Retail death as it happens

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Sears, 2017. It’s the one in the Southern Park Mall in Boardman, Ohio. I had not been there in five years, but I noticed that the sign on the front lost an A & R during some sort of weather event probably in the last one or two years. It could be longer, I have no idea.

With all of the news regarding old retail’s eminent collapse, I decided I had to go check this place out. If this Sears is bold enough to let its sign just be a pile of shit for months if not years, it must be a treasure trove of depression inside.

The first thing I noticed was the mattresses prominently displayed right as you enter on the first floor. Yes, Sears. The place for mattresses. I didn’t bother looking at prices. Those are the same ones that will last you five years just about every other place selling mattresses has.

There are still racks of clothes about, but a lot of it is discount level sports items, basically piles of ugly Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and Browns gear that might have looked passable if it were 1992.

Next to the sports crap, is more generic sports crap. Large circular racks of USA T-shirts probably made for the Olympics or a soccer event catch the eye. At $3.99 a pop, it’s $3 too much. There are some shitty FC Barcelona shirts are mixed in there as well.

There are dozens more $3.99 racks, selling stuff which TJ Maxx probably would reject. It’s a sad state and it’s store wide. The store is still technically open, but it seems like a giant store closing sale.

I remember coming to the store as a kid and noticed a lot of carpet, flooring, paint and floor displays were the same, only in much worse shape. Nothing about any of this modern, even the one or two workers on the entire first floor were ancient.

I figured the upstairs would be the most depressing state of affairs as it seemed clear that the store no longer had enough merchandise to go around.

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Upstairs at Sears

As I rose up the elevator, wondering if this would be the last time I would ride such a thing in a department store, I noticed the emptiness almost immediately. There were sections of kitchen, bath and bedding goods, but mostly the center floor was bare and quite embarrassing.

The last time I was up here, there were TVs and stereos. A toy department might have been in this space in the ’80s. I don’t quite remember.

I walked the perimeter of the floor and checked everything out. It all seemed temporary then in the bedding section the smell of weed hit me. I walked around the area a few times just to make sure and yeah…that was weed. I didn’t see any employees or customers around, so who the hell knows what was going on.

I didn’t linger much longer because I wanted to check out the mall’s other anchor stores to see if they were in similar shape. To my surprise, Macy’s and Dillard’s were pretty much as I remembered them. Things were clean, there were employees. Some sales, but nothing ridiculous. Customers? Nah.

J.C. Penney has had some much publicized trouble of its own and I thought there was a chance the cracks would begin to show there. Visually it was pretty damn normal as I approached the entrance. Nothing appeared to be on the level of the Sears fiasco and I was a bit disappointed, to be honest.

Then a hot blast of air hit me as I entered the store. It must have been 80+ degrees in there. Apparently the air conditioning was not operating yet in mid-April or it was broke. You could tell the employees were miserable and the customers were scrambling to get the hell out of there.

In between those trips to the big department stores, the mall’s concourse showed plenty of signs of terminal failure. There were plenty of closed store fronts, but what amused me are the ones where they tease you with a variation of “Watch this space: Something exciting is on the way.”

This used to be a place of fountains and fake plants. I remember there being a statue of the mall’s founder Edward DeBartolo Sr., but it appears like it’s now gone.

 

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