores will stop selling Whirlpool branded appliances (which includes Maytag). Kenmore appliances made by Whirlpool will continue to be sold. Interestingly enough, SHOS will continue to sell Whirlpool appliances from what I’ve read. Sears has made a big deal in their marketing that they sell all the major appliance brands, but now they can’t say that anymore (though SHOS could). Still, I don’t think this will be a huge loss for them. Samsung and LG are the hot new appliance brands on the market today and they still sell those. I’m not sure if there’s a lot of people who want Whirlpool appliances specifically these days. I’m sure Sears will try to push Kenmore appliances as much as possible.

    I’ve also heard that Sears is publishing a print Wishbook catalog for the Christmas season again. I’d love to get a copy of one of those, but I’m not sure if they have to be requested or if they’ll mail them out to everyone.

    I’m also hearing that Sears is converting some Kmart stores into “Shop Your Way” stores that combine Kmart’s best departments with Sears’ best departments. There may also be room in the stores for third party retailers as well. I’ve heard that they are going to experiment with this format. I have not heard anything about Kmarts in this region getting that format, but we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll get some pictures of these stores so we can see what they are like.

    Speaking of pictures, I recently came across pictures of the North Hollywood Sears in California that recently had a grand re-opening. It’s interesting to see the pictures of the store with all the new department signage and everything. Unfortunately, I don’t see any images of the electronics department (if the store still has one).

    I’ll have to take a look at that Sears Canada video, thanks for the heads up. Although I was in Canada recently and got to visit a lot of malls there, they were all urban malls that had their Sears locations close already. It seems that Sears Canada put more money into their stores than the US Sears, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I do know that Sears Canada stores were a bit more upscale (at least in recent times) than US Sears stores. Hopefully the US Sears will not suffer the same fate as Sears Canada, but it’s hard to be optimistic right now.

    1. Texas will be down to 4 Kmart stores once the last El Paso and Texarkana stores close. Such a small presence for this huge state.

      I saw several Whirlpool products on my visit last week to the Deerbrook Sears. They were not being advertised as closeout items and were only 10% off. I am sure they will slowly disappear like our favorite department the electronics.
      Thankfully Deerbrook still has a small active TV wall and appears to be restocking a few items.

      I was able to find a Wish Book when I went. Only one register had a small stack. It may one day be a collector's item.

      The Kmarts near New Orleans have a sizable Sears appliance and mattress section inside each one. They have Craftsman tools and Die Hard batteries already so I am not sure what else they may do. Maybe they will expand the appliance selection and set up mattress displays to make the store look fuller since some departments are losing stock.

      Thanks for sending the North Hollywood Sears photos over. That store looks very nice, I hope to see some stores in our area get makeovers like this one did.

      I am hoping another company takes over Sears to keep them afloat. The more good stores that close, the less of a chance that the company will survive. Maybe Amazon will swoop in and buy the company if it gets devalued any more to increase their store count. Amazon could downsize the average Sears store footprint and attract another retailer, restaurant, or even their Whole Foods market to combine with the retail side. I would hate to see the name and legacy disappear or become another crummy website with no stores.

  51. Part II:

    I agree that the retention ponds won’t help certain areas, but it might help some areas. They seem like temporary fixes though as development continues to eliminate run-off areas. There’s certainly some areas that shouldn’t have been built on if they are near reservoir spillways and such. There is going to be significant fallout from Hurricane Harvey. It’ll be interesting to see if the city and county begin to put more laws into place to prevent developers from selling flood-prone properties to homebuyers and even retail establishments. I do agree also that buyouts should be considered to prevent further financial loss. There’s been neighborhoods that have been brought out in the past due to frequently flooding. There’s one near Greenspoint Mall on Greens Bayou called Glen Forest Estates that was brought out and leveled some years ago after TS Allison.

    Yeah, there’s no way I’d let someone inside my home to deliver a package. I have never done a pre-order with Amazon, but I can see why you’d avoid them if they have problems sending out orders. I purchased some music CDs from another website (a small business) a couple of months ago and I still have not received the order. I know how frustrating it is to not receive an order! Hopefully I’ll be able to resolve this issue without disputing the charges with my credit card company. But, yeah, I certainly prefer to buy things from B&M stores to avoid any possible issues. Another frequent problem with mail-order CDs is that the CD cases end up getting cracked during shipping.

    That is unfortunate to hear about your game cartridge from Half Price Books. I wonder what would cause that kind of corrosion. It could have been humidity or flood waters. Did the label on the cartridge look damaged at all? Perhaps HPB cleaned the corrosion off before selling that cartridge, but it reappeared after a while. A lot of the CDs/cassettes I buy from HPB and thrifts appear to have spent some time sitting in people’s garages or attics. These environments are not good for storage media. A lot of times I buy CDs that have mysterious stains that would not happen during normal use (so I’m guessing the stains came from where the CDs were stored), but I only buy the ones that I can expect to clean pretty easily with tap water. I won’t even bother with the ones that are all scratched up or nasty looking.

    1. I have been through that neighborhood in the Greenspoint area. There are some parts of Humble and Houston near Lake Houston that were bought out. The crazy thing is that land right down the street from flooded areas on Townsen is being cleared and prepped for more development. I just don't get it, all they have to do is look right down the road to see why they should not develop that land.

      Online ordering is usually my last option unless it is for a store pickup to get an item on sale. I have also received cracked CD cases from shipped CD's. I am sure it is frustrating to not receive an item. We waited over 2 months for some electrical parts and I had forgotten we ordered them.

      The outside of the cartridge looked normal. I always check the bottom for any visible corrosion on the slot. The corrosion was only on the inside. It was obviously cleaned to look nice. The tool to open the cartridges is not easy to find so most people don't have it.

  52. Part I:

    Amazon taking over Sears would be an interesting idea, but I'm not really sure if Amazon would want any of Kmart's locations that are not in good condition or Sears stores located in B or C level malls. I've read a few stories lately about Sears' new corporate-owned Appliance & Mattress stores. A few of them have opened lately including one in Hawaii. If Sears is to survive, it might take the form of those much smaller stores. It would be interesting to see Sears kind of hit the reset button with those smaller concept stores and then see if they can grow back into a larger retailer if they can get some positive momentum going. If they do, perhaps the new stores might grow into something like The Great Indoors, but it probably wouldn't target higher income shoppers as much.

    Amazon is trying to grow their B&M profile recently through their own efforts (like Whole Foods) and through other retailers who will take their returns. It'll be interesting to see how this works out. Walmart is certainly trying hard to compete with Amazon, but there might come a time soon (if it's not here already) where Amazon is viewed as being the 800 lb. gorilla in the retail world even if Walmart remains a profitable retailer. We'll see, but I suspect that the retail world might be quite different ten years from now. I'm sure Kroger, Safeway/Albertson's, and the smaller grocery chains are keeping an eye on Amazon's encroachment into their territory as well.

    Target might get squeezed the way Sears has been in recent times. The trendy shoppers may abandon Target in favor of Amazon while those looking for a more traditional shopping experience and low prices may head to Walmart. Target seems to be trying to stay relevant though, but I'm not sure what to think of their newest store in Richmond that just opened. Some of the departments look pretty fancy for a discount store (the grocery department in particular), but the gray paint and concrete floors give the store a very drab look in other areas. Even the outside of the store looks rather drab with bare concrete walls in certain parts. While I still prefer to shop in a store rather than online, I think I'd rather shop online than shop in such a depressing bunker of a store. Then again, the concrete fad has been popular for at least 10 years now so I must be in the minority with that opinion. On another Target note, I heard that they're closing a store in the San Antonio area.

    It's been several months since I've shopped at a Walmart, but I do occasionally drive by them to get to somewhere else. One thing I've noticed is that there are never cars parked in the online pickup lanes they've put on most of their stores. Either they are very fast at giving the shoppers their orders or people just don't care about that service.

    I'm glad that you were able to get a Wish Book catalog. You should certainly make sure that it stays in good condition as it might be a real collectible in the long run. I hope to pick one up soon. I've been meaning to stop at a Sears for a while now, but I just have not done so. I'm sure I'll go to Sears at least a few times as we get closer to Christmas.

    1. I could see the Appliance and Mattress stores being a very good concept for Sears. A bankruptcy seems to be the most likely scenario now for Sears Holdings unless the CEO continues to loan the company money.

      That new Target store looks very nice. I heard the Target in Humble that flooded is going to be extensively changed and remodeled before the store reopens. The Heights Target store has been somewhat updated recently but not to this extent. Target is also going to move the minimum wage up to $15 an hour by 2020.

      Amazon has quickly changed how retailers operate. The pressure from Amazon has caused retailers to really brainstorm ways to try and keep up. I don't think people are confident that Walmart enployees will not mess up their orders. Some Walmart stores have really stepped their game up on customer service. Others are still not any better and continue to be struggling with the basics of customer service.

      Hopefully the Wish Books will be easy to find by Thanksgiving. Most people will probably just throw them away or ignore them. Sears has a lot of pamphlets to pick up all around the store.

  53. Part II:

    Speaking of which, I saw Sears' Black Friday ad and there were very few electronics in it. In fact, I don't think I saw a single TV in it. Perhaps this is because most locations don't even sell TVs. I'm glad that the Deerbrook Mall location still has a TV display though. That certainly will help their cause. As I mentioned earlier, the Willowbrook Mall Sears removed the glass wall around the electronics department (though it's more of a furniture and vacuums/sewing department now than an electronics department). In other local Sears news, the Mall of the Mainland Sears fixed it's sign recently that got some damage from Harvey. The Gulf Coast Center, a local charity, has opened offices in the old Affordable Furniture and seems to be driving a lot more traffic to that part of the mall. Hopefully Sears can benefit from that, but it's hard to say how much the Gulf Coast Center helps them.

    The Shop Your Way Superstores seem a bit odd since, as you say, Sears has tried similar concepts with Sears departments in Kmart stores and, of course, Sears Essentials stores in the past. Perhaps taking the Sears and Kmart names off these stores and putting a 21st century name on them will help. I'm not sure if these stores will get the major makeovers that they'll need to be competitive. We'll see, it's something to keep an eye on.

    There probably isn't a great need for Sears to have a fire sale for their remaining Whirlpool/Maytag appliances. They should have enough room in their warehouses given all the store closures and supplier problems. They can probably sell those appliances at near regular prices for those shoppers who still want them until they sell out. If nothing else, perhaps they can sell them through SHOS since I think SHOS gets their inventory from the regular Sears.

    I finally had a chance to stop at the Music Town store in Spring. Somewhat surprisingly, I was the only shopper in the store even though I went at a time that I expected it to be busy. I'm glad I was the only shopper as the store is pretty tight. While 8-tracks are given royal treatment on the racks, the cassettes were just in boxes mixed in with blank VHS cassettes and so forth. I tried to look for some stuff, but I gave up pretty quickly since it seemed daunting to sort through the mess in the tight corners. As for the CDs, I'd say they had less selection than what could be found at the Half Price Books a few miles away for the type of music I was looking for, but the prices were reasonable for what they had. Perhaps the most interesting thing I saw there was a late 1970s/early 1980s JCPenney MCS Series receiver and direct drive turntable set they had for sale. The price was reasonable given the quality of the goods, but the prices were certainly above thrift store prices.

    I have not been shopping at thrifts as frequently as I used to, but I did visit a few recently. I came across something I have not seen in many years in the thrifts: a 1980s Sony cassette deck! The 1990s ones are very common, but the older ones are a rare find even though I know Sony sold a lot of them back in the day. It was only $7, but it wasn't a particularly high-end deck so I didn't really consider buying it. I suspect it didn't work properly given the awkward positioning of the auto-reverse head. Oh well.

    It should also be noted that the NAM Thrift Store just opened their new location near their old location in the old Kmart on FM 1960 and Kuykendahl. The new store is basically behind that old shopping center. I have not been there yet, but I look forward to stopping by at some point.

    1. I need to look at the Black Friday ad for Sears. The electronics in the ad probably are mostly the small stuff you find like headphones etc.

      Sounds like they have not had a chance to clean up the Music Town store. I still have not had a chance to make it back since my only visit a couple of years back.

      I still have not been to a thrift for a while. Most of my shopping time and money has gone towards video games lately. The new Nintendo Switch has been a very fun system with both modern and retro style games. I may have to check up on some thrift stores since it has been so long since I have been.

  54. That's really sad that new developments are going in right where other homes are being brought out due to the flooding risks! Then again, one might say that's typical Houston. Hopefully the brakes will be put on that new development before anyone moves into it. I know Houston is legendary in terms of it's lack of regulations for developments, that might have to change in order to reduce the property loss claims during major storms. We've had so many major floods in the last couple of decades that it would be insane to keep repeating the mistakes of the past.

    I wish I had a chance to drive the streets of Glen Forest Estates, but I never got around to doing so. Was it spooky driving around a neighborhood with no homes? I believe the property was cleared out sometime in the last year so the roads are gone now. There's an image of it on Google Maps after Harvey where it looked like a lake. I'm not sure if it was made into a retention pond, but it certainly looked like one. Thank goodness nobody lived there still.

    I think it would be a good idea for Target and other NE side retailers to give their stores full updates while they are still closed for repairs, but I'm sure some are rushing to open before Thanksgiving. We'll see, but NE Houston might be the spot to go to in order to see the latest retail trends (aside from the Deerbrook Mall Dillard's which I assume still looks kind of retro). On the topic of retro Dillard's, I recently watched a YouTube video of a Dillard's in the Phoenix area (I forget which mall) that looked straight out of the year 1984. It was very retro, but well maintained unlike some of the retro Macy's.

    I have not shopped at either Target or Walmart frequently in the last year. Really, I have not shopped at Walmart much in the last couple of years. Walmart's customer service is indeed very iffy. The biggest problem I saw, long checkout lines, was mostly resolved at the stores near me, but I wouldn't be surprised if some stores are still struggling with that. As salaries go up, the stores might be under pressure to hire less employees. This might make customer service even worse even if the employee morale is high.

    This year's Wish Book certainly might be the last one for Sears. Thus, I want to make sure to get one as a keepsake. I wonder if it's possible to request one to be mailed to me if I can't find them at the store. I've been wanting to visit some of the local Sears as we enter the holiday season, but some of the freeway construction around town is making it difficult to get around (especially on the weekends).

    Hopefully Sears will have some success with their Appliance & Mattress stores. Perhaps focusing on those and the online store after bankruptcy might lead to profitability again. I think the idea has potential.

    You're right that the only electronics in Sears' Black Friday ad that I saw were things like earbud headphones and Bluetooth speakers. I didn't see anything exciting. Sears, like other retailers, has been starting sales early this year so the actual Black Friday (or Thursday) deals themselves are perhaps less exciting than expected. Hopefully I won't be dragged out to the stores on Thanksgiving/Friday, but we'll see. Do you plan on visiting the Midtown Sears before it closes?

    I'm glad that you're enjoying the new Nintendo. Nintendo seems to realize their retro appeal. As for Music Town, it did feel like shopping in someone's garage or closet. I'm sure their rock LPs and CDs were reasonably well sorted (and 8-tracks oddly enough), but everything else was just pushed to a corner or in a box. It would have taken a lot of patience and physical maneuvering to go through the cassettes they had so I just gave up. But, anyway, I'm glad they are around. I may stop in again at some point, but it probably won't become a normal stop for me when I go looking for used cassettes/CDs.

    1. It is crazy to see what older developments are dealing with and land being cleared right on the other side of the river which also flooded badly. So far only the Costco and Main Event have been built. A big section of the land is being cleared just behind those retailers.

      I wonder if the neighborhood I visited is the same one. The neighborhood between Greens and Airtex on I-45. All of the houses were gone and the street just went down to a dead end.

      There are a few stores in the Best Buy center that have the drywall back in place from what I can see. The Toys R Us was one of the first to get cleaning crews on site, but the inside is still empty. No apparent activity has been seen on site for a while now. Who knows if they will reopen the store. They did pull the Babies R Us sign down. And yes the Dillards at Deerbrook was recently pained or pressure washer, but still looks very retro.

      Porter Walmart and Atascocita used to have poor service as well as Humble. Humble is still struggling big time while the other two stores have really improved. Humble stays dirty and unorganized even with them closing from midnight to 6am now everyday.

      I read that members will get a Wish Book mailed to them, but I would still try to get one from the store.

      I like the format and design of the new Sears stores. I really think they should try and expand these by franchising. Corporate can make money from these locations without having to shoulder the debt from building a new store.

      The in store sale currently has some good deals especially on appliances. I do plan on visiting the Lufkin and Main Street Sears stores, but it might be a few weeks until I can make that trip.

      Yeah the store has a retro feel, but nobody would have the patience to go through those boxes. There are probably some gems in there, but those boxes are probably hiding some interesting dust, germs, animals. Yeah it is not worth the hunt without gloves.

  55. It is odd to me to see some stores reopen quickly after Harvey, while others seem to have made little progress towards repairs so far. As far as I know, several of the fast food vendors in Dickinson have still not reopened since Harvey, but the Kroger was repaired quickly (a Whataburger in the same shopping center looks like it has not even been touched as far as repairs go). Speaking of Dickinson, the Palais Royal in Dickinson seems to have been permanently closed. I don't know if it was due to Harvey, but I guess they're focusing on the Mall of the Mainland store now. I don't blame them, that does look like a flagship store.

    I wonder if the Toys R Us bankruptcy is impacting their repair, but perhaps insurance factors might explain some of the delayed repairs. I can only imagine the difficulties some shopping centers and retailers will have getting insurance payouts. Some are still fighting for money from Ike.

    I mentioned a long time ago that I knew someone who worked at a store located in the Texas City Tanger Outlet. She reported that there were a lot of structural problems at the mall. Well, I read today that Tanger is suing several contractors over shoddy construction. I suppose there's a lot of truth to what the person I knew said. I wonder what the long-term impact of these problems will be, but perhaps they can repair the problems if they are willing to put some money into it.

    Here is the neighborhood in question that was cleared out. It's right past Greens Rd. on the bayou. Kingsford and Falworth are a couple of the streets that made up the Glen Forest Estates neighborhood. The area is cleared now, but you can still see the streets if you do a street view on those roads. It's pretty strange seeing that.

    As far as I know, SHOS does franchise Appliance & Mattress stores. In fact, I think I've been to one in Cypress. The one near your area may well be franchised as well. Sears Holdings still profits from these stores as they supply the inventory and make money off deliveries and warranties, but perhaps they could make more if they franchised the stores themselves instead of involving SHOS. Either way, franchising is a good idea to expand these stores. Those stores may be Sears' best hope to having profitable stores. I'm also hopeful that they can open more of these stores.

    Hopefully I'll get a Wish Book in the mail, but I'll keep my eyes out in the stores for a copy too. Having two may not be a bad idea in case one gets lost or damaged in my collection.

    The Willowbrook area Walmart seemed to be the worst location in this area before it closed in terms of upkeep and customer service, but it's hard for me to tell any difference between the remaining locations. I'd probably be able to say more if I visited them more often. I can tell some differences between Targets in the area especially in terms of inventory. The 249 and Jones Rd. store seems to be the best one in the area even though it's an older store (by Target standards) and isn't any bigger than any other store in the area (in fact, it may be smaller).

    I will say that I don't like sticking my hands in mysterious boxes at used item stores given that I've seen broken glass in bins like that at thrifts. You're right that there may be some gems in there, but how would I even sort through anything with the lack of room even if I had the patience to do so? I like the idea of supporting an independent store especially if they are cheaper than Half Price Books, but it's just a lot easier shopping at HPB. I'm sure the clerks the independents are a lot more knowledgeable though, but I more or less know what I want anyway.

    1. The flood is a chance for some companies to abandon locations that are not doing well. Some locations such as fast food restaurants will probably be demolished in favor of a new building.

      Toys R Us reopened the Humble location with as a temporary clearance center with only a small portion of the store stocked with products. The selection is limited but it is a good way to try and sell off some excess stock. The floors were ripped out of the store and the exposed walls have been painted, but not much else was done to get the store back to normal.

      The structural problems don't surprise me, a lot of those properties were constructed quickly. A lot of failed malls had structural issues that helped contribute to their demise.

      That is the same neighborhood I passed through. It was still heavily wooded, I wonder why they cleared it out.

      Franchising would help Sears to spread the brand and keep their costs low. The franchisee would have to keep up the store as opposed to Sears. The franchisees have a lot to lose if Sears fails.

      I picked up a few Wish Books, if you don't wind up getting one I can send you one. Just let me know by email. The Memorial City store had a bunch on a display so I picked up some good undamaged copies.

      I was actually in the Willowbrook area this past weekend. There have been a lot of changes on FM 1960 mostly positive. The Walmart property is well hidden from 1960 especially at night. Target seems to be trying to improve their stores once again. A few area stores have gotten interior remodels, but none so far as dramatic as the new store you sent photos from. Inventory levels at Walmart on popular and seasonal items is still an issue. Target seems to be a little better, but their sales have been struggling lately.

      Speaking of Half Price Books, I went to 2 locations the other night and surprisingly came out empty handed at both.

  56. Part I:

    The Dickinson Whataburger may not reopen, but I am not sure what they will do. Whataburger recently opened a new store in La Marque on I-45 to replace the older one they had there. There is also a relatively new location on the League City/Dickinson border on FM 646 and I-45. Thus, I don’t know if Whataburger really needs to reopen the Dickinson location on I-45. If they do, they’ll have 3 relatively new stores on a four exit stretch of I-45 in an area that isn’t highly populated. That seems a bit excessive to me. The McDonald’s and Jack in the Box might reopen, but I’m surprised they have not done so already. McDonald’s can tear down an old store and rebuild a new one in less than a month, but this is taking a lot longer to repair.

    I suppose a Toys R Us clearance store is better than no store, but it’s surprising that they didn’t try to put some of the holiday season’s hottest toys in the store if nothing else. I’m sure Toys R Us is probably even more dependent on Christmas sales than most retailers. Perhaps they set up a Toys R Us Express temporary store for the season.

    Thanks for the Sears Wishbook offer. I went to the Willowbook Mall Sears recently and did a lot of holiday shopping, but I didn’t see any Wishbooks there unfortunately. I’m hoping to visit another Sears or two before the Christmas season is up (probably the Mall of the Mainland and/or the N. Shepherd Sears). Hopefully one of those stores will have the catalogs as well. How did the Memorial City Mall Sears look during your visit?

    Speaking of the Willowbrook Mall Sears, there is a lot of news there to report. The biggest news is that there was a well-publicized stabbing and shooting in the parking lot there during Black Friday. I went to the store and mall the day after that and the area did not have nearly as many shoppers there as I would have expected for the first Saturday of the big shopping season. It wasn’t just Sears. The Dillard’s and JCPenney parking lot were about as filled (or not filled) as the Sears’ parking lot. I don’t know if the shooting scared shoppers away or if stores are struggling to attract shoppers in general.

    Anyway, at least I was able to pay for the gifts I was buying at Sears without waiting in long lines. They had most of the registers open throughout the store. That’s a good thing because that was not the case during my last visit to the store some time back. There’s been major changes made to the store since my last visit as well. The old electronics department has been totally cleared out and converted into a mattress department. It actually looks pretty nice the way they have it set up. There are a couple of small rows of electronics with a couple of small TVs on the wall where the vacuums and sewing machines used to be. In other words, the electronics department there is about as big as the Mall of the Mainland’s electronics department (though it seems that the Willowbrook store still has a couple of TVs). Upstairs, the Willowbrook Sears has started to sell a number of sofas and other living room furniture in the center part of the floor. The housewares have been moved to the edge of the floor where the mattresses used to be (mattresses have moved a few times in the last couple of years).

    You’re right that potential franchisees might be afraid to invest in Sears due to the issues the company is having. They had another dreadful quarter, but some analysts say that it was per