Howdy folks! Welcome to a Retail News update, I never thought I’d write about, a Sears reopening. Granted, as stated in the headline it is as a Hometown Store, this is still big news! For those not in the know, the Sears at Marcoplaza Mall, closed in January 2021. Leaving the Houston area without a mainline Sears presence for the first time in nearly 100 years. Sadly, I was unable to capture the closing, however Je of Southern Retail did document the store’s final days, and those photos will eventually come online. I first learned of the new Sears store through friend of the blog, Anonymous in Houston, who found some photos of the new location. Despite the chain using the slogan “Locally owned and operated” this new Sears Hometown, appears to be run by Transformco, the company headed by Eddie Lampert to purchase Sears Holdings Corp out of bankruptcy in 2018.
I ventured into Marcoplaza Mall in search of the Sears. From photos, I’d seen on the official Facebook I assumed the mall side was open, as I had only been inside the Sears once a few years ago. Venturing into the mall on a particularly dead morning, I was not the only shopper caught off guard by the photos as at least one other person checked out the former interior Sears entrance around the same time as me, although it could have just been a stray mall walker. My next step was to get back in the car, and head to the exterior entrance of the store, dodging potholes literally big enough to swallow a Volkswagen Beetle. While I didn’t have my expectations for the store set to Sears Home & Life high, I was hoping for a pleasant greeting at the other end.
While some photos of the store were online, I truly had no clue what to expect when coming here. Prior to seeing the walled off sections from the interior of the mall, I was hoping the store would be at least slightly larger than an average Hometown store. With all that extra space, I’m sure they could easily expand the product line slightly. For those unaware, Sears Hometown Stores, is what is left of the former Dealer and Outlet spin-off which occurred in 2012. The stores which were spun off by Sears to generate cash, originally growing out of franchised catalog stores, who were forced to switch to the Hometown model in 1993. These independent “Sears Dealers”, as they were known at the time, could previously sell anything available through the catalog, but were now restricted to hard lines. Mainly appliances, tools, and electronics, which Sears made good money selling in small communities. The product offering as of 2021 is not much different from what it was nearly 30 years ago. Appliances, Tools, and Mattresses. The only real change is the loss of electronics, which seems to have happened when Transformco reacquired the spun-off division in 2019.
Upon making it to the parking lot of Sears, I genuinely struggled to know if the store was open. I don’t mean as in open for the day, I mean open at all. No Sears Hometown signage was on the exterior. The landscaping was overgrown, likely going untouched since last year, and the parking lot completely empty, not even employees were parked in the customer lot. IT was a confusing perspective, especially walking up to the front door, to find the shutters down on what was the optical department, and still partially closed on the main door. Getting closer to the entrance, handwritten signs instructed you to use the door to the far left, as all others were locked (I assure you we’re open). Making it inside, however, would indeed prove this store was open and operating. Early on there were no other customers, and the staff was more than accommodating, allowing me to take these photos. It was very apparent that supply chain issues were at play with this store, although Transformco and Sears Holding have been having these same issues since 2018.
All in all, this was a fun store to visit. Supply chain issues or not, it was obvious this store was still in the soft opening, a fact supported by the employees. Lots of new blue paint had been added to the walls, and a few support columns, giving ideas as to what will remain once the store is fully open. I would be willing to bet the Optical department will be walled off. The manager also informed me that the store would be capped off on the right side, similar to the left side of the store. Some of the former Sears sales floor was being used as backroom, as seen in the photos above. The pick-up door seemed to be open and operable. I’m not sure if they were using it instead of the loading dock, or as an actual customer pickup. I do hope the best for the employees, the manager had been with Sears for nearly 20 years, the entire time on the Hometown/Dealer side of the store. All the other employees were very sweet and helpful with any questions I had. Another customer brought in an older Craftsman tool which had broken, and the manager offered to replace it, but was very limited on selection. This store proves to be somewhat of an oddity. While this location may not be long-lived, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Sears just yet.