Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lufkin Texas Kmart and Sears Summer 2015 update

Here is a quick update article that shows some changes and more photos of these two stores than previously featured on the blog. I also changed the fonts and some of the colors to make the blog easier to read.

Kmart Lufkin Texas
A wide view of the electronic department, note the Mario Kart 7 display was empty. Only a small handful of video games remained on the clearance aisle.
The vintage electronics advertisements
The toy department looking towards the electronics
Toy department looking towards hardware and sporting goods
The back aisle looking towards housewares
The same back aisle looking in the opposite direction 
A few updated signs in the clothing department
The clothing department looking towards the front checkouts 
Well, looks like this one is out of order
The electronics department shortly after the video game clearance. Here is where the electronics were separated from the rest of the store by large video game cases that were removed.
More views of the electronics department
New hardware aisle signage
Sears at the Lufkin Mall, the E on the sign was broken 
This store has a full line of departments, but my focus is on the disappearing electronics department. There is not much left in this store, which already had a very small electronics department in comparison to most normal sized Sears stores. 
Appliances and electronics
An interesting display in the hardware department


  1. I’ve always wondered what the Lufkin Mall Sears looks like inside. Well, I guess now I have an idea. Thanks for the photos. The electronics department is certainly small, but it looks better than the Mall of the Mainland Sears electronics department. That’s really the only Sears of that size that I can compare it to. The Mall of the Mainland store does not have the fancy Samsung displays as far as I know. Also, I think there’s more stuff on the shelves than at the MotM store, but maybe some of that stuff is gone by now too. For example, I see a Sharp CD-DH950P bookshelf stereo system there in the picture (I brought one of these from Sears in 2012), but I believe Sharp discontinued the model in 2015 because it seems like most places have stopped selling it.

    One thing that probably does not help the Lufkin Sears electronics department is the presence of Best Buy which can be seen from the doors apparently! It’s also a bit odd that they have the Maxell VHS cassettes so far away from the rest of the media selection. I wonder if they got the 2 packs of Maxell cassettes to replace the 4 packs. It would be nice if they did, but it probably doesn’t make sense since Kmart is so much cheaper for VHS cassettes and Kmart is right around the corner.

    The Craftsman tool man looks like something Tim Taylor would order out of the Binford catalog. That’s kind of neat.

    As for the Kmart, the Lufkin Kmart Walkman woman is still hanging in there it seems. If they ever decide to cover up those images, they should probably do something like this Kmart did. That is a nice way of adding some coordinated color to the electronics department instead of those blue coverups they usually use.

    Hopefully the Lufkin Kmart will fix that price scanner or hopefully they have other working ones nearby. I find those to be useful at Sears stores I shop at. The big HVAC vents at this Kmart aren’t quite the same as they are at other Kmarts, but apparently this Kmart was something else before it was a Kmart so that probably explains that.

    1. The Lufkin Sears is quite small at around 25-30 thousand square feet of space. Nearly half of the store is electronics, appliances, auto, tools and garden.

      Lufkin Kmart is still doing well and I hope Kmart keeps it going for as long as they can. It is about the same distance from my residence to the Kmart that it is to Galveston.

  2. Shocking news: the Walmart Supercenter at FM 1960 and Cutten Road in Houston (only a block or two from Willowbrook Mall) is set to close. I really have to ask... what could be the explanation for this store closing? Not only are Walmart closings (not counting relocations) extremely rare, but who knew a full-size Walmart Supercenter on one of Houston's biggest retail corridors would be on a closing list? I also am shocked because this store was updated to the current Walmart branding and color scheme (it went from "Wal-Mart Supercenter" to just "Walmart") even though Walmart has been slow to roll that out to all the stores.

    This Walmart was built in 1994-1995 as a replacement for the Walmart at 249 and Spring-Cypress (not sure why Walmart relocated so far), which was just about ten years old at the time. I think the old store was later a Bud's Discount City but has not been anything since. Kroger had a store next door but it closed in the early 2000s without an official replacement (Kroger bought a number of former Albertsons around the same time though) and now is a Spec's. Anyway, the Walmart at 1960 and Cutten was expanded to a Supercenter in 1999 or 2000.

    Believe it or not, the current Walmart Supercenter at 249 and Spring-Cypress was actually built many years after the Walmart across the street was vacated. The first Walmart in Tomball down the street opened in the early 80's (now a Hobby Lobby) and was relocated in 1994-1995 to a store that also became a Supercenter in 1999 or 2000.

    Other than the Bud's store closings, I can't name many Walmart-owned store closings. The Walmart at Beechnut and Highway 6 appears to have relocated to a Supercenter but the new store was miles away from the old store (similar to how Target "replaced" their Almeda Mall store). This old Walmart was also a rare example of an early 80's Walmart that was remodeled/expanded (instead of relocated) to the early 90's Walmart design (but never had the honor of becoming a Supercenter). I am pretty sure the Walmart Supercenter on Davis in Conroe was built new as a Supercenter in 1996 (replacing the Walmart across the street which was a Woolco and now is a Hobby Lobby), with the Sam's Club next door opening at the same time, but it's possible the current Walmart building was briefly a non-Supercenter in the earlier 90's.

    Anyway, I know one example of a Sam's Club that closed without being replaced. It was a Baltimore store Sam's Club took over in 1994 that was originally a PACE Membership Warehouse (briefly owned by Kmart) that opened circa 1985. The store was in a rough area of Baltimore and closed in 2002 right after the Ames (former Zayre) in the shopping center closed. There never was a Walmart anywhere nearby.

    That Walmart at 1960 and Cutten was surrounded by several other Walmart stores but I don't get why it's the only one in Greater Houston closing. Target, Sam's Club, and Costco are all also very nearby but I have to think this Walmart closing had something to do with Walmart trying to crush union activity (or some other odd reason such as a really bad lease dispute or maybe a physical problem with the building not worth fixing) and not poor sales performance.

    1. The news is very surprising, I thought this was one of their stronger stores. It looks like the store will close by January 28 and now operates on limited hours. There are a lot of nearby Walmart stores in that area and there is a Target store across the street, so there are other options for the nearby Walmart customers.

      All of the other Walmart closings I can think of have been due to relocations. Walmart just does not close stores very often.

    2. I posted some thoughts about the Willowbrook Mal area Walmart closing on the RadioShack thread a couple of days ago. I've been thinking about the situation and have come up with some possible reasons for why it's closing. These are just guesses.

      1. Walmart built too many Supercenters in the area and they need to close one. Since this store has opened, Walmart has opened Supercenters on 1960 near Walters Rd. (which replaced a regular Walmart) to the east of the store, on 1960 and N. Eldridge to the west, on 249 and West to the south, and the 249 and Spring Cypress store to the north.

      2. The store is older than the other area stores and thus may have maintenance issues that Walmart may not want to fix. Also, it has a drop ceiling over most of the store and that may not work with Walmart's energy efficiency goals with the skylights and stuff. I know Walmart is trying to save a lot of money in that way.

      3. Perhaps the store has a lease that is expiring. If not, perhaps Walmart figures they can sell this particular property easier/for a better price than other local stores since it is in one of the biggest retail corridors in the city.

      4. There could be a labor issue at the store, but if so, it's probably because of Walmart's increased labor costs with their higher salaries now. Perhaps that gives Walmart less incentive to keep marginal performing stores open.

      The Willowbook area store did more or less replace the original Spring Cypress store, but that was a good move at the time. That part of Houston/Tomball did grow in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but perhaps not as fast as people expected. The explosive growth really didn't happen until the 249 freeway was finished to that part in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Meanwhile, Kmart, Target, and even Venture all had stores on the FM 1960 prime retail corridor so Wal-Mart seemingly had to respond. They then returned to the Spring Cypress area years later when the area was ready for increased retail. As for the old Spring Cypress store, I don't think that was ever a Bud's. It's been turned into office space now.

      I don't know why Wal-Mart put all the trees in front of the store to block visibility. They've done that with a few other stores as well, but I think it hurt sales. It did make that store one of the rare escapes from the concrete jungle on FM 1960 though. Perhaps it was done with the idea of leaving enough space for potential FM 1960 widening.

      As for the Spring Cypress Kroger, that area has been subdivided. There is a Spec's there and also a Sprouts grocery store that opened a couple years back.

      There have been some Sam's Club closings that weren't relocations. One that comes to mind locally is the Dunvale Sam's in Houston about 5-6 years ago. It was a regular Sam's, then a concept Sam's aimed more at businesses, then it closed shortly after that. Also, Walmart's Mas Club concept store in Houston also closed without replacement.

    3. Those are some good reasons. #1 looks like the biggest factor in the decision to close the store, it will be easy to make up the lost sales in any one of those nearby stores. There are not many of the converted Superstores left these days. I-69 in Porter and I-45 and West rd come to mind. The Walmart at Beltway 8 near I-10 West was a regular store that was converted into a supercenter about 2 years ago, but they built it differently than the older ones. They built half of the new store and moved everything over to the new section while they demolished and built the other half of the new store. I guess the site was valuable enough for Walmart to spend the extra money to rebuild the store on the same site instead of moving.

    4. The Tomball store (near the Tomball H-E-B which is on the site of an old Safeway and Academy) may be the next to close because it went through the exact same evolution as the Willowbrook store. I also wonder if the Walmart Supercenter in Jersey Village on 290 may close. It opened in 1995 as a twin to the Tomball and Willowbrook stores but for some odd reason didn't become a Supercenter until much later, maybe 2006 or 2007. I don't believe this store has a gas station but sort of ironically, there is a drive-thru McDonald's in the parking lot even though the store has its own McDonald's. Both the Tomball and 290 stores are also very close to relatively new Target stores but neither is a SuperTarget last I checked.

      There also are Walmart Supercenter stores in Humble and Spring that are near SuperTarget stores so maybe these Walmart stores will get the axe.

      Anyway, I must ask... what new tenant might open at the Willowbrook site? Might Target move and put a SuperTarget there? The current Target was a replacement for the North Oaks Target but is about 8-10 years old at this point. But then if Target does move, that will leave a big empty space...

      Maybe a Kroger Marketplace could open at the Walmart site instead. I also am still dreaming that BJ's, Meijer, Menards, or Wegmans will enter Houston but that still is a dream.

      It seems Target (which along with Kmart and Woolco was in Houston long before Walmart, even though Walmart started in Arkansas in 1962) has really tried to turn up the heat on Walmart in Houston. For example, the Target that was at Jones and 1960 moved to Eldridge and 1960 soon after Walmart opened at that intersection.

    5. I am sure if things don't get better for Walmart soon, we will see more store closings.

      The Humble store is always jam packed so I think it is safe. Atascocita has a Supercenter and Neighborhood Market very close so maybe the market will close.

      The shopping center where Target is at is nice, but has had trouble attracting tenants like many nearby centers. Target moving over there is a possibility, but they have been very cautious about store openings lately.

      It would be nice to get one of the out of state competitors to enter Houston and shake things up a bit. For such a large city, we are very limited with retail options. Nearly every large retail center across the city has exactly the same stores with few new competitors entering the market.

  3. Lord & Taylor is a chain that I wish would come back to Houston. From about 1995 to 2002 they had a store at Willowbrook Mall (I don't remember what was at that spot before Lord & Taylor) but I would think had at least one other location in Greater Houston. What's really kind of sad is that the Montgomery Ward building at Willowbrook is now a Macy's (used to be Foley's) men's store, but the Lord & Taylor building (which I think was demolished but I forget what's there now) would have been a much better fit for a Macy's men's store. In fact, Foley's did almost no remodeling to the old Montgomery Ward on the outside and it really is strange to see a Macy's logo on that building today. The Lord & Taylor would have been a much better spot for a Macy's men's store. There also was a General Cinema at Willowbrook that later was an AMC but now is an H&M. Not sure if H&M totally demolished the old theater or not.

    What's really amazing is that Lord & Taylor still has a store in Bala Cynwyd, PA (a rich but very old-fashioned suburb, with a seedy part of Philadelphia right next to it) that has NEVER changed (except for paint jobs, new department signage, new security cameras, etc) since 1955! Surprisingly it survived all the department store mergers and consolidations over the years. The store isn't in very good shape and the area around it has gone downhill, but it really is a stunning time capsule. It's in a strip center (back in the 50's a number of strip centers had upscale department stores, but enclosed malls didn't really catch on until at least the 60's) that has been through many changes over the decades but the Lord & Taylor looks like it could be out of a Back to the Future movie!

    Lord & Taylor once had a store in West Hartford, Connecticut that was identical to the Bala Cynwyd store. This one however closed in 1984 when Westfarms Mall opened at the other end of town, featuring a larger Lord & Taylor. The old Lord & Taylor was later a Caldor (discounter very similar to Venture that like Venture and Lord & Taylor was owned by May Company) but after Caldor went out of business in 1999 has been split into Marshalls and Barnes & Noble.

    1. A Nordstrom rack is now where the Lord and Taylor used to be. Maybe the store was a former Saks or Marshall Fields but I can't remember. Maybe one of the blog readers can help out with your question. Thanks for the interesting comment about different L&T stores.

    2. Lord & Taylor had multiple Houston stores at one time. There was a store at Greenspoint Mall that closed in 1989 and is now the conference center and gym that are at the mall. They had two different stores at Memorial City Mall. One closed in 1989 and became a Mervyn’s. I believe that store has been demolished. Another opened around the time that the mall was renovated and was then closed shortly thereafter and converted into a JCPenney. Of course, you know about the Willowbrook Mall store. There may have been other stores too, but those are the ones I know about

      I’m guessing Lord & Taylor isn’t super eager to try Houston again as they’ve struck out twice here already. This really isn’t the best time for a higher end store to come to Houston anyway with the struggles in the oil & gas industry.

      I’m not really sure why Foley’s picked the ex-Montgomery Ward over the ex-Lord & Taylor. Foley’s renovated the Montgomery Ward extensively on the inside (it does not look anything like the Montgomery Ward), but I’m guessing they would have had to have done the same with the Lord & Taylor building if they got that one since the look that Foley’s went with is quite different than what the Lord & Taylor had if I remember correctly. I suppose a store appealing to men looks different than a store appealing to everyone/mostly women. Perhaps the buildings had different owners and one was willing to sell/lease for less. It’s hard to say.

      The Willowbrook Lord & Taylor building started as a Joske’s when the mall was built. Dillard’s took it over when they took over Joske’s. Dillard’s then moved to the former Macy’s building when Macy’s left the mall (Macy’s came back to the mall when they took over Foley’s).

    3. Thanks for letting me know about Nordstrom Rack being there. It's surprising they opened at a mall without a regular Nordstrom also in it. I think the closest regular Nordstrom would be the one at Woodlands Mall at the old Sears site.

      According to Wikipedia, the Lord & Taylor at Willowbrook started out as Joske's, then was Dillard's. Apparently the current Dillard's at Willowbrook was originally a Macy's that closed years before Macy's bought Foley's. So Dillard's relocated from the ex-Joske's (which then became Lord & Taylor) to the ex-Macy's. Were there other Macy's in Houston than this one before they bought Foley's?

      Also, looking in Bing Maps, the Lord & Taylor spot at Willowbrook is nothing but a grassy patch (which looks so weird knowing a department store used to be there). The imagery must be several years old because there's no evidence of Nordstrom Rack, no sign of construction, etc. I just don't get what was wrong with that Lord & Taylor building that they had to demolish it. It was somewhere between 20-30 years old which is not old at all in department store years. But that Montgomery Ward building looks horrible (not due to aging, I never liked the design to begin with). Also, not sure but I'm assuming H&M totally flattened the old cinema. Fair enough because that building was definitely not in good shape towards the end of its life as an AMC.

    4. You are correct about the first Memorial City Lord & Taylor location. Only a partial wall remains of the old store that is now covered with a plastic mural.

      Thanks for clearing up the Willowbrook location. I thought it was a different anchor before, but I could not remember which one.

    5. Nordstrom has been busy opening a lot of the Rack stores while cutting back on full sized locations. Since Willowbrook is somewhat close to the Woodlands Mall they probably did not think there was enough support for 2 full sized locations.

      Macy's had 4 locations in Houston that opened in the mid 80's at Deerbrook, Willowbrook, Baybrook, and at The Galleria. Dillard's acquired all of these except for The Galleria store in the mid 90's. The Willowbrook and Baybrook stores were extensively renovated and expanded, while Deerbrook looks very much the same and did not get a major renovation. The Galleria store closed recently and was completely demolished. I have a large blog post with more info about the original Galleria Macy's.

    6. The old Joske’s/Dillard’s/Lord & Taylor building at Willowbrook Mall was not a fancy looking store on the outside. I don’t remember off the top of my head how big it was, but it was about the size of the Sears and Montgomery Ward. L&T did try to make the store look a little fancier on the outside though, but it was a pretty basic box prior to that. It probably had the least amount of character out of all the old Willowbrook anchors in terms of outdoor looks.

      I think the mall was justified in tearing down the old Joske’s. The mall was/is a high performing mall and I’m sure they did not want a zombie anchor dragging down the reputation of the mall. Plus, it took about 10 years for that spot to fill up. Even then, the Nordstrom Rack is much smaller than the old Joske’s so it probably would have been torn down anyway.

      I guess looks are subjective, but the Montgomery Ward building looks pretty nice to me. I think it looked nicer when it was Montgomery Ward than it is now as the Foley’s/Macy’s Men’s store since they painted the reddish brown bricks white. The Macy’s men’s store only has one open floor, but the store had two floors when it was a Montgomery Ward. Well, kind of. The top floor did not extend all the way to the mall entrance wall. This led to the store having a tall ceiling at the mall entrance with a mirrored egg-crate type design. The second floor furniture department area overlooked the mall entrance. It was a pretty nice design. The store always had the signs that the store opened with even though Montgomery Ward changed their logo about a year after the store opened. To that extent, the store had a retro aspect to it even when it was almost brand new, but the store was nicer inside than any other Montgomery Ward that I went to especially since Wards renovated it a few times over the years.

      The area containing the old theater at Willowbrook Mall has been reconfigured over the years. I’m not sure if H&M is using the same building as the theater or not though. Part of the H&M store is in part of the mall that was regular stores before beyond the theater. Anyway, new food court restrooms were built in the part that used to be the mall entrance to the theater. That itself has recently been reconfigured a bit it seems in preparation for the construction of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

      I noticed this a long time back, but I don’t think I wrote anything about it. Anyway, I saw that an As Seen on TV store opened up at Willowbrook Mall near the Sears. It was interesting to see that.

  4. It’s hard to say if the two Houston Wal-Mart closings may lead to some more closings down the road.‭ ‬I’m sure Wal-Mart will close more stores at some point,‭ ‬but who knows when that might be.‭ ‬The Tomball store could be one that closes or is relocated at some point in the future.‭ ‬The new‭ ‬249‭ ‬tollroad freeway has taken some of the traffic off of the‭ ‬249‭ ‬Business route that the store is located on.‭ ‬Not all Walmarts are located right on a freeway and the old Business route is still a busy route though so it’s hard to say.‭

    I don’t think the‭ ‬290‭ ‬and Tidwell‭ ‬store is in any danger.‭ ‬The store always looks busy when I drive by it.‭ ‬Granted,‭ ‬the Willowbrook store might have looked busy too so who knows.‭ ‬The store has survived the‭ ‬290‭ ‬construction thus far and that might have been the biggest detriment to the store.‭ ‬That area does not have a ton of grocery store competition,‭ ‬nor does it have a lot of competition from other Wal-Marts,‭ ‬so I think Wal-Mart has a favorable situation there.‭ ‬I really wouldn’t call the Target near that‭ ‬Wal-Mart new.‭ ‬It’s about the same age as the Wal-Mart.‭ ‬It was remodeled extensively a few years ago though.‭

    AFAIK,‭ ‬there is not a Super Target on the NW side of Houston.‭ ‬Perhaps the Willowbrook Walmart’s closing will be a good opportunity for Target to build/move to a Super Target though.‭ ‬There’s not a lot of grocery store competition on that stretch of FM‭ ‬1960.‭ ‬The downsides to the move would be the limited visibility of the old Walmart location‭ (‬though perhaps that can be fixed by cutting down the trees‭)‬,‭ ‬potential lease issues with the current store since it’s only‭ ‬10‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬and the fact that the current store is in a better shopping center than the ex-Walmart location.‭

    Anyway,‭ ‬other potential uses for the Willowbrook ex-Walmart might include a Kroger store‭ (‬perhaps a Marketplace store‭)‬.‭ ‬There’s a big stretch of FM‭ ‬1960‭ ‬without a Kroger between the I-45‭ ‬store and the store near‭ ‬290‭ ‬on N.‭ ‬Eldridge.‭ ‬Other potential uses could be medical space or warehouse space.‭ ‬It could be subdivided into a new shopping center too,‭ ‬but again the visibility issues might exist.‭ ‬Hopefully the building won’t just sit there and rot.‭

    I did visit the Willowbrook Walmart one last time.‭ ‬Everything was‭ ‬50%‭ ‬off.‭ ‬As you can imagine,‭ ‬the store was like a warzone.‭ ‬Some departments were almost totally wiped out,‭ ‬but some still had some stuff left.‭ ‬The store was supposed to close today,‭ ‬but I wouldn’t be surprised if they closed early since it looked like they only had enough merchandise to last a day or two and they said they’d close early if they sold out of everything.‭ ‬The employees seemed to be in a decent mood so perhaps many of them have been relocated to other stores or the employees like their severance packages.

    1. Two questions for you: did you notice if Walmart had cut back a lot on the lighting at that store? I've noticed a lot of Walmart stores have tried to be "green" by taking every other light tube out of the ceiling! Not only does it make the stores feel way too dark, it makes the stores look really dingy. I just can't get used to a store that started out being lit by many sets of two light tubes being reduced to a mess of tube here, tube there, etc.

      Also, was the McDonald's still in business? In Pennsylvania most if not all McDonald's at Walmart stores have been closed (and not really replaced by anything) even though the Subway locations at Walmart still seem to be going strong. But at a number of the stores, Subway was a replacement for a Radio Grill that closed. Some Walmart stores have Dunkin Donuts as the only foodservice operator.

      If Target or any other major tenant do open at the Walmart site, I have to wonder what will happen to the Murphy USA gas station in the parking lot. My thought was that McDonald's could bulldoze the gas station and open on that spot.

    2. The McDonald’s was still open during the closing sale and was very busy. The Murphy USA gas station was open too, but I’m not sure if it’s still open. I have not been back in the area since then. Murphy USA has some standalone Murphy Express gas stations in the Houston area so perhaps it may still be open. I doubt McDonald’s would want to build a location on that property now. It’s not directly located on FM 1960. I’m sure they’d want to be right on the main road.

      The Wal-Mart had all their lights operating during and before the closing sale (at least in the main part of the store, the grocery section with the open ceiling may have been a different story). I think energy costs are one of the reasons why Wal-Mart closed that store. They’ve been pretty aggressive in using skylighting and turning off lights when it’s sunny outside. Of course, this could lead to dark spots in the stores. Plus, a lot of stores now have concrete floors which look darker than white vinyl flooring. Anyway, the Willowbrook area store had a drop ceiling over most of the store so Wal-Mart’s typical energy saving plan wouldn’t have worked so well there. It’s a shame because I thought the combination of a drop ceiling (which Wal-Mart kept pretty clean unlike Kmart) and the white vinyl floor looked nicer than other newer Wal-Marts with an open ceiling and concrete floors.

  5. I tried to make it to that store one night, but they were only open until 9pm so I missed out. I was last at that store a little over 6 months ago.

    Hopefully some new competition will come into the area besides a Target or Kroger. Maybe an out of town discount chain will finally show some interest in Houston.

    The one thing I wonder is if Walmart management will aggressively close stores now or if this is just a one time thing.

  6. I came across an interesting Kmart news story that I thought I'd share here. It seems that NBC is piloting a new sitcom called Superstore that is about people who work at a discount store. Anyway, the pilot was aired at the Burbank Kmart during actual operating hours. Here's an interesting story about the setup. The Burbank Kmart is an odd looking Kmart on the outside too with a Kroger-like greenhouse facade. Anyway, I wonder if they'll keep shooting the show at a Kmart if the show actually makes the regular schedule or if they'll move it to a studio. There's plenty of closing Kmarts for NBC to choose from if they want to make a studio out of one.

    1. Superstore is a good show, I missed the pilot episode but I have seen the rest of the episodes. Kmart stores should be featured in more television shows and movies like in the past.

  7. Kmart is closing their Longview Store according to KLTV, which leaves the Lufkin Kmart and the Texarkana Kmart as the only locations in Texas, east of I-45.